Truth is stranger than fiction. Sixteen years ago The Simpsons predicted a fantastic vision of the future in which real estate billionaire Donald Trump was elected president. In 2000, the episode was played as satire; it was a laughable outcome that was also a “warning to America.” The Simpsons has long embraced the over-the-top aspect of American culture, and Trump, sixteen years ago, like today, was nothing if not over-the-top. But now the laughable outcome of a Donald Trump presidency, or at least a Republican nomination, isn’t so laughable. It’s knocking on America’s door. Republican presidential campaigners Ted Cruz and John Kasich are getting crushed, and the two are currently hatching a collaboration to deny Trump delegates.
According to Lord Dobbs, the creator of the hit Netflix series House of Cards, a character based on Trump would be laughed off the screen. Laughing the Donald off the campaign trail, however, is a different story. Over the years there have been several TV and movie characters that resemble Donald Trump. His blustery go-go excess is personified by every yuppie and Wall Street villain of the 1980s, from Gordon Gekko and Jordan Belfort to serial killer Patrick Bateman.
10. Frank Underwood – House of Cards
According to Lord Dobbs, the creator of the acclaimed political thriller House of Cards, you couldn’t make up a politician like Donald Trump. But the modern world is a place where fact and fiction constantly blur, and there’s no telling if art imitates life or life imitates art. While the tyrannical Frank Underwood isn’t based on Donald Trump, Kevin Spacey’s ruthless demagogue is at least a kindred spirit, a Machiavellian brother-in-arms to Trump’s King of New York. The reality of House of Cards isn’t all that different from, well… reality; like Underwood, today’s presidential candidates will do anything to claw their way to the top. Over the past six months Donald Trump’s campaign manager was charged with battery, protesters have been choked and punched in the face, and rallies have been cancelled because of riot and bomb threats.
9. Hollis Doyle – Scandal
Hollis Doyle returned to Scandal just in time for the show’s presidential elections, but the return of the billionaire oil tycoon is a half-hearted and misguided attempt to comment on Trump’s presidential bid. Doyle is supposed to play on our fear of a Trump presidency. He has the same populist candor and unfiltered rhetoric, the same beady-eyes and shrug-of-the-shoulder mannerisms as Trump, and he’s not a fan of “those freeloading immigrants” or American-born minorities who abuse the system. According to Scandal producer Shonda Rhimes, Doyle is supposed to be terrifying; however, the billionaire oil man comes off more as a caricature of a caricature, a soap opera supervillain who’s part of a Donald Trump nesting doll.
8. Bill the Butcher – Gangs of New York
Trump wants to build a border wall to keep Mexican immigrants out of the U.S. He then upped the ante with a dose of xenophobic rhetoric. “You have people coming in, right, and I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country.” In order to protect Americans from terrorists, Trump proposed a “total and complete ban” on Muslims entering the U.S. Trump’s xenophobia and anti-foreigner rhetoric is similar to Bill the Butcher’s in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. Bill represents a type of 19th century Nativism; he doesn’t hate Mexicans or Muslims; “the Butcher” hates the Irish, the biggest wave of immigrants to sail into New York harbor in the 1800s.
7. Charles Montgomery Burns – The Simpsons
The similarities between Springfield’s eccentric billionaire, Charles Montgomery Burns, and New York’s most famous business magnate are unmistakable. Both Burns and Trump have a lack of self-awareness that borders on the absurd. And then, of course, there’s the hair – Donald Trump fancying the dead animal comb-over, Monty Burns the hair-bender wraparound. The similarities between the corporate titans was really highlighted when the Washington Post assembled the “Who Said It?” quiz, which, for all intents and purposes, can also work as dorm room drinking game.
Who said it, Trump or Burns? “By building a casino, I can tighten my stranglehold on this dismal town.”
6. Supreme Chancellor Adam Sutler – V For Vendetta
The Wachowski siblings’ 2006 adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel, V For Vendetta, is interpreted as an indictment of the Bush administration. However, the film is perhaps a better representation of the current election cycle. Set in a dystopian future, the movie with the following voiceover: “Our story begins, as these stories often do, with a young and up-and-coming politician. He’s completely single-minded and has no regard for political process. The more power he obtains, the more obvious is his zealotry, and the more aggressive his supporters become.” The character of Adam Sutler is a lot like Trump and his followers. In V For Vendetta, Muslims and other degenerates are rounded up and sent to camps, a detail that echoes Trump’s brand of tough-talking, bigoted foreign policy.
5. DeepDrumpf – Twitter
Brad Hayes, a researcher at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence laboratory, created a neural network named DeepDrumpf. The artificial intelligence algorithm spews Trumpisms 1,000 characters at a time, and each chunk of text is based on the Donald speaking at debates and interviews. Hayes then takes the best 140 characters and Tweets them. In the future, Hayes plans to automate the posting process so DeepDrumpf will be a “real” Twitter bot. According to DeepDrumpf’s online supporters, the robot candidate is making Twitter great again. No word on what HAL 9000 thinks about DeepDrumpf, or if the 2001 A.I. has any inclination to join the presidential race.
4. Harry Ellis – Die Hard
Harry Ellis, the sleazy businessman, cokehead, womanizer, and all around 80s yuppie cliche in the film Die Hard, is a Trump disciple to the core. One can easily imagine the smug, suspender-wearing Master of the Universe underlining poignant passages of Trump’s “The Art of the Deal.” Die Hard was released in 1988, one year after Trump’s book. Harry delivers a perfect realization of Trump’s foreign policy when he confronts Hans Gruber, the terrorist who’s taken over the Nakatomi Corporation on Christmas Eve. “Hey, business is business. You use a gun. I use a fountain pen. What’s the difference?”
3. Patrick Bateman – American Psycho
Donald Trump’s alpha male posturing and flair for gaudy excess goes back to the gonzo heyday of Reagan-era New York, the same place, time, and hunting grounds as Patrick Bateman, the iconic character from Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho. Like Trump, the wealthy investment banker and serial killer is obsessed with wealth, status, and power. More importantly, Bateman is obsessed with Trump. Throughout the novel he wonders what Trump’s favorite U2 song is and what pizza place he likes to eat at; Bateman even tries to push “The Art of the Deal” on his Wall Street colleagues. Trump and Bateman are poster boys for the same era; they know that in order to get to the top of the economic food chain, they must exploit, brutalize, and kill.
2. Gordon Gekko – Wall Street
It’s no coincidence that Oliver’ Stone’s 1980s corporate opus, Wall Street, was released the same year as Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal.” It was the height of the “Greed is Good” decade, and both Gekko and Trump represented the corporate generation running amuck. Trump’s 1987 book, part memoir, part self-help business column, held a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list for 51 weeks. While the finance legend Asher Edelman has long been considered the inspiration for corporate raider Gordon Gekko, Donald Trump, with his flair for excess and ruthless self-promotion, is best described as the real-life Gordon Gekko.
1. Biff Tannen – Back to the Future
In an interview with The Daily Beast prior to Back to the Future Day, screenwriter Bob Gale finally admitted what every McFly fanboy had known for years: the jocular blowhard who bullies Marty across space and time was inspired by Donald Trump. In Back to the Future II, Biff owns a gaudy 27-story casino; he uses the profits from his enterprise to launch a misbegotten political career, eventually turning Hill Valley, California into a lawless wasteland. Biff wants to make America great again and encourages the citizens of California to call him “America’s greatest living folk hero.” So when is Trump going to pull out Biff’s most famous line on the campaign trail: “What are you lookin’ at, butthead?”