Netflix’s new series, “Trump: An American Dream,” narrates the character development of our current president. It unravels Trump’s ascension in the business world through sketchy deals with local politicians, his accumulation of wealth and his short-lived downfall through foolhardy deals. All of this leads to the crescendo of him announcing his bid for the White House in Trump Tower. Interviews with those from Trump’s past (his chauffeurs, friends and former employees) reveal an intimate portrait of the man behind the catchphrase: “You’re fired!”
He wasn’t always the abrasive personality we know today. In the first episodes, the series paints a kind but ambitious man. Everyone seems to recall from this time a man who’s hard not to like. Some might credit this to a salesman’s charm, but from what I can gather, this was the genuine Trump before money corrupted his soul. These early episodes make it hard to see this Trump and the Trump sitting in his bedroom, eating cheeseburgers and yelling at news networks as the same man.
What this series portrays is a man who fell victim to the corruptive nature of wealth, or more specifically, the caricature of wealth that has evolved over American history. Earlier in my life, I viewed Trump’s extravagant lifestyle with envy. The beautiful mansions, private jets and immense power speak for themselves. However, once I understood his life behind the glamor, I came to see that his path would leave me in a state of deep depression. Countless affairs, incessant lawsuits and a continuous fear that his Mar-a-Lago house of cards would tumble could only leave one’s sense of self in tatters. It would lead many to fits of insanity (which might explain Trump’s seemingly declining state of mental capacity through the years). People only see the supermodels he dated, but this series shows a betrayal to a loyal wife who sincerely loved her husband. Trump’s first wife, Ivana, was involved in every aspect of his business: She managed his affairs, renovated his real estate with careful attention and managed one of his casinos — all while raising the man’s family. And then an interview reveals he filed for divorce because he didn’t want to sleep with a woman who had children. Is this the kind of narrative we’d like published in our obituary? I don’t think most Americans would want to be known for abandoning their wife because of the toll childbirth takes on a woman’s body.
This series isn’t an indictment against Trump the politician; too many journalists are focused in that endeavor. What this show ultimately becomes is a cautionary tale against the lust for wealth. Trump did, in fact, make it to the White House, the pinnacle of success in many American minds. But this series seems to ask the viewer to weigh the accomplishment against the personal costs of such a path. During Trump’s father’s funeral, an interview reveals that Trump bragged about his own business successes. While most would mourn the death of a loved one, Trump’s ego couldn’t let him think about anyone but himself. Yet, I also think this paints Trump in a sympathetic light. Without this ego, he wouldn’t have the ability to maintain his lifestyle. How else could a man act like nothing was wrong when his debt from bad investments was piling into the stratosphere? But at the same time, this ego is what fueled his betrayals and cost him his reputation as a genuine American success story like his father.
The series should’ve ended on a high note, and it tried its best. A typical narrative would go something like this: Trump dug himself out of three billion dollars worth of debt, and went on to become the leader of the free world. Instead, we’re left with a president with no experience stumbling through the American political gauntlet, and he’s having a pretty bad go at it. After a startling number of sexual assault allegations, accusations of collusion with Russia and the press hounding him on his racial outlook, an average American would be disgusted with Trump. This disgust pokes at Trump’s biggest insecurity: not being liked.
What the viewer should get out of this series is a guideline on how not to go about life. Treating people like they’re just pawns in your own chess match and devoting your life to the accumulation of wealth will catch up and bite you in the ass. The only thing left to find out is whether Trump has already reaped what he’s sown, or if there’s one final Icarian plummet looming on the horizon.