Anyone familiar with professional wrestling is aware of the two main and repeating personas of the contestants, the heel, the negative character and the good guy, the babyface.
The three main currents leading through Trump’s career before his ascent into political office were “reality” TV where he fired people, real estate speculation where he made some deals that we don’t like to talk about now, and conspicuously, for more than a couple of decades, professional wrestling. Not a common resume for the leader of any nation, but his rise to prominence and fame through these spheres showed an unusual talent for showmanship, displaying machismo and a preference for a confrontational and abusive style, switching from babyface to heel as the need arose.
Professional wrestling contests are woven around the narrative of good versus evil, the good guy versus the bad guy, where the jerk who uses below-the-belt moves faces the decent sort, who plays it by the rules. It can easily be seen as a fake contest, sensational, dramatic and fantastic, aside from being crudely staged, vulgar, cruel and of course violent.
Aside from promoting events Trump even made a few bizarre appearances in the ring, performing in the fake drama that he appeared to relish, once appearing to get kicked in the nuts. But being a winner was his main theme. He was, in wrestling vocabulary the babyface, the good guy who never got booed, facing the evil guy, the heel, who always got booed. This was clearly his preference; being booed is not something that goes down too well with Trump, as recent events have shown.
He has been observed raging at negative news about himself on his TV, the one he watches, by all accounts to distraction, the one he gets most of his information about the nature of events in the world from. It is also the TV on which creepy show hosts pop up and make scathing comments about him. This is clearly against the rules, it is enough to twist any babyface into a scowl. Enough to turn Babyface into Heelface.
Trump seems oddly familiar with the rules heels follow, especially where hypersexualizing and insulting women goes, and adds to his terms of abuse a strange obsession with blood, bleeding women, bleeding from their whatsits, as he puts it, the whatsits that he feels he is entitled to grab, as he boasts. Those were the rules he easily adopted on the campaign trail, adding chords of fear, and racism to his output.
Now in his role as president this background takes him into groundbreaking territory as he tweets his instant reactions to what he sees on his TV, the way he would respond to rising booing at a WrestleMania setting.
“My use of social media is not presidential – it’s modern day presidential,” he tweeted a few days ago, suggesting that he is bypassing all the conventional media that disparages him and contains fake news, and connects with the public directly, and reportedly has 33 million followers on Twitter. According to his staff, he begins each morning watching news shows, presumably with a preference for Fox News, and tweets away at the show hosts throughout their show.
Trump’s repeated reference to fake news can be connected not just to his experience with the manipulations of making real estate and other business deals, or to the staged drama of reality shows (The Apprentice), but more than in all these to the blatant and barely disguised faking of professional wrestling contests, which were so much part of his life for so long.
He extends this attitude of disbelief to intelligence briefings, which presidents normally receive in place of watching the morning talk shows. These will no doubt center on national and world issues which do not touch on the latest slights or cruel words spoken about him by commentators on his TV.
“I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t need to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years,” he says, and delegates receiving the briefings to the vice-president, Mike Pence, as he sets his features to swing between baby and heel.