The Curious Case of “Mr. Trump,” and “Celebrity Charity or Professional Narcissism?” Revisited.

ithinkyoushould-second-guess-celebrity-charity-donald-trumps-celebrity-apprenticePreviously I posted about the self-congratulatory beast known as “Celebrity Charity’ism.” I and others have come to the natural conclusion that more than dealing in self-less altruism, increasingly these so-called celebrities are engaging in acts of charity for the sole purpose of boosting their public image, and let’s face it, their already inflated egos. And yes, for each celebrity who is able to lead with her heart and not by the ego which is in/securely attached to her public self-worth, increasingly there are more who do it for audience recognition and because they’ve learned that it’s perceived as the right thing to do. That’s right, in Holly’weird [as in life] perception is everything. Except celebrities have a “better”-managed, and more successful way of manipulating perception than us average folk.

Take Donald Trump for example. When he started the Apprentice franchise it was perceived to be a hair above reality television because he had professional people involved vying for an opportunity to flex their intellectual muscle in exchange for an opportunity to work with the man himself. Donald Trump was a man who was perceived to be a formidable financial guru and a wealthy/savvy businessperson. Nevermind that Trump has experienced 3 public bankruptcies & at the time his hotel brand wasn’t well-regarded in hospitality circles. Nevertheless, he made good television, coined and trademarked the phrase, “You’re Fired!” and proceeded to laugh, smirk and bully his way all the way to the bank.

When Celebrity Apprentice aired, The Donald’s television cache was sealed. Who didn’t love seeing various B-D List celebs duke it out for an opportunity to advance funds to their charity? We thought, “good Donald,” and “good celebrity” for “giving back.” But that’s where we got duped. The charity angle was a hook, and we eagerly took the bait. Which is what we were supposed to do. Because how cynical and small-minded an individual can you be, if you troll the globe looking to be critical of people when they’re giving back?

This small:

  • Look what’s happening in the celebrity’s life when they decide to make a very public bid to represent a charity.
  • Did something in the press happen that negatively impacted their box office or media value?
  • Are they cheaters, drug takers or loud mouths?
  • Have they been involved in a domestic abuse situation?
  • Are they living a duplicitous existence? One that’s been “proven” tabloid fodder for some time?
  • Conversely, have they made “too much” money?
  • Are they really good looking?
  • Are they a top model who wants to be taken “seriously” because she’s seemingly bored of her job and professional pouting in $10,000 lingerie?
  • Does said celebrity need a new gig? Are they currently promoting something?
  • What’s their public rating?
  • Are they likeable to a sufficient number of people such that they could further a charity/brand?
  • Is the charity itself more of a marketing opportunity and a vehicle to add more “credibility” to a previously existing brand?

These are the types of critical questions that we should consider asking ourselves when the celebrity/charity model is introduced under the banner of altruism. We need to ask them and ourselves, “Why now, and what now?”

Now let’s consider Donald Trump Birtherism media ploy.

What Donald Trump has become very good at is making himself seem even more important than anything else going on in the world. Except, he is “just” running a television show and is perceived to be running a real estate company, which he does presumably when he is not doing television. Now lest you think that television has no strategy, think again. A television program is a sure-fire way to create, implement and sustain a brand-marketing strategy that is financially sound and viable if there ever was one. Television has become the American version of The Teacher.

From television we “learn” how to have friends, how to cook, how to have sex, how to be violent, how to teach, what to wear, what not to wear, how to be fat, how to gain weight, how to slice and dice our faces and bodies, how to lawyer, how to real estate, how to save the planet, how to be saved by Jesus, how to hate Jesus, and how to worship the devil. We learn what brand of jeans is best, what soup to eat, which air-freshener is toxic, which musicians play music while having great abs, how to walk the red carpet, which designers are hot, which celebrities are weird, etc. We have movies, films, documentaries, biographies, histories, verite, comedy, and now scripted reality replete with comedy, tragedy, drama, trauma, etc. We have commenter, anchors, talking head, interviewers, hosts, journalists, experts, professionals, amateurs, comedians. And then we have “news.”

When Donald Trump and team created Celebrity Apprentice it was clear that the television marketing strategy was to, you got it, leverage “celebrity,” but also to market “Mr. Trump” as an bull-headed business negotiator, and a sophisticated arbiter of taste and refinement with confidence to the point of overkill. In essence, he was branded the reality television version of King Solomon. After all, how many of us television-watchers have had the opportunity to “rub elbows” with corporate brands and fat cats of Trump’s ilk? Not many.

Now contrary to tabloid-belief, if you didn’t know better, you’d be forgiven if you’ve recently let yourself think that celebrities are “just like us” because that’s what television [and his evil twin, Tabloid] encourages you to think. Forget the once blurry lines of suspending belief and manufactured reality, these near-perfect Specimens will forever and always be “better” than you, and more “unlike” you than you can dare to image—bodily functions notwithstanding. Yes, yes, “they” work hard. Very hard. I’m not stupid, I’m not suggesting that they don’t. But unlike some of us, celebrities are also indubitably blessed with something that the camera loves. They have symmetrical faces and bodies, and mouths and expressions that can convey a multitude of emotions that are carefully delivered with picture perfect, viewer-gratifying attention-retaining sound-bites. And if they are unconvincing, well, then they have the opportunity to do it again. With Photoshop, etc. Awesome. [PS regarding mere mortals and the less-genetically-gifted, the prettier among us, as we are often told, receive "better" perks because some of us are "better" looking. And people who are better looking are perceived to be "better" at being better human beings. Ya. Go figure].

Speaking of celebrity bodies, have you heard that the “new” celebrity trend it to be pregnant without, you know, actually looking pregnant? That’s right. Certain celebrities are so awesome that they defy biology by sustaining pregnant bodies at 4 and 6 months while demonstrating skeletal arms and clavicles encased in fashionable designer frocks. See Tori Spelling and Victoria Beckham respectively for more up to date editorial.

Which leads me to conclude that Film & Television folks are nothing if not professionally convincing. This is their job. Which therefore makes them “credible” marketers because their job is to convince, to advertise, to market and to lend credibility to whatever product or news item or storyline they are selling, follow me? [When Robert De Niro publicly criticized Mr.Trump for his participation in birther racism, Mr.Trump said that De Niro makes great movies but he’s not known for being a public intellectual. Slam! What Mr. Trump did was to call into question De Niro’s credibility even though Trump through his false assertions and erroneous accusations has none. But who wins in the court of public opinion? Mr. Trump. Why? Because he has The Media behind him, and he has us stupid television-watchers who may or may not realize how television is “working” us over and desensitizing us to media clowns like Donald Trump. After all “Mr. Trump” wears power suits, “Mr. Trump” travels with an entourage, “Mr. Trump” holds press conferences and descends from a private jet replete with the words, “TRUMP” emblazoned on the side. And most importantly, “Mr. Trump” garners media coverage.

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“Mr. Trump” has an acceptable media image and the perception of credibility given to him by the media. Even though “Mr. Trump” is creating a diversion by trying to convince us that he is “right” and POTUS is “wrong.” Imagine! But, don’t be fooled, dear television-watcher, THIS is precisely how The Media works you over. Don’t be surprised if one morning you wake up with a G-Note on your bedside table. You’ve been served. Did anyone else see how “Mr. Trump” congratulated himself for “putting this issue to rest”? Did anyone else notice how many times “Mr. Trump” deigned to put himself on the level of the President of the United States? [A few nights ago I watched Anderson Cooper interview Mr Trump via telephone. It was awesome. The more Mr Trump shouted over the phone, the more Anderson Cooper stuttered and looked perplexed even though Anderson Cooper was supposed to be questioning the validity of Mr Trump’s statements. If I was score-keeper I’d have given 10 points to Mr Trump.

Donald Trump, the celebrity

Donald Trump is himself a “celebrity.” He plays “Mr. Trump” in “real” life, and on television. Now, who better than a “celebrity” to help endorse, boost and increase a brand strategy? Well, no one. If you want to reach millions of easy target/converts to your product, the best way to reach the North/American public is through a celebrity via the Idiot Box, also known as Television. Yes, the internet too, but I presume more Americans have a TV than a personal PC so let’s call television the gateway drug, shall we?

Mr. Trump gives good performance. He’s purportedly the “same” behind the camera as he is in front of the camera, at least this is the image he projects and the perception we’ve bought. In hindsight, you can’t help but believe it’s all part of a clever business strategy which pays the kind of dividends real corporations can only dream of. Prior to his support for Birtherism, Trump and the Family Trump was on Oprah. As I watched, I thought to myself, “What is Oprah [the woman, and the brand] doing, and why now?” It all seemed too staged and too carefully orchestrated to prop up the Trump brand, and Oprah was merely a vehicle.

Trump and family controlled and commanded the stage. There was a behind the scenes look at how he runs his businesses replete with scenes of him doing domestic work. Also the sons were candid about the lack of assumed perks available to them, and how they fly ordinary people’s class when they travel on business. There were scenes of how “normal” they are, and how much they love and respect one another. And endorsements of how great a parent Trump is. Except when you look closely, what you see is an immaculate portrait of some very stiff looking white people who have practiced the art of the professional stern face.

Ivanka Trump is very pretty and very humourless. And she speaks in a manner that makes you listen. Her sentences are clear and deliberate. You admire her because her aura projects and commands respect and attention. At least from a television perspective. I have never actually met the woman in person. Ivanka Trump does not give you the opportunity to be distracted by her beauty but you can certainly be distracted and mesmerized by her business image. No men’s power suits for her, and why should she? It’s all sharply tailored suits and dresses, clear hose and high heels and impeccably applied makeup. You’ never catch a before and after with her. Or her casually attired wearing “cottage” makeup. Ya. No. She welcomes your professionally appropriate admiration of her. She courts this. All the Trumps “have” this. [Except maybe the new Trump wife, whatsherface. Her English is very halting and beyond the ‘ra-ra my husband is great’ hyperbole, I couldn’t listen to her for more than 5 minutes. Plus her face doesn’t move. Botox much Mrs. Trump? It’s one thing to be a doting child, but a doting wife? In this century? Give me a break! Still, the entire family delivers their Trump credos as if they have practiced and rehearsed since birth. The facade used to be seemingly impenetrable.

Until now.

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