The Wicked Stepfather

There has been a lot of scholarly writing about the archetype of the Wicked Stepmother in the tales of the Brothers Grimm over the years. Bruno Bettelheim suggested that having a stepmother wanting to kill her kids allowed children to separate their feelings, and preserve a pristine image of a good (usually dead) mother from the bad one. Also, having a wicked mother would be a little too on the nose (though John Frankenheimer certainly went there in the Manchurian Candidate!).

in the classic thriller, The Stepfather, a super bad new dad–played by Terry O’Quinn (aka, John Locke in Lost) in the original–literally sets out to kill his new children, after having done the same in an earlier family. He’s a classic sociopath, doing evil and moving on, unperturbed.

If every president deserves an archetype (George HW Bush was your first husband, Bill Clinton the guy your mother warned you about), Trump’s might just be the Wicked Stepfather. Sure, we couldn’t believe it when Mom brought this guy home–I mean, have you looked at him? The hair, the teeth, the way he talks about himself? And we could hardly stop barfing when she said she was going to marry him. But we couldn’t leave because, well, America is our home.

So we hoped he might pivot once he was our dad (even when we wouldn’t call him that) and hoped he would stop being such an asshole, or at least stop hitting on our girlfriends. But from the beginning, things looked bad. He spent his wedding toast talking about himself and then tried to scare everyone with talk about carnage. And he doesn’t even drink!

With the events of Charlottesville and his reaction, Trump has disappointed on a whole, new level. To follow my metaphor: It’s as if we came home from being beaten up or raped and our new stepdad said, “Well, who told you to go out there? and what were you wearing? There are two sides to this, you know. I don’t see that you are so blameless.” When what you wanted was a real dad, one who would try to comfort you and maybe even say, “Where is that son of a bitch, I’ll rip his head off!” Not, “He looks like a fine person to me!”

I don’t know how this horror show will end. But in the movie the kid finally kills the bastard.

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