Baldwin and Trump reflect the worst in each other

Sam Groves

According to the pop culture database, method acting is a practice in which “an actor tries to replicate the life circumstances, mannerisms and emotional feelings of the character he portrays — so as to give realism, legitimacy and dramatic strength to his performance.” In other words, the actor seeks to become the character rather than simply mimicking them.

Alec Baldwin has been portraying Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live for over a year now. He’s not a method actor, but perhaps he’s adopting the technique because lately he’s been sounding an awful lot like the man he lampoons on TV — particularly when it comes to sexual assault and violence against women.

Most recently, Baldwin defended Woody Allen against a contingent of A-list actors who have denounced him in support of his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. For years, Farrow has maintained that Allen raped her when she was seven years old, but her story is receiving renewed attention due to the #MeToo movement and an op-ed she wrote for the Los Angeles Times back in December.

But Baldwin’s not buying it. In a series of tweets, he implored his followers to consider the possibility that Farrow invented her story. He also compared her to a character from “To Kill a Mockingbird” who lies about being raped, a punch so low you might expect it from Trump himself — if he were a more literate man.

Baldwin’s facsimile of Trump-style misogyny was so accurate that two weeks later you could hear echoes of it in Trump’s defense of his disgraced former staff secretary, Rob Porter. Porter had resigned after both of his ex-wives accused him of physically and verbally abusing them, but just like Baldwin, Trump wasn’t convinced. “He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that,” he told reporters last week. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent.”

This is the Trump-Baldwin dilemma: Do we believe powerful men who have everything to lose, or do we believe the women who risk everything by standing up to them? And to be fair, there’s something sympathetic about epistemic panic in 2018. Blindsided by a barrage of online fake news, we’ve all been flailing around trying to figure out what’s true and how to distinguish between facts and alternative facts. People like Baldwin and Trump think that this sort of uncertainty should absolve men of any concrete consequences for their actions.

It’s telling that they don’t apply the same level of scrutiny to Allen and Porter’s denials. There’s no reason why uncertainty should exclusively favor men facing accusations — not unless, like Trump or Baldwin, you’re a misogynist with a tainted history of your own to worry about. Trump (it seriously bears repeating) has been accused of sexual misconduct by 19 different women. Baldwin admitted last November that he has “bullied” women and “treated them in very sexist ways.”

In a way, Baldwin and Trump are mutual beneficiaries. Thanks to Trump’s candidacy and later presidency, Baldwin is enjoying a greatly expanded public profile — the best use of which, he evidently thought, was to go after Dylan Farrow. Simultaneously, Baldwin’s parody of Trump, while hardly flattering, has portrayed its subject as merely an oafish eccentric rather than the insidious hate-monger and threat to stable democracy that he is.

As quid pro quo relationships go, it’s admittedly pretty lopsided. But in light of their recent remarks, there’s no denying that they deserve each other. As Baldwin told Vanity Fair back in October, “In terms of the media, I’m Trump now. He’s not even Trump anymore — I am.”

Groves is a philosophy junior from Dallas. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @samgroves.