Newsletter 1

Donald Trump is Not A Romance Novel Hero: An Argument I Never Thought I’d Have to Make

Trisha Brown

Contributing Editor

Trisha Brown grew up in Washington State and moved to Washington, DC, to work on programs that support vulnerable families. She decided to take a break in 2019, so now she’s traveling around the United States learning about different places and communities. She plans to return to her life in DC eventually, but for now she can be found chatting with people in bars and parks, catching up on sleep, and trying to keep herself from buying more books than her car and budget can handle. Find her on Instagram (@trishahaleybrown) or Twitter (@trishahaleybrwn).

An article was making the social media rounds this week about how romance readers may have conflated Donald Trump with the billionaire heroes in romance novels and voted him into office thinking it would get them a “happy ever after.” No, really. Someone actually made essentially this argument. I don’t want to reward bad behavior, so I’m not linking to it. Google as you see fit.

There are many, many flaws with that argument and the assumptions required to make it, but I don’t have time to properly rail against the myopic view of romance readers and authors at play here. (Besides, romance Twitter did a pretty great job of that already.)

Instead, I’m going to offer you a few reasons why no one – not even us romance readers, with our sad lack of common sense – would ever mistake Donald Trump for a romance hero.

Romance heroes dress well. Not to be superficial about it, but since we’re comparing the President of the United States to a fictional archetype, let’s be cover all of our bases. Some romance heroes wear flannel. Others wear football jerseys. The billionaires tend to wear suits, and as fellow Rioter Amanda Diehl pointed out, they wear them well. “Let me loosen my very long tie and also remove the scotch tape from it,” said no romance hero ever.

Racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and all other kinds of hate are not sexy, romantic or cute. Full stop. Not only is this behavior that is not becoming of a romance hero, it’s also not appropriate behavior of the rich:

Or the famous:

And certainly not of a world leader:

Just being a decent human is a pretty low bar for a hero or romantic lead. Trump doesn’t come close to clearing it.

The sheer misogyny of it all. I’ve already made the argument that romance novels are more feminist than just about any other form of fiction or entertainment. But even if you don’t buy that, the premise of heterosexual romance novels requires that the men involved have some appreciation and respect for the women. That is to say, no author would write a romance hero plagued by accusations of sexual assault and misconduct. No romance hero would treat a competitor the way Trump treated Secretary Clinton during the campaign, and no romance hero would brag to Billy Bush about assaulting women. Frankly, no romance hero would ever hang out with Billy Bush. Speaking of which…

Trump has the shittiest friends. And shitty friends have no place in a romance novel. Not only would a romance novel hero avoid the company of garbage humans, the friends and family of the hero are the backbone of the other books in many romance series. And there is no universe in which a Donald Trump billionaire romance novel spins off into a series featuring Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Reince Priebus.

The portrait, you guys. Romance novel covers are notorious for being cheesy, but the words used to describe those heroes are ones like “sexy” or “charming” or “sweet.” The words you’d use to describe Trump’s official portrait are more likely to be words like “menacing” or “misery.” I’m not gonna fault Trump for not showing off his abs, but just look at the difference between this portrait:

And this picture:

Or this one with two romance heroes:

This one is intense, but in a sexy way as opposed to a “Just don’t forget I have the nuclear codes” kind of way:

This whole argument is a little silly anyway. Some romance readers voted for Trump, and lots didn’t. But I can’t imagine that millions of women voted for the candidate based on who best reflected what they read in romance novels. And if they did, then they were probably a hell of a lot of them who voted for a multi-dimensional, bad-ass feminist who goes after what she wants as opposed to a creepy 70-year-old in a red hat with a goon squad. Even if he is – allegedly – a billionaire.