#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump
Malcolm Nance, George Conway, Anthony Scaramucci, Rick Reilly
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While there are moments of cheeky partisan fun… by showing the cold and cunning mechanics behind his actions and mannerisms, it helps to make a bit more sense out of how his ascendence marked the start of a dark collective mood…
The intersection of mental health and politics is dicey at best, especially in modern discourse. It can be weaponised just as easily as it can succumb to Schrödinger logic, where it’s either non-existent or a profoundly serious concern, depending on the vibe. It is with this in mind that the entire idea behind this documentary – one that seeks to clinically examine the psyche of the man in one of the world’s most powerful seats of office – could easily fall into the kind of self-sabotaging sensationalism that would render it useless, even to those it’s meant to appeal to. But thankfully, director Dan Partland shows enough aptitude to avoid such a fate.
#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump sets out to hold President Trump up to the same scrutiny as those in the US military who have a fraction of his access to the American nuclear arsenal, framing itself as genuine psychological analysis beyond the armchair variety favoured by social media and mass media pundits.
It starts out on solid footing, emphasising how much psych frameworks like DSM are based on observational data, the difference between garden-variety narcissism and malignant narcissism, dipping into sports and even animal psychology to add the necessary layers, and even how mental health issues don’t automatically equate to ‘unfit’, using the classic example of Abraham Lincoln’s battles with depression. It’s just that, much like the difference between malignant and benign tumours, when it’s malignant, it has a tendency to not only get worse but spread.
The documentary also cuts through the caricaturing of Trump by ‘The Left’, as it highlights how behind all that meme armour and ‘lol triggered’ appeal within his fanbase, there is a reason why people voted for him in the first place. Showing that psychology at this scale is far from isolated, how Trump’s psyche informs his policies, his connections with other world leaders, and his presentation towards his support base, brings out the film’s insistence on it being malignant, with working-class voters having their ugly sides brought out by someone playing Mark Antony in this absurdist’s rendition of Julius Caesar.
While there are moments of cheeky partisan fun to be had, in particular from Anthony Scaramucci’s deliciously-descriptive words about Trump as politician and businessman, the film as a whole treats the rhetoric of a man who basically managed to “Yes, and…” his way into the White House with refreshing seriousness. And by showing the cold and cunning mechanics behind his actions and mannerisms, it helps to make a bit more sense out of how his ascendence marked the start of a dark collective mood, with the cultivation of vindictive social tumours creating an ever-widening political divide.
With voting for the next election underway in the US, one can only hope that this showing of good faith psychiatric duty and bipartisan analysis will cut through the usual line-drawing that accompanies political docos, and help push against this malignancy to Make Empathy Great Again.