by John Sexton
Edited by Gospelbbq
This is fascinating. A professor of economics named Maria Guadalupe was watching the presidential debates last year and had a thought. What if Trump were a woman and Hillary were a man? How would that change people’s perceptions of the exchanges in the debates?
With the help of Joe Salvatore, a professor who specializes in something called ethno-drama, Guadalupe set up a recreation of sections of the original debates using actors to play the roles of Trump, Clinton and the moderator. All the words the actors spoke were taken from transcripts. The candidates’ body language and delivery were studied and the actors did their best to match it moment-to-moment to video feeds from the actual debates. The only difference was that Donald Trump was now a woman renamed Brenda King while Hillary was now a man dubbed Jonathan Gordon. A third actor played the moderator in the debates.” So they weren’t named Hillary and Trump. They were given totally different names, but the words uttered were identical — they were verbatim — except a woman played Trump and uttered what he had said and a man played Hillary and uttered what she said. And what they hoped to demonstrate was that the outrageousness and the folly and the stupidity of the things Trump said, those things, as spoken by a woman, would have seen him lose. They wanted to establish that the reason Hillary lost was that she was a woman. “Gender bias.” And so they actually hired actors who studied the debate, the exact lines, even the mannerisms, and then they reenacted the debates.
Initially, both Guadalupe and Salvatore had little doubt what the experiment would reveal, i.e. Trump’s behavior would never be tolerated coming from a woman while Clinton’s competence would be even more obvious coming from a man. But as rehearsals for the performance of the reimagined debates went on, Guadalupe and Salvatore were surprised by what they were feeling about the two candidates. It turned out the woman version of Trump seemed more likable than they had imagined. Salvatore told Guadalupe during rehearsals, “I kind of want to have a beer with her!”
As Rush noted, “They expected to demonstrate that the only reason Hillary lost was because of sexism. They wanted to demonstrate that, if a man had said what Hillary Clinton said, he would have won in a landslide. That a woman was uttering what Trump said was probably irrelevant to their experiment but they had to do it in order to complete the project. But the focus obviously was on trying to demonstrate (’cause it’s called “Her Opponent”) that what did-Hillary-in was this archaic, patriarchal, corrupt American society that values men and denigrates women.”
They wanted to prove it by having what Hillary said — which they thought was brilliant and relevant and sensitive. If a man said those things, he would have won in a landslide. And it turned out that they were as wrong as they could have been. They expected the audience — and the audience, by the way, was made up of people from the West Village in New York City. You can’t get more hardcore liberal than that. I mean, not even if you go to the Upper West Side.” (Comment from rushlimbaugh.com)
When the debate was actually performed, for a crowd of mostly academics, the audience was somewhat bewildered. From NYU News:
The two sold-out performances of Her Opponent took place on the night of Saturday, January 28, just a week after President Trump’s inauguration and the ensuing Women’s March on Washington…
Many were shocked to find that they couldn’t seem to find in Jonathan Gordon what they had admired in Hillary Clinton—or that Brenda King’s clever tactics seemed to shine in moments where they’d remembered Donald Trump flailing or lashing out. For those Clinton voters trying to make sense of the loss, it was by turns bewildering and instructive, raising as many questions about gender performance and effects of sexism as it answered.
In an interview with NYU News, Joe Salvatore described some of the specific reactions he heard from the audience:
We heard a lot of “now I understand how this happened”—meaning how Trump won the election. People got upset. There was a guy two rows in front of me who was literally holding his head in his hands, and the person with him was rubbing his back. The simplicity of Trump’s message became easier for people to hear when it was coming from a woman—that was a theme. One person said, “I’m just so struck by how precise Trump’s technique is.” Another—a musical theater composer, actually—said that Trump created “hummable lyrics,” while Clinton talked a lot, and everything she said was true and factual, but there was no “hook” to it.
Another theme was about not liking either candidate—you know, “I wouldn’t vote for either one.” Someone said that Jonathan Gordon [the male Hillary Clinton] was “really punchable” because of all the smiling. And a lot of people were just very surprised by the way it upended their expectations about what they thought they would feel or experience. There was someone who described Brenda King [the female Donald Trump] as his Jewish aunt who would take care of him, even though he might not like his aunt. Someone else described her as the middle school principal who you don’t like, but you know is doing good things for you.
Salvatore says it was personally an education for him as many members of his extended family had voted for Trump. “I developed empathy for people who voted for him by doing this project, which is not what I was expecting,” he told NYU News. He added, “I expected it to make me more angry at them, but it gave me an understanding of what they might have heard or experienced when he spoke.”