You’ve Been Trumped: The Ugly American


You’ve Been Trumped, directed by Anthony Baxter, is a document of a humble American businessman who, through some perspicacity and Abe Lincoln–style bootstraps-hoisting, wins the land and homes of a bunch of primitive, chattering Scottish natives who obviously don’t use them to God’s and Ayn Rand’s intended purpose: for playing golf.

Menie Estate, a once-protected grassland on the Aberdeenshire coast near the Scottish village of Balmedie, is a rolling, green topography of dunes and hills that supports a shrinking ecosystem of animals and plant life. By contrast, the natural beauty of America’s wild environments is like the smooth, unbroken surface of a can of vanilla frosting, right before we plunge in with both hands and scrape out everything we want. Fertile Great Plains grassland? Now it’s a Bass Pro Shop parking lot. Mountaintops in Appalachia? We blow that shit up.

We also ship American exceptionalism to Europe in the form of Donald Trump, who, bent on transforming the area into a golf course and time-share resort, goes all Lee Greenwood up in there, buying public officials, silencing social and environmental critics, and shutting down a wind-power project off the coast because he doesn’t like the view.

Many of the area residents refuse to vacate their homes and sell their property. Baxter constructs a narrative that pits Trump against farmer Michael Forbes, who wants to withhold his land from the higher purpose of pampering rich, waddling American tourists. The farmer, as straight-shooting Trump tells every television interviewer, “lives like a pig” on “slum-like property.” He has a point: Forbes’s farm has a tractor. We see shots of buckets and equipment. There’s a barn. Diamond-encrusted American 1 Percenters aren’t exactly bringing their bejeweled golf slacks to Scotland to look at a bunch of Scottish shit, and Baxter captures shots of Trump’s contractors flattening the dunes with backhoes, dumping dirt berms along the houses of residents to rob them of their scenic green vistas, rendering generic what was once a singular biome.

Forbes becomes a local folk hero over the course of the film; indeed, Baxter notes the parallels between Trump’s project and the 1983 Bill Forsyth film Local Hero, whose plot of an oil executive moving to Scotland to purchase a town is startlingly similar. Baxter incorporates clips from Local Hero and even uses the exact same phone booth to call Trump’s American office that Peter Riegert uses to call Burt Lancaster.

Trump’s crews cut off the water and power to noncompliant residents, who must carry their water from a local stream for weeks. He gets property lines resurveyed and knocks down the Scots’ fences. Baxter documents press conferences, site tours, the brutal complicity of the police (which he and his film crew experience firsthand), and the blatant suspension of civil rights by civic leaders who want the billions of American dollars they’ve been promised by this completely trustworthy American real estate magnate, who has never once lied about anything. Donald Trump is the face of America here, representing all of us and demonstrating our values abroad. Hopefully this sharp rendering, or something very much like it, is the legacy for which he and his family will be remembered.