There are many, many times I wish Nora Ephron were still alive and still writing. Most famous for her movies, including When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless In Seattle, and Julie & Julia — among many, many others — the beloved Ephron (who passed away in 2012) was also a sharply analytical and deliciously witty journalist who could write insightfully about the adult film Deep Throat or the palliative powers of mashed potatoes. So, I miss her especially during this surreal presidential election because Ephron would've covered Donald Trump in exactly the right way.
Ephron actually spotted a unique quality in Trump was back in 1989. As reported in BuzzFeed, Ephron wrote about the real estate mogul in her article "Famous First Words" for the June 1989 issue of Esquire. Tackling the nature of fame, Ephron noted that Trump was different because he "wants to be famous" and relishes fame in all the ways that celebrities (and most normal people) wouldn't. "He wants people to talk about him. He wants people to notice him. He wants people to write about him. He wants people to ask him for autographs and recognize him and invade his privacy; not that he seems to have any privacy; he doesn’t even seem to have a single solitary thought he manages to keep to himself, so perhaps there’s no privacy to invade," Ephron astutely noticed. She realized that so much, if not the entirety, of Trump's being, intellect, and energy were devoted to propagating this fame.
Ephron proceeded to write of Trump in that Esquire piece:
I tip my hat to Donald Trump, because except for the occasional churlish moment he seems to be genuinely enjoying the experience of fame in a way that no one in his right mind ever does, and the fact that he therefore seems not to have any sense or intelligence or taste whatsoever is beside the point. The man has adapted.
Aside from being dead-on and especially sagacious about the Donald lacking "any sense or intelligence or taste whatsoever" (he would go on to launch Trump Steaks and brag about his sexual exploits with Howard Stern), Ephron saw the specific way Trump was adept in his fame-hunger. He was willing to do pretty much anything for the sake of sustaining or increasing his fame — even running for the highest office in the land.
Perhaps, I am thinking more about Ephron because the new documentary about her life, Everything is Copy, recently debuted on HBO, but I wager that Ephron would have seen that Trump's 2016 presidential bid was all part of a larger stunt to keep his fame going and that every step along the campaign trail was designed to provoke the greatest shock and, therefore, bring attention back at him. I bet she would have adroitly highlighted this Trump sham and reminded us that he doesn't want the White House as much as he wants another 15 minutes in the spotlight.
Members of the media (this one included) are increasingly realizing that, perhaps, the right response to Trump's bombastic and often-xenophobic presidential stumping would have been to ignore it from the get-go or treat it more specifically as a reality TV farce. Freedom of the press does not mean an obligation to cover a blowhard just because he says controversial things in a loud voice. Writing for Cosmopolitian, Jill Filipovic recently criticized the media's heavy coverage of Trump, writing:
That decision, to put Trump front and center, was a stunning act of journalistic malpractice, done again and again by network after network. 'Newsworthy' is not synonymous with 'outrageous,' and the ratings Trump brings in do not justify doing a profound disservice to viewers.
Hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to recognize these errors now that Trump landing a prime spot on the ballot in November is almost a certainty. But I think that Ephron would have seen this Trump fiasco coming from a mile away, calling it out with her stunningly sharp tongue and her epigrammatic prose.