Pop Culture

Raj was just too much like Trump

Raj never gave up: After being fired by Donald Trump, he lingered in the elevator lobby, waiting for the doors to open so he could begin his taxi ride of shame. Instead of standing there, humbled, he went for it: He walked over to Trump employee Robin and asked for her phone number.

As she tried to ignore him, he continued, “Pony up, come on, pony up. Do you have a boyfriend?” Robin, the “secretary” who has no purpose on “The Apprentice” except to tilt her head and tell the contestants they can go back into the boardroom, sighed and didn’t say much. But she rejected Raj, just as Donald Trump did, just as Trump had to.

Trump had to get rid of Raj because Raj was too much like Trump, a mirror for his own sexism and inadequacies, his inability to see past himself.

From the moment viewers laid eyes on , it was apparent that he was going to be interesting, and he didn’t disappoint. During tasks, he was cocky but competent; he made mistakes but accepted responsibility in the boardroom. Yet his arrogance and self-absorption, and a related predilection for treating women as objects, destroyed his chance for success.

Raj was essentially fired from “The Apprentice” for picking a bad contractor, and for deciding to convert a four-bedroom house into a three-bedroom house. His team didn’t think this was smart, but he persisted. Many leaders certainly forge ahead even when warned or challenged by others, and sometimes they succeed. But Raj’s behavior this season shows that he isn’t quite that type of leader yet.

Every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed manHis (login required) tells us all we need to know. In the “Who I Want to Meet” section, Raj writes, “To be perfectly honest, I enjoy making the acquaintance of beautiful and charming women who are skilled at the art of flattery most of all. They promote, at least in the short term, a feeling of happiness.”

In other words, he wants a woman who will look pretty and praise him. He views women as objects who exist for his benefit, and, likewise, considers other people as a means to his ends.

In an earlier episode, Raj flirted with fashion models that his team was employing during a task. He spoke to one in German, and commented to the camera that it was “very difficult for a group of men ... to concentrate on properly on anything but these exemplars of human beauty.” His relentless flirting with models during the fashion challenge caused friction on his team, but also showed that in his world, Raj comes first.

Trump has noticed this, both Raj’s ego and his flirting. This week, when describing the home-renovation task, Trump gave each team $20,000 of credit and as he handed the product-placed credit card to Raj, joked, “Make sure you spend it on the house, not on the women, Raj.” He’s teased Raj before, and there’s a reason for this: he probably reminds Trump of someone he knows very well.

In Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal,” he discusses joining a club in Manhattan, and he writes, “I met a lot of beautiful young single women, and I went out almost every night. Actually, I never got involved with any of them very seriously. These were beautiful women, but many of them couldn’t carry on a normal conversation. Some were vain, some were crazy, some were wild, and many of them were phonies. For example, I quickly found out that I couldn’t take these girls back to my apartment, because by their standards what I had was a disaster, and in their world appearances were everything.”

In the next sentence, Trump says, “When I finally did get married, I married a very beautiful woman, but a woman who also happens to be a rock, just like my mother and father.”

Oh, the irony. He’s criticizing these “beautiful women” because to them, “appearances were everything,” while at the exact same time he’s incapable of describing women by anything other than their physical appearance. He can’t even be bothered to find a vocabulary word other than the bland and nondescript “beautiful.”

Sexual tension on ‘Survivor’Mark Burnett’s two marquee shows, "The Apprentice" and "Survivor," both highlight and even encourage this type of sexist behavior. This fall, Burnett split both of his shows’ teams by sex, which is arbitrary and unnecessary — and not only because he already did it, last season on “The Apprentice” and during “Survivor Amazon.” Why not split the players by eye color, weight, or race? Somehow same-sex teams are acceptable, whereas we’d be appalled if he formed same-race teams.

Monty Brinton / CBS
caption: Ami Cusack and Rory Freeman of the Yasur tribe during the seventh episode of SURVIVOR: VANUATU Islands of Fire. The Yasur tribe won the reward challenge "Jo-Conut" and won a visit to the Home Cafe for Folgers coffee, croissant and letters and pictures from home. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS)2004 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reservedcopyright: This image may not be sold, distributed, stored or archived by any organization or person. This image is for editorial use only, in North America only (United States of America, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean Islands). Editorial publication is not permitted after January 31, 2005. For usage of this image outside the above terms and conditions, please contact CBS via email at: cbsphotoarchive@cbs.com or via fax at 212/975-3338.

Knowing Mark Burnett’s work, he’s probably just being smart, recognizing the tensions that still exist in our society because of characteristics like sex. Next week on “Survivor Vanuatu,” previews show that some of the three remaining men will get annoyed simply with what they characterize as feminine behavior. And on the most recent episode, Rory was the first victim of the merged tribe.

The “Survivor” women banded together simply because they are women (how smart would we think the contestants were if they formed alliances based upon their shoe sizes?), and voted for Rory because he was a guy. Not that Rory was innocent: Rory told us repeatedly that he couldn’t stand being in a tribe with just himself and women.

Trump isn’t an egregiously sexist pig by any stretch of the imagination, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with appreciating the physical beauty of those you are attracted to. (Whether or not this sort of behavior should be tolerated in a workplace is another issue, although fake reality TV workplaces are certainly different environments.)

But Trump’s subtle objectification of women points toward a larger issue: his ego causes him to view everything around him as being about him. Trump’s business acumen has been enhanced by that ego, which drives him in part to slap his name on every single thing he produces or owns.

Things become extensions of him, whether they’re buildings or women.

Trump was clearly fond of Raj, but in him Trump saw a reflection of himself. Working on tasks, Raj was competent and levelheaded. But doing things like trying to pick up Robin proved that his judgment was mired by his ego. Maybe Raj had some deep conversations with Robin that we just never saw, discussing or Atlantic Ocean wind patterns, but otherwise his shameless hitting on her in his final moments of the show proved his inability to think beyond how someone else could make him look good.

While that strategy has arguably helped Donald Trump succeed, Trump doesn’t need a bow-tied reminder of his less-than-flattering side clinging to him for the next year.

is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.

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