Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Bryan, Ferald

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Communication


In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, scholars and political pundits alike were left scrambling to understand what had occurred. While there is no single explanation for this unexpected turn of events, the present study argues that an overlooked and central aspect of Trump’s appeal was foreshadowed by the increased prominence of antihero protagonists in American media, particularly exemplified by the recent “Golden Age” of television wherein television series like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Dexter found critical and popular success by building compelling narratives around morally flawed characters. Trump certainly defied traditionally heroic notions of presidential character, instead opting to embrace an unfiltered and morally flawed persona not unlike those depicted on television. This study surveys extant literature on heroism and anti-heroism to construct a framework for understanding the fundamental elements of the antihero genre before applying it in a generic rhetorical criticism of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.


148 pages




Northern Illinois University

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In Copyright

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NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type