This play tested people's reactions to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — with their genders swapped

This play presents a gender-swapped presidential election.
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube)

Imagine Donald Trump's debate performances — all the same phrasing, gestures, and tone — performed by a woman, and Hillary Clinton's part played by a man. A play called Her Opponent, put together by a theater professor and a political science professor at New York University, does exactly that.

NYU theater faculty were cast to play "Brenda King," the female stand-in for Trump, and "Jonathan Gordon," the male Clinton. They rehearsed until they could perform perfectly alongside video of the debates, matching the real candidates word for word and gesture for gesture. The expectation was that "Trump's aggression — his tendency to interrupt and attack — would never be tolerated in a woman, and that Clinton's competence and preparedness would seem even more convincing coming from a man."

That was not the result. With the genders swapped, audience members found the female Trump strong and compelling, while the male Clinton's constant smiling was deemed "really punchable." "We heard a lot of 'now I understand how this happened' — meaning how Trump won the election," said NYU theater professor Joe Salvatore. "The simplicity of Trump's message became easier for people to hear when it was coming from a woman — that was a theme."

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The next step for the production is a shot-for-shot filming in the style of the real debates, and then perhaps an off-Broadway show. In the meantime, watch a clip below. Bonnie Kristian

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Bonnie Kristian

Bonnie Kristian was a deputy editor and acting editor-in-chief of She is a columnist at Christianity Today and author of Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (forthcoming 2022) and A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (2018). Her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.