One of the lesser important side effects of hiring a cartoonish business tycoon—one who used to really permeate our pop culture at one point—to run the country is that we remain surrounded by relics of his past life. Before he spent his days targeting Black NASCAR drivers and ignoring the threat of COVID-19 until it was too late, Donald Trump was an enduring symbol of ostentatious wealth, access, and high society—an ideal accessory to celebrity culture. Whenever film and television needed someone to represent the culture of wealth (or simply stand as a New York ambassador of sorts), Trump was called upon to make a cameo. Per IndieWire, fans have called on Ben Stiller to eradicate one of those cameos—a five seconds-long appearance in 2001's Zoolander—by editing him out of the film entirely. Stiller, however, is not making any plans to erase Trump’s appearance in it anytime soon.
On a recent episode of The Daily Beast’s podcast, The New Abnormal, Stiller confirmed that he will not be yanking the scene out of the cult classic. “I’ve had people reach out to me and say, you should edit Donald Trump out of Zoolander,” Stiller said. “But at the end of the day, that was a time when that exists and that happened.”
In the scene, Trump is standing next to Melania on the red carpet of the VH1 Fashion Awards. “Look, without Derek Zoolander, male modeling wouldn’t be what it is today,” Trump states to E! News. It’s only five seconds! Just a quick little snip and nobody would even know the difference! But alas, Stiller is right: Trump’s presence spans a number of decades and resulted in quite a few appearances across a number of current-day favorites, like Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, The Nanny, The Drew Carey Show, and Home Alone 2, just to name a few. “There were so many movies [back then] that had a silly cameo from Donald Trump,” Stiller said. “He represented a certain thing.”
Stiller used the rest of his time on The New Abnormal to talk about the ways comedy has evolved over the years, including how something like Tropic Thunder—a film that includes blackface—would be received today. “Today, Tropic Thunder probably would not have been made, because the atmosphere would just feel wrong.” You can listen to the full 19-minute episode here.