In her two decade-long acting career, Scarlett Johansson has played everything from a Russian superhero (The Avengers) to Anne Boleyn’s sister (The Other Boleyn Girl) and a military cyborg (Ghost in the Shell). Her most recent role, however, is set to be one of her most provocative: Ivanka Trump.
Johansson appeared as President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter in a sketch on Saturday Night Live over the weekend. The 30-second clip spoofs beauty industry advertising clichés, as well as the ‘First Daughter’, as ‘Ivanka’ is seen starring in a faux advert for a new fragrance caustically named ‘Complicit’.
The mocking advert shows Johansson’s Ivanka striding into a glittering ballroom, wearing a shimmering metallic dress and dripping in diamonds.
As heads turn and classical strings swell in the background, a woman’s voice intones seductively: “Every man knows her name. Every woman knows her face.
“When she walks into a room, all eyes are on her. She’s… Ivanka.”
Johansson, who has been open about her distaste for the Trump administration, is seen raising a flute of champagne and waving with a rigid, dead-eyed smile on her face. As she struts through the ballroom – which, like the infamous elevator at Trump Tower, appears to be decorated entirely in gold – the voiceover continues: “A woman like her deserves a fragrance all her own. A scent made just for her.
“Because she’s beautiful. She’s powerful. She’s… complicit.”
With these words, the camera lingers on a shot of a perfume bottle filled with amber liquid, labelled Complicit.
“She’s a woman who knows what she wants, and knows what she’s doing,” the woman’s voice concludes. “Complicit.”
The SNL skit suggests that Ivanka is cynical, power-hungry, and more like her father than her PR team would have us believe. In one of the spoof advert’s most cutting moments, Johansson-as-Ivanka is seen applying lipstick in a mirror.
“She doesn’t crave the spotlight, but we see her,” breathes the voiceover. “Oh, how we see her.” As the camera cuts to Johansson’s reflection in the mirror, we don’t see her at all; we see Alec Baldwin as Trump. Ivanka Trump might be beautiful and elegant, the skit says, but underneath the gloss she’s just like her father.
The advert then skewers Trump’s much-vaunted feminist credentials, saying: “A feminist. A champion. An advocate for women. Like… how?”
The skit concludes with the line: “The fragrance for the woman who could stop all this, but won’t.”
Although Ivanka Trump has no official role in her father’s administration, her influence on the president is well-known. President Trump himself has referenced the powerful effect his supposedly favourite child has on his political decisions, tweeting in January that she is “always pushing me to do the right thing”.
Ivanka’s expertly curated public image of a glamorous-yet-wholesome working mother, meanwhile, is widely considered to have helped President Trump win the votes of white middle-class women in last November’s election.
A self-proclaimed feminist, she made regular appearances on her father’s behalf during the US election campaign – going as far as to defend his crude comments about women and insisting that his boasts about sexual assault were not consistent with the man she knew.
Since President Trump took office in January, Ivanka has been acting as an unofficial presidential counsellor (her husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior White House adviser). The couple have been frequently depicted as moderating forces in the Trump administration: voices of urbane tolerance and relative liberality in the face of the President’s brash impulsiveness and the far-right tendencies of many in his cabinet.
However, many on the left have condemned Ivanka for “co-opting feminism” in a quest for personal gain and power. Writing in the New York Times, Jill Filipovic describes her as a “post-feminist huckster, selling us traditional femininity and support of male power wrapped up in a feminist bow”.
President Trump has not yet commented on the Saturday Night Live skit. However, given his well-known hatred of the show, itchy Twitter fingers and knee-jerk defensiveness of his beloved daughter, it seems only a matter of time.