- In her upcoming book, Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, compared President Trump’s penis to Toad, a beloved character from Nintendo’s “Mario Kart.”
- This is gross, but excellent for democracy.
Apologies if I’m the first one to inform you that Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, the adult entertainment star who was paid $130,000 to stay quiet about her affair with President Donald Trump, is about to publish a book.
“He knows he has an unusual penis. … It has a huge mushroom head. Like a toadstool. … I lay there, annoyed that I was getting f—– by a guy with Yeti pubes and a d— like the mushroom character in Mario Kart. …
“It may have been the least impressive sex I’d ever had, but clearly, he didn’t share that opinion.”
Naturally, you’re disgusted. Toad is a joyful, innocent cartoon character and should in no way be used to represent what a grown man’s sex organ looks like – let alone one that belongs to the president of the United States.
But man, that sure is funny.
Since an excerpt of her book hit the internet, “Toad” and “Mario Kart” have been trending on social media, and the internet is generating memes mocking this situation at a rapid clip. This is not only because what Daniels wrote is hilarious, it is because it is more than that, it’s the chatter of a healthy democracy.
— MarketWatch (@MarketWatch) September 18, 2018
At a time when Americans are worried about the strength of our democracy – when many sense Trump’s personal penchant for authoritarianism creeping into our daily political discourse at all levels – the fact we can all laugh at something this personal to him is a great sign.
It shows that Americans still know our leaders are not perfect individuals, that they are not omniscient or impervious. In fact, they can be questioned, and they can (and must) be ridiculed.
Our democracy depends on it.
I’m funny, but I’m not joking
Trump – if you believe accounts by journalists like Bob Woodward and Michael Wolff – doesn’t quite grasp the importance of checks and balances that form the backbone of our democracy. Americans have found this alarming.
More than that, his White House has experienced a number of setbacks for trying to claim sweeping authority it doesn’t have. Like the time it tried to bar transgender Americans from the military, or, at the very outset of the administration – when it attempted to ban immigration from certain Middle Eastern and African countries. (It eventually succeeded in implementing a version of this.)
Trump has openly expressed his admiration for authoritarian leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. He envies the image of a strong, unequivocal head of state in the form of say, China’s president, Xi Jinping.
Of course, that comes at a price, part of which is laughter. Back in August, China banned the children’s film Christopher Robin. That is because, ever since Chinese netizens started using Winnie the Pooh to mock Xi on social media, he has been Pooh-sona non grata in China.
Authoritarian leaders cannot suffer anyone laughing at their expense for very practical reasons. It takes away from their ability to make a populace fear them, and so it cannot be tolerated. As such, humor in authoritarian countries has historically taken on a different character.
Instead of being about the man in charge, as this essay from The Hoover Institution notes, humor in dictatorships is about the system and the individual’s powerlessness in it. The essay points to a “classic Soviet joke”:
“One secret policeman asks another, ‘So, what do you think of the government?’ His colleague looks around before replying, ‘The same as you, comrade,’ whereupon Policeman No. 1 declares, ‘In that case, it is my duty to arrest you.'”
Daniels’s joke, meanwhile, strikes directly at the heart of something for which Trump has always prided himself – his prowess with women. This is how political humor can and should work in a democracy, as a vehicle for humanizing and normalizing those in power.
So laugh at this mushroom penis joke, people. It’s good for us.
And come on. This is funny:
Okay, kudos to whoever made this Toad grindr account. pic.twitter.com/hkfzJIrALL
— Dan King (@Kinger_Liberty) September 18, 2018