Why I Wanted To Fuck Donald Trump* (*Apologies To Ballard)
, December 12th, 2016 11:16
Pondering JG Ballard's essay on Ronald Regan, Philippa Snow looks at the post-apocalyptic and entirely bleak entertainment of Donald Trump hitting the internet
To paraphrase the usual saying: if Donald Trump did not exist, we would have no desire to invent him. Even the definite article that the media applies to him — "The Donald" — makes him sound like a fairytale ghoul, albeit a ghoul who is now the American President. (There are fairytales, and then there are nightmares from which you or I might wake screaming. I regret to inform you that there is no waking this time.) The major difference between a fairytale ghoul and The Donald is that where ghouls tend to punish or murder or terrorise comely young virgins, The Donald just wants to get close to them. Admirable, really, when some of his cohorts send poisoned apples; he's the kind of ghoul, to paraphrase Hillary, who loves to hang around a beauty pageant. Who puts the "Miss" in misogyny. If the girl in question's a relative, this all appears to count double. If the girl is, on the other hand, Paris Hilton aged twelve, then there still isn't much of a problem. Morality's relative, and your relatives and the children of your friends are sometimes sexy, admits The Donald. Sometimes you have to look at a twelve-year-old and say: who the hell is that? Sometimes you have to lie and say that your new hire's 17 if you think that 21 is a turn-off. "You know, it doesn't really matter what [the media] write," he told Esquire 15 years ago, "as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass." "Piece of ass" is colloquial, sure; that said, I can't recall another man who makes it sound so literal. Donald Trump is someone who writes and speaks about women as if he has yet to encounter one. Women, to him, are calculators with BOOBIES typed out in beghilos. "I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye," he's also said, before showing off his knowledge of their anatomy: "or perhaps another body part." The Donald's favourite movie quote of all time is when the guy in Pulp Fiction says: "bitch, be cool" to a woman. What I am saying is that we cannot claim we couldn't have seen this all coming, since Bitch, his whole public persona has always been screaming, be cool.
Just over half of voting America was not, as it turns out, cool on the final election day. Stats show what these un-cool people looked like, and their earning power. Neither is surprising. Six months prior, when the idea of a bigoted, sexist man from a television program becoming the free world's leader seemed like a global joke, I had toyed with the idea of rewriting Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Regan by J.G. Ballard with Trump's name in place of the former President's, so that passages said things like:
"Patients were provided with assembly kit photographs of sexual partners during intercourse. In each case Trump's face was superimposed upon the original partner. Vaginal intercourse with "Trump" proved uniformly disappointing, producing orgasm in 2% of subjects." And:
"Studies were conducted on the marked fascination exercised by the Presidential contender's hairstyle. 65% of male subjects made positive connections between the hairstyle and their own pubic hair. A series of optimum hairstyles were constructed."
"In assembly-kit tests, Trump's face was uniformly perceived as a penile erection. Patients were encouraged to devise the optimum sex-death of Donald Trump."
In the wake of The Donald's appointment this seems, if still apt, then less funny. It is also less humiliating than most of his speeches. There is arguably only a little more sexual content than one might find in "locker-room banter" ("penile erection" is more scientific but no more explicit than "grab 'em by the pussy"). How do you shame somebody who's constantly shaming himself? How do you eerily sexualise somebody who's always eerily sexualising himself? How do you put somebody in a sick erotic context and surprise anybody when they already exist in one? On the morning of the election, I opened the book by Dodie Bellamy that I'd been reading and came across the following passage:
"The way that people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot or the World Trade Centre collapsed, I remember where I was when Reagan was elected. I was sharing a flat in the Mission with Christine, a politically progressive resident in psychiatry at San Francisco General. We were standing in the kitchen, our mouths gaping. This cannot be happening we voiced back and forth to one another, as if by saying it enough we could make it not be true."
Hearing that Trump had become the 45th President, my first question was: Is that a joke? Of course, it never had been. I wasn't even the first one to think about fucking – satirically-speaking – The Donald: or I wasn't the first to go public about it, at least. Après Trump, le deluge. "I would love to know what my father would have to say about Donald Trump's rapid political rise and his race for the White House," Ballard's own daughter, Bea, wrote this month in The Guardian. "He would have found it fascinating. Given that he predicted a B-movie actor [Ronald Reagan] becoming president, I doubt he would have been surprised that a TV reality star ended up doing the same." If only, I find myself thinking, that star had been Kim Kardashian, whose genuine business acumen is at least tempered by a degree of human softness; Paris Hilton – who voted for family friend Trump, despite or perhaps because he admits to having enjoyed her sex tape – meme-famously grew her family inheritance faster and with greater success than The Donald. Kayne West and Lindsay Lohan have both suggested they'll run in 2020, though what exactly Ballard might make of this is uncertain.
The absolute funniest thing about The Donald is just how morbidly unfunny he is: not funny ha ha, necessarily – more funny oh no. It's hard to crack a joke when you're standing and staring in horror. The Dodie Bellamy passage is written in hindsight, looking back at Ronald Reagan from the year 2015 while living enshadowed by Twitter's headquarters and tracing a class war from crackhead to condo; "there's been," she writes, "an ongoing battle to transform 'Mid-Market' from sketchy skid row to up-and-coming 'New Market', as boosters and realtors have named it." What the essay is recording is a clash between a future that belongs to wealthy, and a present or past that is tied to the underclass. Partly, it does this through records of the author's own experiences – partly, via comparison between these lived experiences and a chapbook by Daphne Gottlieb, Bess, which Bellamy says is "the story of a drug-addicted young woman lost to psychosis…a Gothic horror novel distilled to 3100 words." A gothic horror novel in five words might be: Donald Trump is the President.
As it happens, the best political satire on earth right now is not a Ballard riff at all, but Trump's own Twitter account, from which he's posted morsels like: "I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th" (September 11th, 2013), and: "Everyone knows I am right that Robert Pattinson should dump Kristen Stewart. In a couple of years, he will thank me. Be smart, Robert." (22nd October, 2012), and: "Wow, every poll said I won the debate last night! Great honer [sic]!" Being skilled at pointing and violently shouting "YOU'RE FIRED!" isn't a qualification, so much as a task best suited to either a sociopath or a robot; what The Donald is actually good at is showing us his inner life transparently, being like a baby or a chimpanzee in his shamelessness.
If, as Ballard says, "Sex + Technology = The Future," Donald Trump + Technology = something like post-apocalyptic entertainment. The journalist Yashar Ali has pointed out (on Twitter, so that this snake is satisfyingly eating its tail) that Trump is now no longer be able to clean up the mess on his timeline, as tweets by the President are – as dumb as this sounds – subject to the Presidential Records Act. 140 characters may yet provide to be enough rope for a hitherto-unembarrassable man to hang himself with. "The mission we serve as Twitter, Inc. is to give everyone the power to create," says the company's FAQ, "and share ideas and information instantly without barriers." One can only imagine the breadth of The Donald's new ideas.
In its final form, as part of the essay collection When The Sick Rule The World, Bellamy’s piece about the Twitter-adjacent class war has the title In The Shadow of Twitter Towers. Embryonic and run by The Fanzine, she’d titled it simply: Bad Places. “Can a place itself be bad?” the social worker at the heart of Bess reportedly wonders. “Is the ground under Auschwitz – the land itself – the brown earth that smells just like is the land itself evil? Is the land under Ted Bundy’s house cursed? Was there blood spilled under the labyrinth that made it hungry for more?" Posed from the metaphorical shadow of Trump Towers, it's a good question – 650,000 Americans died while Ronald Reagan staunchly refused to say "Aids" out loud, so you tell me. "It is Theseus who kills the Minotaur,” this character later suggests, “but it should be noted that Theseus himself dies in exile, broken, pushed over a cliff." It’s obvious in our real-life terror fable starring The Donald just who or what is the Minotaur; it is less-than-obvious whether humanity’s Theseus will survive killing it.