Tuesday, May 21

Every politician’s face belongs on a toilet seat

The co-president of the St. Johns Rotary Club St. is promising an investigation into how a cut-out cardboard mask of former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ended up taped to a toilet seat.

The investigation is happening basically because our media demanded it. Why this co-president didn’t respond to enquiring journalists with a sharp ‘FUCK OFF’ before expelling thunderous wind down the phone will long remain a mystery to me. Harassment from intolerable Puritans surely warrants nothing less?

For context, an incriminating snap of the mask was taken at the club’s annual debate night. The toilet seat is the debate trophy. The question wrestled with, in what appeared a jocular affair, was who was the better leader between Ardern and Rob Muldoon. In the image, a group of elderly men surround the trophy, dressed in black (we must assume) Jacinda Ardern wigs. So, the night was designed for fun and frivolity. Japes. The whole thing is a big who cares?

In a free and open democracy politicians people feel are subpar end up on toilet seats and the like. I had an extremely unflattering Piggy Muldoon Piggy Bank as a kid. The real story here, which it will be left for me to write, is why are so many wanker journalists want to protect society’s most powerful by enforcing appropriate etiquette towards them from ordinary citizens?

One of the superpowers of the West is our freedom to tease and ridicule those in power. I’m talking political cartoons, the comedy of McPhail and Gadsby, impersonators, online memes, and, yes, cardboard masks being attached to toilet seats. Such ridicule worked a treat on organised religion, loosening its shackles on power and forcing many groups to progress, though some in society seem intent to walk that back now. The exact same deeply conservative impulse drives outrage over this toilet seat.

Ardern, for many, is our Lady Diana. She was more than a leader; she was a special once-in-a-century comet of kindness, sunshine, and Santa Claus, that we never truly deserved (lowly worms most of us are). The besmirching of her image, therefore, is nothing short of sacrilege.

The fact some of her most ardent followers feel this way makes mocking her even more urgent. A necessity.

George Orwell kicks off his 1949 essay ‘Reflections on Gandhi’ with the killer line, “Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent”. Too bloody right. When a politician is considered saintly, to the point their image can’t be tarnished by satire or even the lowest forms of comedy, this says people are caught up in a brand and not the leader’s substance. You could argue Ardern’s protectors are the ones dehumanising her, as well as straying into misogynistic attitudes around the need for greater decorum towards female leaders.

I shot a comedy pilot with Jacinda Ardern a few years back before she took over the leadership from Andrew Little, and I found her to be an incredibly good sport. Some of the jokes we had written both for her to say, and at her expense, were brutal, but she was clearly tickled by the whole thing, and it was a great, laughter-filled afternoon. When she resigned as Prime Minister, she said repeatedly that vile online comments made at her expense wasn’t a contributing factor. This was completely ignored of course, because the narrative of commentary having ejected a female leader could be crafted into a justification for censorship.

The mask on the toilet seat scandal is an example of the wealth class trying to impose its sectarian imperatives on the general population. The goal is to make the parameters of how people criticise their preferred leaders so narrow, that it becomes near impossible to make meaningful attacks. But politicians need criticism – ferocious criticism – and to be ridiculed, otherwise, they have no reason to do the right thing.

Why a responsible media would seek to protect the powerful from low-level offense is beyond me. But this co-president announcing an investigation makes him a massive, if not the key part of this problem. And what would this ‘investigation’ look like, anyway? Will he be calling in Hercules Poiret??

I’d flush this silly co-president pronto because he’s thrown his club under the bus. My official statement (if the thunderous wind didn’t suffice) would’ve been “There’s not a politician, living or dead, whose face doesn’t belong on a toilet seat”. And then I’d commission a run of framed embroideries displaying the same maxim, which I’d gift to every media outlet to hang in their newsrooms.