Frustrated Americans are looking to a porn actress and a lawyer to save us from the tyranny of Trump. But history tells us we need to be our own heroes.
“In the final analysis I think he is going to get him,” Representative Maxine Waters said of Robert Swan Mueller III’s investigation of Donald J. Trump. “And if for some reason, he is not able to get him, I’m counting on Stormy to do it.”
We live in strange times. A reckless reality TV host is now poised to destroy the planet, even as a porn star and G-man have become contemporary deities in the manner of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. “Stormy” is a stage name, but that choice seems prescient for a woman (née Stephanie Gregory) bringing the storm to the most powerful nation on earth. Much like everyone’s favorite X-Man, Stormy’s capable of ordering up (media) whirlwinds, even as she destroys Twitter trolls by remaining grounded in the limpid raunchiness of her truth. “Whore!” a troll tweets. “Yes!” she replies cheerfully, adding, “I love your enthusiasm!”
Yes! I love your enthusiasm! https://t.co/X1QjLFQIRS
— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) March 24, 2018
The troll had no comeback. Because who wouldn’t want the goddess of love to love them?
As symbolic consort to Silent Bob, Stormy is voluble, approachable, and naked for a living. He is aloof, remote, and so tight-lipped that critics have taken to analyzing his sartorially conservative wardrobe for clues to the Russia investigation. She is everywhere on the internet. He doesn’t seem to use it. She is a pseudonym that exists exclusively in the public eye. He cultivates the appearance of integrity by remaining unseen. They are both stronger than us. Braver than us. Remarkably disciplined. Doing their jobs.
“If nothing else, it’s good theatre,” Guy Kawasaki wrote of the latest round of betrayals and back-stabbings in the Stormy Daniels saga, all of which sounds a great deal like the intrigues and infidelities chronicled in Bullfinch’s Mythology. It’s not far-fetched that the stories would be familiar: once the Greek pantheon replaced chthonic deities inside the Western canon, the gods were little more than extremely flawed people with the power of life and death over lots of cowering citizens.
But if all this feels like pop culture on steroids, it’s also something bigger. As foils to the Orange Menace (the new supervillain replacing Red Skull), both Stormy and Mueller are white people reinforcing normative gender roles, making it easy for consumers to slot them inside familiar superhero narratives. She’s got the measurements of OG Lara Croft, delivering zingers with the amoral cheekiness of Deadpool. With his steady, baggy gaze and hangdog jowls, Mueller looks like Silly Putty version of Agent K, a Man in Black whose backstory is one of stoic sacrifice: war hero, public servant, devoted family man. They are here to save the day and, possibly, the galaxy.
With outstretched arms, we beseech the First Couple, “please, please hurry, before it is too late!” We are terrified mortals calling upon distant gods to rescue us from impending doom. And so we watch…wait…hope…and pray. But these are cultural symptoms that our imaginations are still mired in mythological archetypes obscuring political realities.
Bleakly, as writer Linda Tirado pointed out, to pin our hopes on one person is “not futile, it’s just the strategy of children. Kids find an authority figure and trust them implicitly without understanding the nature of the world nor the rules the adults are bound by. It’s a messy long shot at best, which is why nobody should count on it.” In other words, whether it’s Stormy, Mueller, or someone else, we long to be saved from our own worst impulses. It’s a very human tendency, to pin hopes on a figurehead who claims, “I alone can fix it!” But a bedtime-story approach to solving real problems is both anti-democratic and terrible. It’s why the most desperate among us voted for Trump. To save them. From what? Everything…except themselves.
Stormy is not the President of the United States of America. To clarify: Donald J. Trump holds the power of life and death over hundreds of millions of people, whereas “the only decisions I’m really responsible for,” she reminds us, “is what position I want to do next & what color lipgloss best compliments my costar’s penis.” It’s not comparable.
Really. It’s not.
That it might seem to be is a function of the flattening effect of an internet that gives everyone a voice, and the pervasive logic of misogyny that ensures only some people are heard. But if a compromised election system put Trump in the highest office in the land, a different kind of political will has remade Stormy into an indigenous deity—what Gaiman nominates as the “gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon”—conferring on her the power of popular opinion. She, in turn, is telling her fans to don’t put her on a pedestal. “Ever heard of leading by example?” She can fearlessly say the Emperor has no clothes because she took them off herself, and she’s naked too.
I’m not counting on Stormy to save the republic. I’m not even counting on Mueller. I’m counting on the #Women’sMarch, the Parkland kids, the #March4OurLives and the growing groundswell of student and civic activism changing passive viewers into active voters. But in my secret heart, yes, I’m still rooting for Stormy and Silent Bob, phoenixes of love and law, to restore balance to this land.
It’s not just about the stories. Journalism is also about who is telling them.
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