Early this morning, important news broke about the president’s penis. The Guardian obtained a copy of Stormy Daniels’s forthcoming book, Full Disclosure, in which she describes coitus with Donald Trump. It contains this particularly vivid description of the president’s member:
a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart
Daniels is referring to Toad, the vest-wearing mushroom man who, like most characters in the Mario universe, has played many different and vital roles over the years. Among other examples, he’s been an assistant to monarchy, a treasure hunter, an elite go-kart racer, a tennis champion, and a party host.
The comparison, whether apt or not, is very funny. It is also the latest, and perhaps the most viscerally clear reminder of the way that the culture and practice of politics is, these days, trailing behind the culture and practices of the internet. To compare the president’s penis to a Mario character is merely to be the latest in a very long line of people leveraging the icons of one of the most beloved video-game franchises of all time into bizarre new memes. For anyone coming at this simile as a close follower of the president, it can seem odd. For anyone who likes Mario games and uses the internet, it is the most normal thing in the world.
To be aghast at comparing sweet little Toad to the president’s penis is to miss the modern joys of being a fan of Mario, where a relatively bland franchise has been pushed to incredible new heights by an internet hive mind relentlessly devoted to corrupting every part of this franchise. In fact, that’s really the main appeal of Mario at this point — Nintendo’s decisions regarding the franchise function mostly as a jumping-off for more bizarre fan treatment.
Is an adult-film actress saying the president has a Toad-shaped dick funny? Yes. But it’s no more absurd than when fans freaked out after getting to glimpse a shirtless Mario’s nipples. Or mourned Luigi being brutally murdered by death itself. Or when the Washington Post headline, “Waluigi was robbed and humiliated,” went viral. Or when Nintendo was forced to answer whether the red-and-white part of Toad’s head is actually his head or a hat. Or when fans debated whether Yoshi’s red spot was a shell or a saddle. Or when they discovered that Yoshi sticks out his tongue because Mario is punching his dinosaur friend in the back of the head. Or when a disconcerting image of a shaved Mario went viral. Or when fans perpetuated a meme about Yoshi committing tax fraud. Or when mathematicians on Tumblr deduced that Luigi’s penis was 3.7 inches long (flaccid). Or when fans wondered what happens to the souls of creatures that Mario possesses in Super Mario Odyssey. Or when a Mario 64 player unlocked the game’s parallel universe to complete a level with one half-press of the A button. Or the fan who discovered that Mario’s head shrinks until it disappears whenever the plumber drowns to death in Super Mario Galaxy. Or Tumblr’s theory of the MarioCube. Or when creator Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that he is Bowser Jr.’s mom.
The point is: You tell me that our Wario-IRL president has a dick like Toad and I will not even flinch.
Mario now occupies a space in our culture not dissimilar to Tide Pods. Judged only by their official uses, they are both fine. Mario games are fine, Tide Pods as cleaning implements are fine. Who could object? But once the internet’s meme engine gets its hands on these things, they corrupt and warp — and that’s when the real fun begins. Just like Procter & Gamble has to be very careful about mentioning ingesting Tide Pods, Nintendo is restricted from addressing the shape of Donald Trump’s penis (though I reached out for comment anyway).
That’s why this morning’s news felt so invigorating. It wasn’t out of the norm, it was just the highest-profile instance of the new normal for the Mario franchise, which can now claim a presence in the Oval Office, allegedly.