Oh, bless the baby angel in charge of days like today.
On Thursday evening Scott Morrison (and definitely not a staffer) tweeted out “QT was fire. Good work team”. This was accompanied by a video of his MPs (except Julia Banks, for some reason) raising their hands in unison, looped so that it synced up with the call and response chorus of early 2000s banger “Be Faithful” by Fatman Scoop — “If you got a 20 dollar bill put your hands up, you got a 50 dollar bill put your hands up”.
Unfortunately for Morrison, like many songs encouraging one to throw their hands up, it doesn’t stop there. The song goes on to inquire: “Who fuckin’ tonight? Who fuckin’ tonight? Who fuckin’ tonight?”
Morrison apologised and deleted the tweet (because taking embarrassing things off the internet always works). But he’s hardly the first to suffer this kind of embarrassment.
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It’s weird paradox of the 21st century: political figures routinely attempt to use popular culture appear more human, which has the effect of pushing them into the uncanny valley, making them all the more alien and off-putting. And yet, they just keep doing it.
Last year, the Labor leader’s minders presumably told him his “personality” was an area he was falling short. It was then decided the best way to deal with it was rapping on commercial radio to the beat of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”.
Given the image elicited by the phrase “politician rapping”, Shorten does a creditable enough job — he keeps it simple, stays more or less on beat (extra points for stretching out the surname of Christopher “Pyyyne” to make it fit), doesn’t stumble over his words — and he’s buoyed by the generous crowd who follow every line with a yell of “oooooh!”.
He then “dabs” — again, more convincingly than you’d expect — and ruins it by managing to throw not one, not two but THREE failed attempts at a high five with radio host Wippa.
A week before the Shorten verse, an in-form Turnbull had himself done what could charitably be called a rap on The Project. It was more just words in a row that vaguely rhymed.
A little earlier than that, he had happily admitted that he and his wife Lucy have been known to “Netflix and chill”. It was initially unclear whether Turnbull knew the sexual connotations attached to the phrase, until a couple of days later when he was asked — by Banksy and Pinky on Triple M Central Queensland — whether he did CrossFit, he replied “CrossFit? I’m not sure, is this like Netflix and chill?”
As David Marr observed in his Quarterly Essay on the man, Rudd doesn’t “really do jokes”. I mean, he does them, they just fall dead from the air like a bird who’s had a stroke. A particularly lifeless example is his 2007 turn on Rove when he was asked Rove’s customary question: “Who would you turn gay for?”. Rudd’s clearly prepared, and decidedly weird “funny” answer “Dame Edna Everage” thumped, writhing to the ground, as did his attempt a sincere rejoinder: “My wife Therese”. “Is she a man?” Rove asked.
Julia Gillard sticks out in the pantheon of axed leaders from the last eight years in a lot of ways — not least in that she got a few things done during her time in office, and has been relatively dignified since leaving it. Similiarly, her attempt to be human and amusing sticks out in this list, because you can watch it without wanting to stick burning candles in your eyes.
In 2012, she participated in a triple j prank announcing that the Mayan’s were right and that the world was ending. Gillard just about nails the “straight faced but in on the joke” look and even gets a decent laugh at the end — “at least I won’t have to go on Q&A again”.
If we were to apply the same rules as the public sexism awards the Ernies (“no one can have one who’s clearly trying to get it”) perhaps employer of meme lords and inveterate chancer Clive Palmer wouldn’t make this list. But I had to watch footage of Palmer “twerking” on the Kyle and Jackie O Show, and so now you do too.
There wasn’t quite room here for Sam Dastyari, who based a great deal of his career on such stunts, Mathias Cormann for his ill-judged description of Bill Shorten as an “economic girly man” and George Christensen for dancing about in a leotard to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and the Western Australian Liberal Party for this group dance to Daft Punk, which still haunts my dreams.
Should politicians lean on pop culture in their messaging? Write to [email protected] and let us know.