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The Stellar Trolling of Mike Pence
This week’s Canny Resistance Award goes to John Oliver, who deftly stole Mike Pence’s family’s homophobic thunder by, hours before the release of their children’s book profiling their pet rabbit Marlon Bundo’s “Day in the Life of the Vice President,” released his own “Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo” – who is, gasp, gay. Oliver announced the book Sunday night on his Last Week Tonight show after an angry, lengthy look at Pence’s bigoted history, including his long association with the anti-LGBTQ, conversion-therapy-loving wingnuts of Focus On the Family. Oliver admitted the only thing he likes about Pence is his rabbit Marlon Bundo – or at least he did until learning that the book created in his honor, which was written by Pence’s daughter Charlotte and illustrated by his wife Karen, was being promoted in partnership with Focus on the Family to underline the notion that family-friendly means not, ewww, gay.
“It turns out, in a complete coincidence, we also wrote a book about Mike Pence’s rabbit,” Oliver smilingly told his audience. Written by Last Week Tonight writer Jill Twiss and illustrated by E.G. Keller, an artist from Pence’s Indiana, the “better Bundo book” – and both the writing and art are – tells the story of bowtie-wearing Bundo falling in love, as he hops around, with “bunny-beautiful” Wesley: “I was standing still. But being near him made me feel like my heart was still hopping.” The feeling is mutual. After they happily tell their friends they’ve decided to get married, the Pence-haired Stink Bug in charge of all the animals sternly tells them boy bunnies can only marry girl bunnies. “You. Are. Different,” he shouts. “And. Different. Is. Bad.” Marlon and Wesley are crestfallen. Rallying around them, their friends declare everyone is different in their own way and vow to vote the Stink Bug out of office so that love can prevail.
The news of Oliver’s book prompted outrage from a Pence spokesperson – partisan bunnies! – but glee from many others, especially after “Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo” became Amazon’s #1 bestseller in less than a day, swiftly besting James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty.” (The Pences’ Marlon Bundo book clocked in at #4.) It also sold out; it is already being reprinted, and there’s an audiobook version featuring the voices of Jim Parsons, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and RuPaul. Its 3,856 reviews on Amazonare rapturous – “a beautiful children’s book, with a simple message of love” – while the 87 reviews of Pence’s book, winnowed down after Amazon removed trolls by insisting on verified purchases – swing from respectful to “soulless” and “amateurish.” “This is a terrible book,” reads one. “Get the better Bundo book.”
All proceeds from Oliver’s book will go to two LGBTQ organizations: AIDS United and The Trevor Project, which seeks to support same-sex youth at risk of suicide or self-harm. (Part of the proceeds from the Pence book also go to charitable groups.) And while he’s happy to troll Pence and his hateful homophobia – see Focus on the Furmily – Oliver stresses the book isn’t just a parody but “actually a book for children” – heartfelt, enlightened, meant to inspire kids and their parents. Appearing Tuesday on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show,” he said it’s a book he plans to read to his two-year-old son and one that “represents the world I want to live in.” “This isn’t some adult book telling Mike Pence to go fuck himself,” he notes. “Although, in buying it, that’s exactly what you would be doing.”
First published in Common Dreams.