The Naked Cowboy is the scourge of many a New Yorker, a symbol of the Disneyfication of Times Square and the voice of that incessant Major World jingle. But he’s gained fame for his dedication to playing guitar nearly nude no matter the weather, which means he gets his opinions on Donald Trump published in the New Yorker.
He’s not wrong about the similarities between him and Trump; a savvy understanding of how to play the public for personal gain is what got both of them where they are. But then he basically threatens his wife on public record and any lingering goodwill completely disappears.
The Naked Cowboy notes that his wife is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. “Maybe she’ll be the next to be deported, who knows? I don’t think he’d do that. But if he does, hey, that’s fate,” he says, taking a zen approach that could be admirable if it weren’t in the face of the government separating him from the woman he supposedly loves. But then it gets worse. “Plus, it’s a nice thing to have hanging over her head—you know, ‘Do the dishes, or else,’” he says.
According to one study, the normalization of domestic violence (DV) in media and humor suggests “that using sexist humor, offensive and prejudicial humor, jokes promoting destruction to victims of DV, and language in connection with DV allow society to view this type of violence as more acceptable,” and that “language can be used to make women appear inferior to men through means of nonchalance.”
We are taught to laugh at jokes, and when something like domestic violence is disguised as a joke, it makes it acceptable, even expected, to laugh at something that shouldn’t be a joke at all.
We all know what that “or else” means, or the many options it could represent—or else I’ll beat you, or else I’ll leave you, or else I’ll call immigration services. That “or else” is one of the many ways abusers keep their victims under their control. And the normalization of that language for humor—we’re assuming he’s joking here—makes it even harder for victims to be taken seriously. Though when the president-elect has been accused of sexual assault, this joke isn’t even the worst example of normalization.