Tony Abbott Is The Waluigi Of Australian Politics
We can't ignore the similarities any longer.
What makes an effective opponent? Determination, doggedness, consistency? A strand of slightly inhuman villainy? Ultimately, an effective opponent runs on denial: they play the game reactively, existing solely for the backhand volley. If it looks like they are about to lose they threaten to upend the board or rip out the cartridge.
To them, winning isn’t enough. You must lose. Hence, victory never satisfies them. They love to fire the blue shell, dodging it is something else entirely.
Defined by negation: can an effective opponent have substance? Can you make them appealing? Do they serve any other purpose other than to oppose?
Ijiwaru: Bad Luigi
“Waaaa-luigi time! Waluigi win!” – Waluigi
This was the question that faced Fumihide Aoke in 2000 when production company Camelot Games was tasked with creating Super Mario Tennis for the N64.
Designed as a showcase for the console’s 4 player couch co-op capabilities, the game featured a cast of tennis doubles teams from Nintendo’s iconic character roster. Mario had a decent rival in his stocky garlic-guzzling nemesis Wario, but what of his brother (and doubles partner) Luigi? And so, Aoke created Waluigi: a lanky mix of Luigi, Dick Dastardly, and gamer rage.
Waluigi is an enigmatic figure in the Nintendo-verse. He is only ever playable in their sports games: Mario Tennis, Mario Kart, Mario and Sonic at the Olympics, Mario Strikers Charged etc. In Super Smash Brothers (Brawl and WiiU/3DS) he is relegated to the side-bench, a trophy summon who shin-kicks and curb-stomps other fighters. He functions as the uninvited guest — the turd in the punchbowl. He lacks the clarity of purpose possessed by Bowser (wants: Princess Peach) and Wario (wants: treasure).
Waluigi’s name in Japanese is Waruīji: ‘warui’ meaning ‘bad’, ‘Luigi’ meaning, well, ‘Luigi’. But it’s also a pun on the Japanese word Ijiwaru, meaning ill-tempered or cruel. Waluigi is nothing but an alternate of Luigi, who is an alternate of Mario — created to be Wario’s (the perversion of Mario) partner in crime. His design (his cap bares an upside down ‘L’) denotes his role as a signifier created solely to reflect another signifier — a black-mirror, a shadow of a shadow. Waluigi is a triple negative, a man outside himself, a man built to fill a void by functioning as one.
Waluigi is also Tony Abbott.
The Shape Of An L On His Forehead
“If you’ve got something to say to me, then step right up!” – Waluigi
Yes: they look similar. Phrenologists and game-designers alike should sit and marvel at the shared features of Waluigi and Tony Abbott, their skulls similarly pinched and jagged. Both are gangly athletes with smiles which sit like scowls.
Their parallel aesthetics grow more disquieting the harder you look. Abbott was criticised by left and right alike for the “crassness” of his presentation, namely in his insistence on presenting his crotch bulge to the public. There is almost no reference to sex or sexuality in the 30-year span of the Mario brand, other than vaguely offensive hints that Luigi may be homosexual. There is just one recognition of sex or genitals within the franchise, and it’s delivered by none other than Waluigi.
In Super Mario Strikers, Waluigi runs towards the camera enthusiastically crotch-chopping whenever he scores a goal.
In this victory lap there is something quintessentially Tony.
But if it were simply a matter of looks, I would have written on Joe Hockey and Morton Koopa Jr five years ago, and who knows where we’d be as a nation if things were ever so simple.
“Hey! I always give it everything I’ve got, but even I have off days. Just watch, I’ll be the next champion!” – Waluigi
‘The Mad Monk’ has a reputation for comic oafishness. The onion-chomper, the stuttering polemicist, budgie-smuggling sleaze, the supermarket “dickhead” – the L on Abbott’s forehead is, like Waluigi’s, one reflective of chronic loserdom.
Abbott is in a way a product of his own ‘Camelot Games’; his tenure as prime minister is probably best embodied by his disastrous decision to knight a Prince.
Tony Abbott has always been a wrecker. From his ribald time as a student politician and journalist, to his truncated time as prime minister, Abbott has long been known for his ability to counter, block, and destroy the work and progress of others. From spearheading the erosion of student unions to spearheading the ‘No’ campaign against an Australian republic, Tony Abbott, like Waluigi, exists to deny others what he sees as his, or more rightly, as not being theirs.
Peter Costello once described Abbott as “A Don Quixote willing to take on lost causes and fight for great principles”. Every stitch of Abbott’s tapestry has him tilting at windmills. The Smash Bros Melee description of Waluigi’s trophy reads: “Waluigi reportedly spent a lot of time training for his debut in Mario Tennis by honing his ability to antagonise the Mario brothers.” Abbott wasn’t much different. His Mario Brothers were student Trotskyites, later superseded by environmental groups and his colleagues in the federal parliament.
How do both men go chase popularity? Tantrums, red shells, and bob-ombs.
Abbott’s popularity — what there was of it — was the result of his rabid obstruction of the Gillard government’s agenda. He was the Mario Party player who dragged everyone through the more tedious mini-games; not to win the game, but to make other players want to quit.
Yet this was a man who saw himself as destined to be prime minister, going back as far as childhood, where his parents and sisters spoke of it is as an inevitability. Like any would-be PM, at the core of Abbott is a deep desire to be popular, which for him requires the impossible balance antagonism and likability. The manual for Mario Tennis states that Waluigi’s motivation is to become as beloved as the Mario Brothers.
How do both men go about it, however? Tantrums, red shells, and bob-ombs.
Near the start of his fantastic Quarterly Essay Political Animal, David Marr states: “Australia never wanted Tony Abbott, we never have”. Abbott once remarked that “the beauty of being leader is you are freer to be yourself.” Five years later, after 18 months of being himself, he was rolled.
The prime ministership of Tony Abbott is widely regarded as a mistake.
Nintendo has never released a title with Waluigi as headliner.
Assassins’ Knives and Red Shells
“Aw, everybody cheating!” – Waluigi, when finished in 7th place or lower in Mario Kart.
Self-pity is where Waluigi and Tony Abbott truly eclipse one another.
Waluigi’s voice actor Charles Martinet (who voices all the Mario/Wario bros) said that “self-pity” was the “cornerstone of Waluigi’s character”. In another interview he said that he finds voicing Waluigi with a conceited and self-hating tone “better exemplifies his character”.
When Waluigi loses a match — be it Tennis or Olympic triathlon — his histrionics go beyond that of all his peers, even Bowser. He stomps, he sobs, he accuses. He oscillates between statements like “Oh! Too bad! I get you next time, cheaters!” and “they hate us”. In defeat, he is both dejected and filled with rage.
In 1977 a maddened Abbott allegedly came up to a fellow student politician “within an inch of her nose, and punched the wall on either side of her head”. In parliament in 2012 he echoed shock-jock Alan Jones’ claim that Julia Gillard’s father had “died of shame”. Again in 1977, Abbott and his student conservative comrades were accused of “rough-house tactics and wrecking that they couldn’t control”. A prominent Sydney lawyer who has known Abbott since his student politics days said: “my lasting impression [of him] is of negativity and destruction.”
Wreckers do not take well to defeat. A headline once penned by a young Abbott read: “I ACCUSE: Phoney Student Thugs Use Spit and Abuse to Create Terror”. These are men who attack, even in repose. “You might be gettin’ better, but nobody cheats better than me! You got that?” says Waluigi in Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour.
Wreckers do not take well to defeat.
They see themselves as perpetual victims. After Abbott was turfed as PM, Marr wrote that he “sees himself as he always has: surrounded, indeed white-anted, by enemies”. This anxiety brings with it grandly paranoiac proclamations. “Refuse to connive at dishonour by acting as the assassin’s knife,” Abbott once pleaded with his backbenchers and the media.
“If you’ve got something to say to me, then step right up!” Waluigi says to the other players in Mario Party 3.
When Abbott strode up to that podium to concede the prime ministership, he let out what was his version of Waluigi’s iconic ‘waaaaaahhhhh’. He said: “Poll-driven panic has produced a revolving door prime ministership which can’t be good for our country, and a febrile media culture has developed that rewards treachery.” For Abbott, darling of the Murdoch media empire, the other players were using hacks.
But for Tony Abbott defeat is not a thing. Defeat is a glitch. Remove the cartridge, blow, and reset the game. “Ah, Waluigi lose!?” Abbott may say to himself, “impossible!”
“Watch out…for me!” – Waluigi (after getting a Star or Mega Mushroom, Mario Kart Wii)
In my research for this piece I came across a number of similar YouTube videos with titles including “what’s up with Waluigi?”, “Waluigi IS NOT a loser!” and “is Waluigi REALLY a villain?”. There is, ultimately, something oddly appealing about the mustache twirling twerp.
His persistent nastiness makes him stand out in the Marioverse. The internet is littered with videos of pop-songs as sung by Waluigi, Waluigi edited into other games, Waluigi fan-films, even Waluigi hentai… The catchphrase “it’s Waluigi time” is ubiquitous on Tumblr.
Waluigi revisionism is very real, but ultimately harmless.
Less can be said for the revisionist rebrand of Waluigi’s tulpa, Tony Abbott. 2017 has seen “the junkyard dog” chomp firmly onto the bullbar of Australian discourse yet again. He’s everywhere: the TV, the papers, the radio — dribbling snide jabs at the men who turfed him, and proselytising on behalf of heteronormative country club arm-chair NRL coaches everywhere.
Unlike Waluigi, his ‘popularity’ is less enigmatic. As Waluigi exists purely to partner with Wario, Abbott now exists purely to partner with Turnbull (who, like Wario, loves treasure). He is the meaner, scrappier fighter to Turnbull’s gold-coin focussed avarice. Like Waluigi, Abbott is an assist trophy, bursting out to shin-kick far-right talking points into a national discourse the prime minister dislikes engaging with, for fear of sending ripples though the “respectful debate” that are yet to be run through focus groups.
And, as with Waluigi, those stanning for Abbott seem to be odd-tempered failsons with access to a mic, a camera, and a small yet vocal audience. They are yet to release an Abbott accapella version of ‘Uptown Funk’, but with the newspapers pivoting to video, anything is possible.
You can say that a long-read binding an ex-prime minister to a second-tier Nintendo character is indicative of our crumbling national conversation, sure. I’d say it’s a vital cheat code to help us understand a man whose chronic doddery has scuttled Australian progress for over 30 years.
It’s Australia’s most infamous Rhodes’ Scholar intersecting with Nintendo’s infamous chode scholar. As Abbott throws banana peels out on the tarmac of Australian history in the vain hope of causing all those chasing him to skid and crash, it is vital that we look to Waluigi — not for comfort, but for understanding.
After all, both only exist to be opposed.
I’ll just leave you with this:
“Little white lies can get you in trouble, you know. Be happy. You earned it.”
Who said it?
Waluigi, or Tony Abbott?
Patrick Marlborough is a writer and comedian based out of Fremantle. He tweets at @Cormac_McCafe.