Why Donald Trump's grotesque actions are as bad as his vile words in leaked video
"Locker room banter."
That is essentially the three-word excuse that Donald Trump has provided for his deplorable comments from 2005, that have just come to light in the last day or so. If anyone was in any doubt as to why the word 'banter' is so tainted and loathed by so many these days, there you have it. Blatant misogyny sold as playful japes, as if rebranding it as banter makes it okay.
The Republican candidate to be the next President of the United States would perhaps be forgiven for being a little taken aback by the furore over his decade-old remarks. Not because they aren't horrendously offensive or absolutely relevant to the office he covets, but due to the fact that he gets away with such reprehensible sentiments on a daily basis.
And yet these comments - and vitally the accompanying video footage - have gained unusual and belated traction. In part, this is because the language is so sickeningly graphic and harsh - there's a repulsive violence in the words he chooses - but also, the video itself is so much more affecting and uncomfortable because the words are followed up by ugly behaviour.
Trump's 'banter' defence boils down to the argument that his wretched comments were and remain baseless; it was two men having a laugh in private and it all meant nothing. Besides, Bill Clinton has supposedly said worse. The suggestion that Trump has changed in the last decade - or even in the last six months of campaigning is remarkable in its bare-faced cheek.
But worse and even more apparent is the lie that the comments hold no water, especially as the grotesque theory is immediately backed up by the two putting it into practice. Trump and Billy Bush (George W Bush's cousin, in case you didn't know) talk about women as prey to pursue and 'fuck'. Their tour bus acts like some sleazy safari jeep, as they spot what they see as a prize catch in a purple dress.
Days of Our Lives actor Arianne Zucker is the unfortunate 'object' of their vile whoops and sports-style celebrations. They now have someone on whom to carry out their 'locker room banter'.
Prior to disembarking and meeting Zucker, they even talk last-minute tactics such as "you can't be [look] too happy" and "I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her." Then they alight and are all faux sweetness and charm to the target of their salivation. The change in demeanour from salivating creeps to smarmy schmoozers is galling.
From then on in we are witness to a gross sport of manipulation and man-handling. The two sleaze-bags treat Zucker like a life-size rag doll, coaxing her into hugs and kisses and moving her around to suit. It would be too kind to describe Bush's role as some kind of warped wing-man - he is more Trump's accomplice in a plan to use and abuse their unfortunate mark.
Trump wins a kiss and Bush requests a full-on hug; there are ugly knowing glances between the two men, who are clearly loving their perverted power game for two, with the female a mere prop. Perhaps most depressing of all is the fact that Zucker takes it all in her stride. She's uncomfortable, but not fazed. It's like she knows the role that she has to perform.
The two despicable men know this too. Their coach boasts of "when you're a star they let you do it - you can do anything" are shown to be depressingly true. They use their elevated positions and filthy manipulations to maximum effect. They are there to impress each other, not Arianne Zucker. It's their in-joke and she's the punchline.
So 'locker room banter'? Fuck that. This isn't theory, it's practice. And nothing Trump has said or done in the years since contradict his words and his behaviour in 2005. America has peeked behind the curtain of a misogynistic pig - it is up to them to decide how they feel about him leading their country for the next four years.