On Nov. 1, L.A.-based artist Nicole Daddona woke up to a very 2017 email.
The previous day, Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence had released a series of Facebook advertisements that had been purchased by Russian interests during the 2016 election cycle. One of them, posted by a phony LGBT-positive account called LGBT United and targeted toward Americans age 18 to 65, was an advertisement for Daddona's coloring book Buff Bernie (which we wrote about when it was released in March 2016). The email, an interview request from BuzzFeed, was how the artist found out she'd inadvertently become a political pawn in the most bananas election in U.S. history.
“The whole thing was so bizarre to me,” she says via email. “I have no idea why Russia chose to use that image … in an ad or how they thought that would even sway voters. It's all so weird! I feel very confused!”
Incidentally, Daddona was already in the process of developing a new product, one that the Russians probably won't spend their rubles to promote anytime soon. Last week, her brand Magic Society, which she operates with creative partner Buddy Hangs, launched a Kickstarter for the Talking Trump Pull-String Doll. It's a throwback to a bygone era when lovable pop culture figures with lots of catchphrases, who often happened to be adult white men — Ernest P. Worrell, Pee-wee Herman, Ed Grimley — were turned into dolls with voice boxes hidden amid their stuffing, except instead of “Know what I mean, Vern?” or “I know you are but what am I?” this one says “Grab them by the pussy” (and seven of the 45th president's other charming witticisms).
“I always wanted a Pee-wee pull-string doll as a kid but never got my hands on one,” Daddona says. “I was lucky enough to pick one up on eBay as an adult and would love to expand my collection to include Ernest, Beetlejuice, Steve Urkel, Kevin McCallister and Ed Grimley. I love retro toys so much and miss the golden age of pull-string dolls, which is why Magic Society decided to bring them back into existence.”
Daddona personally sculpted the head — which is quite good as Trump likenesses go — and set out to find a manufacturer, which she says was easier than she thought it would be considering the pull-string doll has become all but defunct. “I've always wanted to design toys, so it was a really interesting and fun process to dive into,” she says.
The dolls are going for $69 each, and they'll be delivered next month if the campaign reaches its $135,000 goal by Nov. 30. It's one way to relegate Trump to the 1980s, which is probably where he belongs.