“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.”
—Donald Trump, on August 5, 2019, following two shootings in less than 24 hours that killed 30 people.
Though we pray this latest mass shooting was the last, it’s clear that we need to take action on the destructive and toxic influences at work in America. It’s time to speak truth to power and finally acknowledge the root cause of mass shootings. That’s why, in the strongest terms possible, we condemn the damaging and violent influence that Princess Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario has inflicted upon our nation.
It’s time to face the endlessly looping music. This shooter’s decision to buy an automatic rifle and embark on a murderous rampage was clearly influenced by the ethos espoused in the 1990 Super Mario World. The supremacist thesis of that game couldn’t be more clear: Mario owns the world and anyone who dares to stop him will pay the price in blood.
Mario is the lust for violence incarnate wrapped in a disguise of respectability. On paper, Mario is a plumber by trade, but those green pipes you see are hardly plumbing simulators. Instead, they function as gateways to more enemies that this murderous handyman can crush beneath his feet without a lick of remorse.
There’s more. Time and time again, the infamous “Mario” falls down a bottomless pit… and simply comes back to life. As if nothing ever happened. What could that do to a young person’s sense of action and consequences, other than completely destroy it and compel them to walk into a mall with a legally-purchased automatic rifle?
It’s no exaggeration to say the entire Mario series warps the very nature of guns with one deeply disturbing character: Bullet Bill. Bullet Bill is three times larger than Mario and moves slowly, which teaches young men that bullets can be ducked under, jumped on, and will never inflict more damage than a mushroom could cure. Bullet Bill’s incredibly life-like face is never without a scowl. His presence all but screams, “People with different race, gender, sex, and religions are lesser than you.” This is to say nothing of Bullet Bill’s white gloves—a clear statement on the superiority of a male-dominated upper class.
This brings us to The Legend of Zelda series, which has dominated the popular discourse and subjected millions of to its toxic depictions of masculinity. This game says that the only way to save the proverbial princess is through simple brute violence with medieval weaponry. Since swords aren’t readily available, young boys are taking what is available—semi-automatic weapons—to inflict the violence Princess Zelda herself encourages, in shopping malls and libraries.
And finally, there is the unapologetic glorification of brute violence in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. This is seen most explicitly in the “Kong-POW” meter, which measures one’s ability to smash crates. Truly disturbing. This violent chimp, hellbent on acquiring bananas at all costs by throwing barrels at cartoon crocodiles, makes an argument that young men take to its logical conclusion: that it’s OK to murder people with guns.
This is to say nothing of Diddy Kong. Countless would-be shooters have invoked Diddy Kong’s hateful quotes in their manifestos. Sure, people might not be directly mentioning Diddy Kong—they might be saying things like “I want to shoot everybody” and “I hate women and immigrants, and I’m going to shoot women and immigrants”—but it doesn’t take much to read between the lines and see the ghastly influence of this small, hateful monkey.
Can we blame them? Can we pretend that Donkey Kong’s uniform of a single tie doesn’t encourage young men to shirk social convention, follow their id, and shoot their friends and family members in the faces? Can we ignore how Mario’s signature “It’s Mario Time!” and “WAHOOs!” dog-whistles to the most vile among us and seeks to create an equivalency between white supremacy and those who oppose it?
Mamma Mia indeed.
Though they’ve undeniably influenced dozens of mass shooters, these figures hide behind a layer of plausible deniability, claiming that they “are video game characters” and “fictional” beings who “were really just trying to fix pipes and smash wooden crates.” A toothless and two-dimensional argument. Though we’ve only just now realized the corrupting influence of video games, we’re thankful for those who have been calling out the violence and toxic masculinity of these monkeys and plumbers since day one—people like Ben Shapiro, Donald Trump, and pretty much all of Fox News.