Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover is just his latest desperate bid for celebrity | Sian Cain

For years everyone’s favourite billionaire has been making pop culture cameos to poke fun at how nice and smart he is

Finally, we have arrived. We’re on the most cursed timeline, where the man who once paid $20m for a single bad tweet now owns Twitter. Elon Musk has spent $44bn – half of which is his own money – to take over the social media platform where #AmberTurd regularly trends.

This news has prompted a mass exodus as believable as that time in 2016 when all American liberals were apparently moving to Canada. But how surprised can we be that the idiot’s favourite smart guy has forked out so much for control over public discourse?

This is the man who has repeatedly inveigled his way into pop culture, turning up in everything from South Park to Iron Man 2, in his desperation to reinvent himself as a celebrity. Musk is truly the people’s billionaire, in that he has billions of dollars and he’s not a Russian oligarch no one had ever heard of before February.

Celebrity cameos are like soft diplomacy: we’re a Pacific island and Musk is the BBC World Service. Except Musk isn’t a celebrity, even if he shares their fondness for thin women and secret babies: he’s a rich man who has put great amounts of time and energy in confecting his own image.

By Musk’s telling, he ‘twas but an ‘umble street urchin with a talent for coding; his father, Errol, who at one point co-owned a Zambian emerald mine, once said: “We had so much money at times we couldn’t even close our safe.” And like a man who might have a complex about having a really full safe and an African emerald mine in the family, Musk has worked for years to make himself the guy who pokes fun at how rich, smart and kind he is.

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“I’ve got an idea for an electric jet,” he tells Tony Stark in his 10-second scene in Iron Man 2, billionaire playboy to billionaire playboy. Director Jon Favreau once praised Musk for letting him film at SpaceX for nothing: as if having superhero film made in your office was pure generosity on Musk’s part, and not an enormous ego boost for a guy who has the energy of both the most divorced man and the most bullied child. (On that note, check out the dedicated Wikipedia page for Donald Trump’s cameos.)

In South Park, Musk gives Cartman a tour of SpaceX. In Rick and Morty he plays Elon Tusk, a tech billionaire who – wait for it – has tusks and is from – wait for it – “the Tusk Dimension” and works for – yeah – Tuskla. (The show is much better and smarter than that would have you believe.) In The Big Bang Theory, he’s shown volunteering in a shelter at Thanksgiving.

“It feels great to come here and help the less fortunate,” says the man who once offered to end world hunger if the UN tell him “exactly how” his billions would be spent – and then didn’t respond when they did.

But perhaps the most fawning example is his Simpsons episode: season 26’s The Musk Who Fell to Earth, which is truly all his, because how else to explain why this episode exists? In it Musk is introduced as “the man who’s revolutionized the car industry.” “Henry Ford!” exclaims Mr Burns. “Good to see you, as healthy and vibrant as Detroit itself!” Musk then goes on to use Burns’ money to – you guessed it – try to save the world.

Longtime Simpsons producer Al Jean – who uploaded a photo of himself beaming alongside Musk on Tuesday – said the episode, which Musk helped script, wasn’t “kiss ass” because “Burns tries to kill him, and we reveal Musk’s master password”. That password is MUSKRULZ. Ahoho! Good thing Musk has experience dealing with exploding batteries, how else would he cope with such a blistering burn?

But it is all for nothing. Because nothing in a script will be funnier than the time he tried to demonstrate how strong the glass on the Tesla Cybertruck was by having a guy smash right through it in front of a crowd. Or the time he made a April fool’s joke about Tesla going bankrupt and share prices tanked.

Elon, you’re a billionaire! We’ll always be fascinated by your various planes and thoughts about pyramids. Just stop turning up in our shows and films. Be free! Free from the disdain people have for someone who, say, spends $44bn on a social media platform and not on, I don’t know, anything else.


Sian Cain

The GuardianTramp

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