George Santos was expelled from Congress on a Friday in December. The next business day, he announced a new role: that of a sort of clown for hire on Cameo, an app and website where he offered his services record personalized videos for fans. At first he priced the messages at $75 each, but soon he was charging $200, then $400, then $500 each. But last week, the market contracted. Videos dropped to $350 each.
Looking through the work Cameo by Santos — there is a TikTok account, @georgiescameos, who collects clips — is a miserable exercise. In a typical deal, he sits in a featureless apartment or a dark SUV. Her face appears glassy from the Botox, her eyes searching for the scenario. He painfully offers his condolences and congratulations. He says “kill, girl”, he says “kill him”, he says “diva down”. Sometimes he winkingly refers to the fraud allegations against him. He ends with an air kiss. Mwah. Cha Ching.
I felt sick watching the videos – not because they made a fabulist rich, but because they are so tedious and dull. There was once a transgressive appeal to Santos’ character. As he moved erratically through the halls of Congress, his deceptions tarnished the reputation for seriousness of the U.S. government itself. It was the inappropriateness of his high status that made it funny. Now that he’s been weakened, viral fame doesn’t create any tension for a Santos character. There’s nothing transgressive about a scammer on Cameo.
Santos is right to think that his political downfall had some sort of entertainment value. Bowen Yang took his form several times on “Saturday Night Live” last year, playing him as a languid, pathological sprite. There was a Mad-Libs quality to Santos’ claims, a dizzying randomness that seemed geared toward social media. He said he suffered family trauma from 9/11 and the Holocaust; that he had worked at Goldman Sachs and on “Hannah Montana”; that he played competitive volleyball and rescued puppies. (None of this was true). As reporters chased him, his erratic on-camera performances — tripping over his office door or inexplicably holding a baby — seemed to clash with the hardwood interiors of Congress.
Among the public not really fans of Santos, his misdeeds became both absurd and identifiable. Even when he was formally charged with serious crimes (including conspiracy, wire fraud, credit card fraud and identity theft, all of which he denies), the details were delightfully petty. The House Ethics Report released in November spoke about campaign funds spent on Botox injections, OnlyFans subscriptions and Sephora products. Trump turned politics into camp, and there was now a genuine “Drag Race” fan in Congress, a believer in the tropes of the genre and who seemed to live for the messy drama.
When his colleagues voted to oust him from office, making him the sixth member in history to be expelled from the House of Representatives, the phrase “DIVA DOWN” was trending on Twitter. Compared to the power that truly functioning legislators can wield over our lives, his crimes seem like small, almost cute, issues. A millennium in its flop era.
Santos now hopes to leverage his political scandal into some kind of influential role. But like a comic book villain, he landed in a new dimension only to find that his superpowers had dissipated. He continues to insist that he is an “icon,” but his action is inconceivable outside of the political scene. His story was fascinating, not because he possessed any special charisma, but because the journalists assigned to his case worked so doggedly, exposing his lies with such thrilling speed that he seemed a more dynamic character than anyone else. ‘he actually wasn’t.
Even as trolls (Jimmy Kimmel among them) attempts to prank Santos, submitting increasingly ridiculous prompts for his Cameo videos, the results proved frustrating and annoying. A minute-long video of him offering confused congratulations to a woman for transfer the spirit of her deceased husband into a mannequin – “I can’t wait for you to enjoy all these new memories now with your new beau Jacob in his new ship, goodbye!” – only proves that he will say anything.
In its defense, a Cameo is rarely interesting as content. A video of a famous person has meta-value; there is a satisfaction to be claimed in bringing an untouchable person closer. It might seem like a form of power to use a celebrity as a ventriloquist’s dummy for a minute or two. There is a touch of humiliation in the exercise, for both parties. But Santos is hardly untouchable and he seems immune to any embarrassment.
Two weeks after his expulsion from Congress, Santos sitting for an interview with actress Ziwe for her YouTube channel. Some have complained that it was unwise for her to raise Santos’ profile, but the accusation feels like blame shifting: Our standards were low enough to elevate her to Congress, but is YouTube the Where do we draw the line? In the segment, Ziwe was as sharp as Santos was sloppy: “What advice would you give to young people of diverse backgrounds with personality disorders who are considering a career in politics? she asked – but he was so sneaky she couldn’t figure him out.
When Ziwe asked, “What can we do to get you to leave?” » he had a response: “Stop inviting me to your concerts. » Then he added softly: “But you can’t. Because people want the content.
And there you have it, a moment of truth from George Santos. But the value of its content is decreasing and it has expensive tastes.