The Empty Page Radical Publishing House is not so much an organisation or a company but an idea. Whilst having only published three analyses to date, the last of which was published in 2013, the ideas of the thinkers of TEPRPH (pronounced Tep-reh-feh) have had an impact on the world that far outstrips their small output. With due respect to the writers who contributed to the other works of analysis “Critical Perspectives on Waluigi” is by far the most significant of these. Since its publication in May 2013 when it was met to a little acclaim the piece and in particular Franck Ribery’s contribution “I, We, Waluigi” has gone on to the kind of online success one might more readily associate with a gif of a cat falling in a bin. In the online marketplace of ideas the idea that under late capitalism we are all Waluigi has proved to be a valuable one: it has become the Bitcoin of Nintendo semiotics.
If we take a look at the numbers they may not talk for themselves but they do have numerous digits and look sort of impressive.
Whether any of this adds up to anything meaningful is a question that is open to analysis, which luckily is exactly what the Empty Page Radical Publishing House (TEPRPH) specialises in. We would not be true to our own stated mission to unpick, dissect and quantify if we did not set our rigorous razors on our own ideas and slice ourselves into chunks of semiotic salami. With that in mind we reassembled the original team behind “Critical Perspectives on Waluigi” (CPOW pronounced KEH-POW) to ask them for their analyses on why this particular collection of words became so mildly successful.
This is a transcription from the panel that took place at Pret A Manger on Greys Inn Road, London on 26th November 2017.
MT Page: Hello, I would like to welcome everyone to this event, just a couple of bits of housekeeping before we begin. Though Pret A Manger have kindly allowed us to use their excellent facilities for this event please can everyone be aware that all food must be paid for and that the toilets can only be used if you have made a purchase. I’m told the code to access the toilet can be found on the receipt, so I urge you to all keep hold of your receipts.
With that out the way lets turn to the reason why we are here today. We have sat here Jenny Powell, Lucy Pinder and Franck Ribery the authors of the mildly viral 2013 article “Critical Perspectives on Waluigi” who are to here to discuss why the article they all contributed to became so mildly viral.
So, Franck, whilst we must acknowledge the other contributions we must also acknowledge that it is your piece “I, We, Waluigi” that is most frequently shared, why do think this is?
Franck Ribery: Thank you MT, before I begin let me say thank you to everyone who has helped bring this event to life as it were, particularly Pret A Manger Greys Inn Road for letting us use their chairs. I would also like to thank Jenny and Lucy whose work has not been acknowledged to the extent one might like.
To return to the question I would say that I think the reason “I, We, Waluigi” resonated so widely and so deeply is because many, many people truly feel that they are Waluigi.
MT: If the idea that we are all Waluigi is a box filled with meaning please could you unwrap it and pick out the gifts hidden within.
FR: When I say we are Waluigi I vacillate between meanings, I vacillate between a metaphor and the idea that when we look in the mirror we genuinely see a skinny creature with a wirey moustache and purple overalls looking back at us. I feel that on some level I tapped into the deepest fears of many people, I tapped into the fear that when we turn up to play a game of tennis we have not been truly invited, that we are only there to make up the numbers. To look into Waluigi is to look into ourselves, to look into Waluigi is to look into the unfathomable emptiness we all hold within ourselves.
MT: Jenny, you look like you want to interject.
Jenny Powell: Thank you MT. I would like to look a little closer at a couple of assertions Franck is making here. I would argue that in many ways Franck’s argument about Waluigi is somewhat reductive. Whilst I admire the success and rigour of his analysis I am dismayed by the ease with which it slips into the kind of sophomoric nihilism one might find on a Reddit forum. For all its rigour “I, We, Waluigi” takes the easy choice, that nothing really means anything. When one says “we are all Walugi” one shuts down a conversation. The danger is that the reader is being pushed to a position which affirms the idea that to look for meaning is ridiculous, that to think about anything is foolish, that intellectual pursuit is futile. Really are we appreciating the content or the form? In my piece I wanted to start a conversation. I wanted to start a conversation about the transgressive elements of Waluigi, the destabilising element of Waluigi. This is the conversation we should be having. This is the conversation we should be having now.
MT: Your piece “Spoiling the Mario Party” actually posits Waluigi has a positive figure, one of possibly emancipatory potential. This is in stark contrast to the altogether more negative takes offered by Franck and Lucy.
Lucy Pinder: If I could interject here MT I would like to take your use of the term “take” here put my hands around its neck and shake some meaning out of it.
MT: Go ahead.
LP: We contributed our contributions to Critical Perspectives on Critical Perspectives on Waluigi back in 2013. Did we know what a hot-take was in 2013? Maybe, maybe on some level we instinctively knew what a hot take was, but in 2013 we did not truly know it’s value. We did not know that an opinion can be a currency in the way we do now. The format of The Empty Page Radical Publishing House pieces as Jenny astutely notes could be seen as a none too subtle mockery of the multiple perspectives offered by academics but I believe it could be also seen as a proto-satire of how the internet dilutes meaning to weak orange squash. The joy of the hot-take is the joy of audacity, the joy is hope that someone somewhere truly believes we are all Waluigi. I think that hope explains why the piece has become so mildy popular.
MT: Some interesting points there, Franck could you perhaps argue that Critical Perspectives on Waluigi was in some extent a precursor of what we now know as “fake news”?
FR: Perhaps oui, perhaps non. If one was to see the opinion that we are all Waluigi out in the wild as it were would not one be filled with a certain wonderment, a certain sense of awe, to see someone go that far? The greatest sadness I have is that I am unable to sit outside of myself and regard my own opinion. If I saw my own argument, out of context and having not considered it before of course I would want to share it, I would want to retweet it, I would want to re-Tumblr it or whatever those kids do. Fake news is the purest news, it is the not the news that relates to the world it is the news that relates to what we desire, what we desire to be true.
JP: The question of desire here is infinitely important. The desire to believe someone believes we are all Waluigi opens a door. To comprehend is to question. To ask why would someone want to believe that? Because it is absurd or because maybe through this peculiar notion we can see infinity. If we take Franck’s notion that we are on some level all Waluigi and do the dialectic dance with my view that Waluigi is an emancipatory figure then I believe we can see a vision of a better world, of infinite open horizons. Once we say we are all Waluigi we have opened up some common ground, we perhaps can find some solidarity in the shared experience of being Waluigi.
FR: A shared experience of hollowed out meaninglessness?
LP: A shared experience of being manipulated by unseen power into evermore ridiculously contrived situations in the pursuit of capital?
JP: Yes. Waluigi allows us to see the issues of our age, through Waluigi we see ourselves but we also see each other. Let’s not whisper “we are all Waluigi” with a despondent shrug but shout it in solidarity! If we are all Waluigi then Waluigis of the world unite!