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9 May 2016

The revenge revival: how public displays of vengeance became an industry

Paying for payback time.

By Eleanor Margolis

What, apart from eye-popping wealth, do Beyoncé and Donald Trump have in common? Not a whole lot, really. If you’re after a dose of weak iconoclasm, maybe stick to reading Piers Morgan.

There is one thing, though, that unites one of the most successful artists of the decade and that guy Cher likened to “hair in soup” and “child hunger”.

That thing is revenge.

Which is to say, they’re both quite good at it. Beyoncé turned it into the internet-breakingly good Lemonade. Trump, meanwhile, has harnessed it to a now unrivalled bid for the Republican presidential nomination, thereby bringing the United States, and so the rest of the world, ever closer to the gaping butthole of desolation.

By now, it’s pretty clear that Trump has used what appears to be actual nous to market his biting rage at a political elite that has refused to take him seriously as a campaign to “make America great again”.

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Some have even suggested that what is essentially a vendetta by Trump began in 2011 when Obama dared to tell some jokes about him at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.  If so, you have to hand it to Trump, running for president is quite a laborious method of failing to take a joke.

Then Beyoncé gets cheated on by Jay Z, makes a whole album about it, goes to Number One within a week and drops a metaphorical mic massive enough to crush Denmark.

Whether or not Lemonade inspired a spurned lover to scarlet letter the fuck out of this Range Rover in Knightsbridge, daubing “CHEATER” on it in spray paint, we may never know. What’s for certain is that old fashioned, uncomplicated and nourishing revenge is, along with big deaths and Olivia Coleman, The Thing Of Late. Even – as it has been suggested – if the publicly shamed bastard-mobile is a PR stunt, it still suggests that Trump and Bey are onto something huge with this revenge revival.

Last year, Ship Your Enemies Glitter, a site that allows you to (anonymously) dump the “herpes of the craft world” on someone through the post, sold for $85,000 within a fortnight of starting up.

Now the site offers “a bag of dicks” (a packet of schlong shaped gummy sweets you can send to whoever has grievously wronged you) and fart-scented candles. In terms of the revenge industry, I suppose it’s nice that there’s now one stop before hiring an assassin. Remember those dark days of having to pay £20,000 to have people you dislike murdered? The world – I’d say – is a distinctly more measured place now that you can just pay a few quid to imply, via sweets, that you’d like your enemy to eat a bag of dicks.

Even the Bronx Zoo has, quite cleverly, got in on the act, and for $10 (the same price as a glitter bomb) you can have a cockroach named after an ex. Or, you know, whoever you happen to loathe right now. I don’t know what it says about me that, the moment I heard about this service, I spent at least five seconds sincerely considering paying to name a cockroach “Ken Livingstone”. At the House of Lords stage of deliberation (the next five seconds) the first thing that struck me as stupid was giving the roach a surname. And paying the price of a pint in central London to name an insect 3,000 miles away “Ken” is a first step towards full emotional collapse, if ever I saw one. I resolved to name my next bowel movement “Ken Livingstone” and get on with my life.

Still, I’ve realised that I’m exactly the kind of embittered consumer towards whom the revenge industry is specifically geared. Which is depressing enough to make me want to glitter bomb someone awful, just to work that latent Trumpfulness out of my system. Would glitter bombing Trump himself be too…meta?