It takes a little preparation before Monopoly Man can appear and rotate their mustaches for the cameras. For just over a year, they periodically hired C-SPAN and political Twitter, disguised as Rich Uncle Pennybags from the classic Monopoly board game. With a top hat and a fake sack of money, they have quietly photographed the likes of Richard Smith, the former CEO of Equifax, and Mick Mulvaney, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as testified by before the legislators. While the speakers have continued to talk about their good intentions or the latest political initiatives, Monopoly Man is just over the shoulder, adjusting a monocle or brandishing a fake $ 100 bill.
Despite their popularity, Monopoly Man – played by Ian Madrigal, a strategic director of Revolution Messaging, a progressive digital media company – has maintained an anonymity of Clark Kent while maintaining a fashion blog, Queer on Clearance, which time price and origin of each piece of the Monopoly Man "drag costume". Madrigal, who is transgender and stands 5 feet 9 in costume, with short brown hair and glasses, makes the acrobat similar to a lark. But it is really an elaborate protest: a combination of entertainment and trolling that Madrigal calls "cause-game".
One December morning, I visit Madrigal's apartment on Capitol Hill to see what happens to one aspect of Monopoly. Today's hearing at the House Judiciary Committee is entrusted to the CEO of Google Sundar Pichai, which will attempt to respond to privacy concerns, allegedly anti-conservative prejudices of the company and its plans to relaunch in China.
"The problem for me is to prove that this guy" – Pichai – "is not their friend", explains the Madrigal while munching a bowl of cereals with Very Berry bunches of Trader Joe. "There's a lot to protest," they say, including Google's use of forced arbitration and racial discrimination charges within the company. "Here I can steal a bit of reflectors".
Soon, it's time to get dressed. Madrigal, already dressed, wears a red bow tie before throwing fake mustaches, different monocles and other accessories in a folder. Like Monopoly Man, they employ the exaggerated mannerism of a silent film comedian. When the witnessing person says something bizarre, Monopoly Man could arch an eyebrow and raise a monocle in his right eye. Madrigal can also lift a bag of counterfeit money into your lap and thumb through its contents. "Surprisingly, I've never been arrested for anything I did," they say, slipping $ 50 into their wallet for bail, just in case, before leaving. "It's like a superpower of a white person."
Madrigal, 29, has had a fierce streak since their childhood in Lakewood, California, just outside Long Beach, where their father, now retired, has worked for industrial sales and managed a scrap metal warehouse, and their mother is still a legal secretary. Born Amanda Werner, a name that they used until the end of 2018, Madrigal was 3 years old when they told the mother that they were male ("It may have brought a bit of audacity or brazenness with Monopoly Man, I'm not easily embarrassed") and 14 when they experienced a "political awakening" listening to the punk rock band Anti-Flag.
Their family was conservative – both parents voted for Trump in 2016, says Madrigal – and some of their friends talked about politics. But Madrigal soon staked a nearby Disney Store on charges that his clothes had been made in exploited factories. The law faculty of UCLA led to a job as a lawyer for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), And to a position at the public rights group Public Citizen, in which a contributor suggested that someone dressed like Monopoly Man. Madrigal, who had appeared in a video of improvised comedy in high school, volunteered; proposed to participate in the hearings as a way to draw attention to the public citizens' campaign against forced arbitration, in which employees or consumers are required to renounce their right to a collective legal action. (Madrigal currently appears as Monopoly Man outside of his work at Revolution Messaging.)
Madrigal has assembled a costume from liquidation racks and Amazon sellers. "I consider using a billionaire" – the CEO of Amazon, Jeffrey P. Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post – "to fight a different millionaire", they note. "I hope everything is uniform".
Monopoly Man appeared for the first time in October 2017 at the Smith & # 39; s hearing of Equifax and has since made three more appearances at congressional hearings. Madrigal also tried another character, appearing at the April Senate hearing of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dressed as a "Russian troll doll" with flames – but Monopoly Man is a crowd favorite. "I thought it would be a fun idea, maybe turned into a BuzzFeed article, but I did not know it would explode like that," says Madrigal. Jeff Flake, then a Republican senator of Arizona, he tweeted on Monopoly Man ("Good, Rich Uncle Pennybags is back in my committee hearing"). Madrigal's thread About Me Anything on Reddit is the 10th most popular AMA on the site. And Fine Brothers, a media company that creates content for YouTube, has partnered with Madrigal to present a television show on creative political campaigns, framed as a sort of "Eye of the Tail" for activists. "I think the only reason I did not receive Hasbro's termination and withdrawal letter," says Madrigal, "is that I am in favor of the brand".
For the Google hearing, a professional line clerk arrives at the Rayburn House Office Building Room 2141 at 4am to secure a place for Madrigal. A few minutes before 10, Monopoly Man enters and sits in the middle of the third row. I sit next to them. The gallery fills up quickly, and soon a group of Amnesty International will join us; an activist for the repressed Uighur minority of western China; and the general advice of DuckDuckGo, a Google rival. Sitting next to the back are Trump's adviser Roger Stone and Alex Jones of Infowars, both of whom claim to have been censored by the search engine.
"This is the part where my heart starts beating hard" Madrigal whispers, carefully applying a fake mustache. Okay, let's go. "The monocle is lifted and the leader of the majority of the family, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Opens the proceedings by thanking Pichai for his time. "Google does not have to monitor all our movements, because surely they did not see me coming!" Tweet madrigal. The screenshots on Twitter show the front of Madrigal and the center on C-SPAN3, right above Pichai's left shoulder.
The hearing lasts 3 and a half hours, during which the Monopoly Man alternates tweeting ("We can not rely on technology giants to self-regulate, it's time for Congress to intervene and do its job"), taking selfies and performing. In the end Madrigal's whiskers proliferate: they put a second on their hat, then a third; a quarter goes on top of their monocle. "I have more mustache than Google has competitors", them Tweet.
When the hearing is updated, Monopoly Man unsuccessfully tries to offer Pichai a card to release him from prison. "Varney & Co." Fox Business Network sends them a Twitter message to come on the show. Revolution Messaging employees send support via Slack. "Twitter seems to be lively," Madrigal says, before taking off the bow tie. Their back pains. "I'm always so anxious to get out of the costume."
Harrison Smith is an obituary writer of Post.