The look on Kim's face says, "I've made a huge mistake."
Do you ever wonder, after all of this commotion and drama, if Kim Jong Un even likes Dennis Rodman? It’s been established that Kim is a big fan of Rodman’s work on the court in the mid 1990s, but admiring somebody’s athletic prowess and actually enjoying their company are two very different things. They might have bonded initially, but The Worm has visited North Korea four times now, and pretty much any American will tell you that it doesn’t take very long to get sick of Dennis Rodman.
Haven’t we all had situations like that? You get introduced to somebody in a social setting – at a barbecue, perhaps, or while watching the Harlem Globetrotters play basketball with your totalitarian regime’s national team – and in that limited timeframe you both really hit it off and you walk away feeling proud of yourself. It’s difficult making new friends, even if you live in a country where everybody is required by law to love you beyond all reason, which is why it feels so satisfying to meet a person you actually can connect with.
What you don’t think about is that after only one meeting you’ve got a distorted view of who that person is – you only experienced a tiny sliver of their personality, and they were probably on their best behavior anyway because they wanted to make a good first impression and not get summarily executed or sent to one of your gulag-cities.
I’m sure Dennis Rodman seemed pretty cool to Kim Jong Un when they first met, what with all the bowing and praise and defending Kim on national television. And they have at least a little in common – both enjoy drinking to excess, and are also both convinced that they’re gods (although in Kim’s defense, he’s had an entire political apparatus telling him that for his whole life).
But since that first meeting, Dennis Rodman spent the better part of a year telling everybody who would listen about how great of friends he and Kim Jong Un are. He completely rebranded himself from “washed up former basketball player and obnoxious asshole” to “Kim Jong Un’s best friend for life and obnoxious asshole.” I don’t care who you are – it’s got to be pretty creepy to be on the receiving end of all that love from somebody you chatted with one time, for a couple hours, via an interpreter.
Let’s say you met me at that barbecue and we had a good time chatting about TV and current events. The next day you look up the blog I mentioned and see that I’ve already written an update about how good of friends we are. Over the next few months I write a number of additional updates about how you’re my friend for life, how you’re so humble and nice and nobody gets you the way I do.
Maybe, while visiting your house, I get into a drunken, screaming argument with my other friends when they suggest you aren’t as great as I say you are. No matter who you are, I think sooner or later there comes a point when you quit feeling flattered and start feeling very uncomfortable about the fact that you’ve accidentally let a crazy person into your life.
On a propaganda level it’s extremely valuable for Kim Jong Un to hang out with Dennis Rodman in public, but I can’t help but think that since this last trip, which ended with a tearful press conference followed by a trip to rehab, the novelty of befriending an American basketball star has begun to wear off.
On the other hand, wouldn’t it be kind of sweet if Kim Jong Un and Dennis Rodman actually were really close friends? That wouldn’t make up for the concentration camps, widespread malnutrition, or the fact that Kim Jong Un routinely threatens to shoot nuclear missiles at us and our allies, but on a strictly human level wouldn’t it kind of warm your heart to see a 6’7” black American and the portly, moon-faced dictator of a country that hates America form a deep and lasting friendship over the objections of the rest of the world?
Yes, they’ve both lived very different lives and don’t even speak the same language, but they share the unique distinction of being mocked and derided by almost everybody. The world can seem like a pretty cruel place when Americans turn your father into an evil, pidgin-speaking, ronery puppet, or when the entire editorial board of The Washington Post calls you a washed up propagandist. Under these circumstances, can’t you see Rodman and Kim coming together like two heavily bullied 6th graders eating lunch together at the loser table in the cafeteria?
“That’s okay, Kim,” Dennis said, wrapping a sinewy, tattooed arm around the dictator’s slumped shoulders as silent, bitter tears rolled down his cheeks and onto his PB&J. “I’ll be your friend.”
Rodman has been to rehab twice before, but it just doesn’t seem to stick. Kicking alcoholism requires a strong support system, and Dennis Rodman has managed to estrange himself from just about everybody who isn’t being paid to put up with his bullshit.
But this time around, Rodman’s got a friend for life. And while I can’t say much about Kim Jong Un as a leader or a statesman, who knows? He might be a really good sponsor.
Truman Capps thinks the best way to gauge Kim and Rodman's relationship is to wait and see if North Korea starts building huge Dennis Rodman statues.