Thursday, November 13, 2008

Moosin' Around with Sarah



Some weeks ago, Sarah Palin made a visit to The Villages, Florida's gigantic (and Stepford-like) retirement community. There, where cars are not permitted, Republicans in golf carts thronged to see the first female nominee for Vice President of the United States. They came, they saw, they bellowed. Sarah Palin was a bona fide star, at least until she opened her mouth and non-academic mind to Katie Couric.

In the wake of the GOP defeat, Palin opened her home to Greta van Susteren and Fox News for an interview that, on the surface, seemed remarkable only in that it set up Sarah as the common housewife who just happened to be Governor who just happened to get tapped to make political history. Pundits claimed this domestic propaganda was intended to set the groundwork for a Presidential bid in 2012.

Pundits missed the point.

What happened during the course of the interview revealed why Sarah Palin became so popular, so instantaneously. And also so mysteriously. It had little to do with the preposterous hope that she, as a woman, might attract the liberal female vote that would have been Hillary Clinton's. It had nothing to do with her Mommy platform and it certainly had nothing to do with the fact that she became--embarrassingly-- the Hostess Winkie of the GOP. It also had nothing to do with her thrilling lack of Epic language or with the brilliant Tina Fey parody on Saturday Night Live. But for the last, these reasons have their weaknesses, especially in light of Palin's many factual blunders. The true basis for Palin's appeal lay in the fact that the Republicans knew something you did not: Sarah Palin was Flaubertian.

It took Fox News to share that secret with the world.

Gustave Flaubert, the novelist, wrote fiction that was marked by an illusory reality that in itself was marked by the temporal superimposition of events that could not occur with exact simultaneity. Realism succeeds on this device, as it does on the confluence of the banal and the regular with the sudden and the dire.

Watching van Susteren's interview was watching an exercise in both the dull and the dreadful, with sentimental artifice firmly intact. A discussion about energy and the environment--both neverending and critical issues--took place as Palin sliced a moose hot dog length-wise and stuffed it with processed cheese. Here, where it seemed the kitchen chat was designed to reinforce the idea of Palin as the ideal working mother, one saw instead a binding of non-simultaneous components that was further bound by a third element: the real-time news ticker at the bottom of the screen.

While Palin chatted about her first phone call with John McCain, the camera panned down to show a tray of the hotdogs in all their anti-glamour. Here was a woman who would serve the lowliest of American foods while involved in a discussion about serving her country in its near-highest order. The baby Trig was once again handed like a log from Piper to Sarah and later to "First Dude" Todd; the child was the prop antedecent to the lowly comestible that sat on a tray on Palin's counter. It was beautifully stagy, it was terrifying, and it was engineered as a literary work. One could almost hear the agonized choice (again, Flaubert-like) over what food to prepare; certainly nothing with mustard or something that involved thrusting one's hands into raw meat. One also took notice of the collapsing of the components into one, with each of equal significance and weight. This is what the Republicans were banking on when they named Sarah Palin to their ticket. Hot dogs and Pakistan? Moose chili and health care? You betcha.

Fox sold us a bill of (domestic) goods. As thwarted as we are as a nation, a culinary oddity does not matter as much as the Middle East, and yet here and everywhere else the hotdog superseded the hot button. All of it became jumbled and inseparable, and as inured as we are to Palin's rambling vernacular or her ill-informed pronouncements we were likewise inured to the idea that the happy, modern household and the running of same might not be the stuff of history or maybe not even of noteworthy circumstance.

The viewer was also given a good dose of the superfluous; in other words, that which might have gone otherwise unnoticed, like the frozen vista, the snow machine (as differentiated from a snowmobile), Todd Palin looking for all the world as if he might breastfeed baby Trig. So comprehensive was this that it led to the inescapable question of what we weren't supposed to see, or think, or believe. Was the house with the gigantic open kitchen fraudulently built in order to secure the sports complex contract for Spenard Builders Supply? And what about Levi Johnston, the father-to-be of Bristol Palin's baby? How does he feel about the carefree wearing of fur headbands and is he now practicing the time-honored teenage tradition of carrying a single condom in his wallet?

So cleverly manipulated was the interview that the audience saw only what Fox wanted him to see. A house as clean as a five-star hotel, a seven-year-old somewhat prematurely maternal, a woman who had a shot at the second highest office in the land and was now puttering around in a business suit doling out ladles of regionally inflected chili and, having learned nothing from her linguistic trial by fire, still saying "wouldna" instead of "wouldn't have."

Somewhere in the middle of Florida, right near Mickey and Minnie and all those pro-life signs that pock the highway like ethical scoreboards, they're still rooting.


4 comments:

TheSundayBest said...

I hope Palin runs, if only because it guarantees a) a lot of great SNL skits and b) a Democrat win.

Her genius is only this - she simply doesn't care, and for 40 some odd percent of the voters, that was enough.

enc said...

It's completely insane that anyone, anywhere, thought Palin was going to garner liberal votes.

MR style said...

dont u think Palin had this little angelina jolie thing !!!?

Iheartfashion said...

A very cogent analysis!