Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin is Hollywood's Frankenstein

Michelle Ryan in The Bionic Woman

It was not supposed to happen this way. From 2005-2006, Hollywood produced 19 episodes of “Commander in Chief” starring Geena Davis as an accidental President. It was a national prep for a Hillary Clinton Presidency. The storyline was that the party put Geena Davis on the ticket simply to attract female voters, and with this gimmick they won the White House. So when the President suddenly died soon after taking office, they took it as a given that she would step aside, as she was never seriously expected to serve as President. But she got it in her head to be President anyway, and went on to an unexpectedly successful presidency.

Well, it turns out that life has ended up imitating art far more closely than they had planned. Hillary lost the nomination, but the Republicans nominated...Sarah Palin...a beautiful young (relatively) inexperienced governor for the vice-presidency. Let’s hope the parallel ends there (as we wish no ill on Sen. McCain and expect great accomplishments from him).

Then consider the model of womanhood that Hollywood has been serving us for the last 30-35 years, from the bionic woman and Charlie's Angels (1976) to Angelina Jolie. (Of course Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels bridge the entire era, as it turns out.) These women were supposed to be the liberated anti-conservatives. Every film, every episode, every re-run was an assault on traditional sexual categories, a deconstruction of marriage and family as we have always known them.

But it has always been so absurdly fictional, such a daydream of the liberal imagination to which we have been constantly exposed like inmates at a re-education camp for political deviants. In real life, no one is like that except a few rock climbing products of modern technology. Then along comes Sarah Palin, the beautiful, athletic, charming woman who rockets into high office not on her husband’s coattails when he dies or serves his maximum two terms, but by her own extraordinary abilities.

But wait! The story is out of control! She’s not supposed to be a conservative! Add that she’s a social conservative, an economic conservative, a political conservative and an Evangelical Christian all rolled into one, and it’s a liberal cultural engineer’s nightmare, a Room 101 from 1984.

Thus, Sarah Palin has become Hollywood's Frankenstein with an ironic inversion. Of course, in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein was not the monster, but the scientist. So it is Hollywood that is Frankenstein. But who is the monster?

The project of the Hollywood liberal establishment was to reconfigure, construct, and propagate the modern woman, defying nature, for a brave new world. But just as Dr. Frankenstein's "man" turned out a monster and took on a life of his own, Hollywood's monster has turned out to be a real woman, a wholesome human being.

Can Sarah Palin be model for American women? That is a separate matter. Just because Hollywood is horrified doesn't mean that their nightmare should be every man's dream come true. Growing up is hard when your mother is busy in the public sphere. Rather than justify the female juggler of family and career, Palin may refocus attention on this quintessentially modern, democratic problem.

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