Sunday, September 14, 2008

Celebrity and the Executive Branch.

I hate the idea of "celebrity" — fame for fame's sake. Why should I care what Brangelina names their kid? Does it affect my life if Avril Lavigne divorces that dude she married? When — oh, when?! — will Oprah recommend another Mitch Albom book to get all weepy about?

Unfortunately, the Elephant Neighbour to the South is obsessed with the idea of celebrity, to a fatal degree. Two examples of celebrity in the highest levels of American government come to mind presently.

1. Ronald Reagan

I've never seen a Ronald Reagan movie, but they must've been terrible: one of my favourite all-time movies, Airplane!, mocked the actor's work in two separate instances. I'd bet his cinematic abilities were fairly equivalent to those of Pauly Shore; fast-forward his career 60 years and I bet The Gipper would've been on Celebrity Rehab.

The problem is, of course, people knew him already as a B-movie actor when he started to dabble in politics, becoming the governor of California (more on this below, obviously), and later a two-term president. It didn't hurt that he was a grandfatherly type of figure, with a kind exterior that soothed your fears about those damn dirty Red Commies and actually made trickle-down economics seem like a good idea.

Problem was, I bet people bought the empty slogans and vague ideas that were shopped to them, based on his persona — not on any sort of sound reasoning. He won because of his image; the backing of the hardcore Christian Right didn't hurt either. (Remember, he once opined that the current generation might very well live to see the end of the world. And this is the guy who had his finger on The Button.)

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Following in Reagan's footsteps, an actor (albeit an infinitely more successful one) becomes governor of California. The circumstances were weird to begin with: some wack-job Republicans from San Diego stirred up sentiment to hold a recall-election to oust Gray Davis, a Democrat, who apparently couldn't figure out how to keep the lights on in all parts of the state, all the time. (Nevermind the fact that Enron, close buddies with Republicans for decades, had their buddies in Congress rig the rules to set up an electricity monopoly in California, which they obviously couldn't handle. Oh, and Enron was crooked, too.)

The election was a spectacle — dozens of candidates, including Larry Flynt, adult film actress Mary "Mary Carey" Cook, Arianna Huffington and Gary Coleman — and the thing just got more and more absurd as the campaign began to snowball (something Ms. Cook probably has some experience with). Cruz Bustamante, Davis' lieutenant-governor, probably should've won the thing, but in the end The Terminator won, despite having zero experience in any sort of government, anywhere.

Shockingly, Ah-nuld hasn't been that bad a governor... which goes to show you, I guess, that being governor of the most populous state in the US, with a GDP that, if California was an independent country, would rank 9th in the world, isn't a job that requires "experience" with the workings of "government." Hell, I should run in the next gubernatorial election.

Which brings us to...

3. Sarah Palin

You know her story: hockey-mom, former beauty queen, sometime book-banner, Creationist, financially-reckless mayor of Wasilia, scandal-infused term as governor of Alaska, surprise Veep candidate. Not so great at school: in order to get a 3-year diploma, she went through six different colleges, none of which had any sort of "entrance requirements" — just show up, pay your money, and you're in.

Her inclusion on the Republican ticket is absolutely absurd, but those dumb fucks in the US appear to actually be falling for this vapid trick. However, there may actually be some sane folks in Alaska that see through the ridiculousness, as the Toronto Star reported from an anti-Palin rally in Anchorage:

Most of all, the anti-Palin crowd, many of them professional women, wanted the world to know that they, too, know how to field dress a moose, haul a caribou carcass out of the Alaskan bush or catch wild salmon. That's what women do in Alaska, they say.

"I know how to catch and freeze 30 salmon a year and can them," said Karla Huntington, an Anchorage lawyer and mediator.

"That doesn't qualify me to sit down and talk to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin."

Sarah Hobart, a 35-year-old development director from Kasilof, Alaska, described her most recent caribou encounter in the bush.

"A lot of us love to eat caribou," she said. "We know how to field dress a moose. But this is about the future of our country, not the way you handle a moose."

Caroline Bolar said she raised two children while working on the pipeline, sleeping four hours a night.

"This is not unusual here," she said. "For me the issue is I don't want a fundamentalist finger on the button."

When will the Palin Bubble burst? Not soon enough for me.

(I noticed an interesting thing just now... all three of these picks have been Republicans. Gee, for the party of "down-home values" and "traditional America," you'd have thought that they'd see through things like celebrity in their leaders. Then again, you'd also think that, if a Senator was caught in an airport bathroom trolling for anonymous gay sex, they'd be a sodomite Democrat... whoops! Guess not.)


Eve said...

The book banning thing was a hoax, according to the interview Charlie Gibson did. She's still a huge douchebag, though. Hillary Clinton's vagina is still far more qualified to lead the country.

JTL said...

She may not have banned books as mayor, but according to the Times today, she was putting pressure on the librarians to take copies of books like Daddy's Roommate off the shelves.

Speaking of that NYT article, here it is.