There’s an excellent artilce at FlowTV on the ‘pluckiness’ of Sarah Palin and how it effects reception of her. The author, Kathleen Battles, uses Legally Blond to show how pluck is the key ingredient for chicklit/chickflick heroines: these bright but not too brainy girls (and I do mean girls) face down challenges from the snobs and haters that want to bring them down, succeeding through a seductive combination of determination, bedrock good values, and a little feminine know-how. As Battles puts it,
In fitting her story into the contours of the made-for-TV movie, this script posits Palin as the protagonist from the get go. The “audience” for this unfolding drama is already positioned through the conventions of the genre to see every public appearance as a “challenge” our heroine is sure to overcome. Armed with pluck, she does not need knowledge, insight, or experience, so it is useless to suggest that she is not qualified for whatever lies ahead. As long as her “cause” is clear and her pluck in tact, she will win the day. Given a new goal, “change,” our plucky heroine shows herself up for the challenge. Those who attempt to pierce her pluck shield with prodding questions will be met with disdain by her fans.
Pluckiness is an ideal character trait for a “chick flick” or made-for-TV heroine. The generic character traits are so instantly recognizable that they require little in the way of explanation or back story. It makes for a pleasurable viewing experience, and generally flatters its viewers into thinking that their own inner strength can likewise carry themselves through any trial. But Hollywood formulas make for poor politics.
Battles’ article also makes me think that the Republicans may not have fully thought through the repercussions of positioning Palin as Our Plucky Heroine. Movie conventions suggest that, after some hard challenges and lost nerve at around the 75 minute mark, our heroine will surmount all obstacles and emerge victorious by the end of 100 minutes or so; there are no unhappy endings in chicklit, so the challenges must be relatively brief and the heroine’s final triumph unquestionable. As Palin stumbles her way through interview after interview, will the pluck narrative still hold? Perhaps. Or perhaps her loving audience will eventually follow in the footsteps of conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, who grew so discouraged waiting for the duckling to turn into a swan that she is currently calling for Palin to step down.
Folks may disagree on the merits of the film, Tropic Thunder, but I was struck by the absence of sexism.
Unabashed insensitivity about the mentally disabled? Certainly. Thin-line-treading on race with Robert Downey, Jr in blackface? Eh, actually some unexpectedly good critique of both race and gender minstrelsy.
But for a film about the Vietnam War set in Asia, the lack of stereotypes about prostitutes, ping pong balls ejected from coochies, and a complete absence of the words, “Me love you long time” was refreshing.
True, none of this occurred to me until about a week after a second viewing, but doesn’t this verge on the ideal? Not noticing the absence of misogyny? Or am I merely suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? I’m just sayin’.
Now your turn to point out some sexism I missed when I was LMAO…Call me, Robert D!
Campbell Brown at CNN does it again. This time, she chimes in with a commentary that may be the single smartest statement anyone has made about Sarah Palin since she was nominated for VP.
Katie Couric, nice work. Look at these journalists asking questions, and REASKING them when they aren’t answered. It’s like we have a free press, dontcha know.
Did you see the Sarah Palin witchcraft video?
Of course you did.
But did you see her short commentary on the whole thing just two months ago?
Apparently, before going into her whole “red-headed Sasquatch for Jesus” bit, which I posted on a couple of weeks ago, she commented on Pastor Munthee’s blessing (if that’s the right word for it).
In an earlier excerpt from that video (shown in this Keith Olbermann clip) she seems amused by this witch hunter’s prayer for her success in politics. In her words: “He’s so bold he’s praying…Lord, make a way. Lord, make a way. And I’m thinking this guy is really bold. He doesn’t know what I’m going to do. He doesn’t know what my plans are…”
Yeah, neither do we.
Maybe it is witchcraft.
There’s nothing like the refuge of books when the real world’s got a feminist down. We all need a place to hide from coverage of Sarah Palin et. al (and especially our own coverage of Palin et. al).
Books can be infuriating too, however, especially when you like literary candy but hate chick lit. My go-to has always been mystery novels with feisty protagonists. My mystery obsession began in childhood with Trixie Belden books, and unlike my love of the Dukes of Hazard (I had their racetrack), it’s lasted so long, I daresay my deathbed will be littered with mystery novels.
Two gems that I’ve been powering through in election 08 season:
Denise Mina’s Paddy Meehan series: I love Paddy Meehan, daughter of a large working class Catholic family in Glasgow, who begins the series as a copyboy and wannabe journalist and starts the third book as columnist and true crime writer. Sure, Meehan solves mysteries, and good ones too. But it’s the way that she seeks solace and love in the complex social matrix of her life that has me hooked on this series. Mina’s writing is lovely, and her history of Glasgow in the 80s and 90s as presented through Paddy’s point of view is riveting.
Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks Series: Men can be feisty too, and it’s impossible not to like protagonist Alan Banks. The landscape of Yorkshire, where the novels are set, becomes a palpable character in the stories as well. Best of all, there are more than 15 Banks books. I haven’t been this thrilled to discover a series since I decided to give Dennis Lehane a try, despite wanting to gnaw off my hand in the movie version of Mystic River, and found myself riveted.
I do like stand alones (Tana French’s recent Into the Woods, Kate Atkinsons’ Case Histories), but I love finding older series with lots of titles oh so much more. If you have recommendations, post them here, and cheers to a little escapism in election season ‘08.