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.