Sarah Palin’s own little Truman Show and the road to the White House
Maybe someone a lot smarter came to lay it out for her or maybe she figured it out for herself. Maybe she had an inkling that things would work out the way they did or maybe it was dumb luck. In any case, no one can deny that her “success,” devoid of anything that could be described as political skill, is something to behold.
We all have unique abilities and qualities and sometimes events conspire to provide just the right environment to help us make the best of what we have to offer. Perfect storms happen and our Miss Sarah is a cork riding atop a wave in the middle of that storm.
The storm to which I refer is the confluence of her personal attributes, the events that made her famous initially and America’s obsession with reality TV.
As if constructed in some sort of Stepford laboratory, she is made for reality television. She is photogenic, she is quirky, she says the darndest things and she makes everybody feel like they, or people they actually know, could succeed on a similar scale. That’s the formula for this brand of media.
At the Republican National Convention in '08, I distinctly remember a delegate gushing on camera that Sarah Palin was just like her sister-in-law. To this women, Palin was accessible but now, under these circumstances, special.
It is the nexus between the common and the extraordinary. It is all about plucking people from the shadows and placing them on a stage that would, under normal circumstances, never be available to them.
How, in reality T.V., ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary circumstanced is beside the point. The fact that they are ordinary but granted a degree of fame is the dynamic that keeps people watching.
Survivor, American Idol, The Bachelor, and so many other shows: these are all about demystifying the world we see on television, which is a proxy for importance, wealth and fame – all the things we are taught to crave. It’s about connecting the ordinary to the extraordinary. And though it is a bit off the argument, it is the same reason that lotteries are so popular – a bridge to the other side. We want to believe it’s possible and we like things that remind us that it might be.
It is often remarked that the more we make fun of Sarah Palin’s intelligence the more popular she becomes with some people. These are the people who don’t want to see her voted off the island, who want to see where the story goes. It’s these people who are living vicariously through the Palin experience. And there are, I suspect, a lot of them.
Just because there is frequently no good reason for the casts of reality shows to be famous, doesn’t mean that people don’t root for them and it doesn’t mean that audiences will be any less resentful when so called elites point out that the anointed don’t deserve the fame. No one likes to have his or her fun spoiled.
Fame for the sake of fame is where we are these days. “Being famous for being famous” is one of the better lines of the age.
The Truman Show is a movie about a man who is initially unaware that he is living in a constructed reality television show, broadcast 24-hours-a-day to billions of people across the globe.
Sarah P. may be aware that the cameras are rolling, but I don’t know that she could have fully anticipated how things would develop, though she has clearly done everything possible to ensure that America keeps watching whether it’s her daughter dancing or her televised travels through Alaska. Whether she constructed the reality she inhabits or it was constructed by events is almost secondary. It’s good TV and it seems always to be on.
The possibility that ordinariness can succeed in grand fashion is what keeps us watching. She was, as I said, made for this.
I doubt that this by itself gets her to the White House, as it has a lot more to do with general popularity than political popularity and we shouldn’t confuse the two. But a lot of people will want to see how the story ends, and, if for no other reason, this will make her a phenomenon until the string plays itself out - whenever that is.
In the end, a presidential campaign may be just too seductive a story line for her, or her producers, to ignore.