Is SNL fueling Palin mania in the media?
Let me begin this post by loudly proclaiming my total admiration for Tina Fey. Simply put, she is my heroine–and by that I mean lady hero, not that I want to inject her and listen to jazz. (Watch the “Rosemary’s Baby” episode of 30 Rock if you didn’t catch that reference.)
All spotlights seem to be focused squarely on Fey every weekend as America fervently tunes in to see her portray Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. But is this good for the Obama/Biden campaign, or simply adding more fuel to the Palin mania sweeping the nation?
Let’s think back for a moment to earlier days on Saturday Night Live, back when Will Ferrell was impersonating George W. Bush prior to the 2000 election. Remember how funny we all thought it was when he used words like “strategery” or made Bush into a lovable moron? America seemed to want to elect this dullard simply for the comedy that could come of his presidency.
Shows like Matt Stone and Trey Parker‘s That’s My Bush had the same effect, turning the potential leader of the country into a comedic sitcom husband, complete with a sensible but loving wife and kooky neighbor. While that show had more to do with making fun of sitcoms than making a political statement, it illustrates that the joke de jour back in the day was Bush as the hilarious imbecile.
People were so enamored with the comedic elements of electing someone who was most certainly not the right man for the job that the country ended up making an important decision based, in part, on entertainment value. That’s fine if we were picking America’s Next Top Model, but this is a world leader we’re talking about!
Palin’s association with Fey is creating a bizarre affection towards an exaggerated character who just so happens to be the facade for a real person. Fey is good. She is talented and intelligent. She is successful and creative. On the flip side, Palin is someone who can’t name a single newspaper, doesn’t believe in evolution, and pronounces nuclear “nucular”. These two women couldn’t be more different, but these sketches cement them together, permanently associating one with the other in the realm of pop culture. Like with Ferrell, it concerns me that the entertainment value of a great comedian playing Palin on tv is starting to translate into real fandom for the actual politician.
The main problem seems to be that the entire campaign is playing out on television like some kind of warped version of American Idol. After last night’s debate, NBC’s Brian Williams even made a statement to that effect saying that, while he was there to witness the debates firsthand, he could only guage the public reaction by watching a tv monitor.
Will this election really be decided by whoever “gives good face”, to quote Madonna?
The charismatic qualities of an elected official have always been a factor, but the lines between the tabloid style of today’s television news and actual information seem to have blurred beyond recognition. The news coverage of this election isn’t even style over substance because there is no substance.
This may sound odd coming from someone who runs a pop culture site, but I think America needs to understand the distinction between having a good laugh and making a four year commitment to something based on criteria that have absolutely no real significance. Rock of Love is fun trash tv, the presidential election should not be.