Photo courtesy of MCT
You would be hard-up to find someone who draws as much wide dislike as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Democrats loathe her for being the anti-Democrat. Republicans detest her for driving the McCain campaign off the rails of the crazy train in 2008. People without a political preference dislike her because it’s the popular thing to do.
Despite the massive amounts of malice that have been leveled at Palin and her brood, they have become the ideological first family of the United States.
Of course, officially, the Obamas are the first family. But look at them. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle both hold doctorates in law from Harvard University. The Obama daughters are, metaphorically speaking, angels. The only drama they face in their personal lives involves far-fetched rumors dreamt up by neoconservative muckrakers.
In other words, the Obamas are ideal for the White House. But their lives would make for boring reality television.
In modern America, how well your family fits into reality television is an indicator of how “American” your family really is. This idea might offend you, but that’s how television is at this point in history. “Jersey Shore” draws millions of viewers. “AC360” with Anderson Cooper does not. “Jersey Shore” features obnoxious characters drinking, hooking up and otherwise saying stupid things. “AC360” examines the news.
Palin is not renowned for her keen insight into the nature of politics. She’s known for claiming to have been able to see Russia from Alaska. Another arm of the Palin enterprise is Bristol, Sarah’s daughter. Bristol first drew media attention during the 2008 elections for her pregnancy and later made it big on “Dancing With The Stars.”
Stupid yet humorous statements and an unwed pregnancy, on top of the politics, provides more than enough entertainment and gossip fodder to place the Palins at the pinnacle of Americana.
If you still don’t buy it, consider why the Kennedys are often labeled “America’s family.” It’s not because Joseph Kennedy raised three fine young men who all rose to political prominence.
It’s because mixed into the political prominence are tales of sex, substance abuse and tragedy. Several biographies indicate that John and Robert both enjoyed the company of Marilyn Monroe and other women. Ted Kennedy’s struggles with alcohol came to a head during the Chappaquiddick incident. Tragedy goes without saying. The Kennedy family story is a miniseries just waiting to happen.
The Palins are fortunate enough that no one needs to die to attain pop culture supremacy. As mentioned before, Bristol has had a successful run on “Dancing With The Stars,” and the new TLC series “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” is enjoying modestly successful numbers.
The earlier suggestions that the Palins were America’s family might have seemed like another media attack on the cultural ignorance of America and its taste in entertainment, but it might not be all that bad.
Bristol delivered her child and is, as far as we can tell, being a good mother. She deserves credit for the dignity with which she handled the intense public scrutiny (which is more than we can say about the father).
Sarah isn’t in the clear from her political remarks, but her television show is admittedly enjoyable. While the Kardashians catfight their way into infamy, and John and Kate argue over their eight, the Palins seem genuinely happy, and even love each other. Weird concept, right?
As Americans, let’s put aside the political blinders for once. Let’s forget about what Sarah said at the last Tea Party rally. Let’s embrace the first family that we appointed (conscientiously or not). No, I will not vote for you in 2012. But if TLC renews the series, I’ll be sure to tune in.