Saturday, September 13, 2008

Well, if I am going to comment - and it seems I am, I am going to take a different approach for my own sanity.

In the street Palin is a Milf. Stand her next to McCain and she's a Barely Legal covergirl'

Charlie Brooker The Guardian, Saturday September 13 2008

Pssst. You know the American election, yeah? That unfolding spectacle across the Atlantic; the one you've been a bit worried about of late? (The one Doorman-Priest WASN'T going to comment on?) Well, the good news is you can stop fretting. It doesn't matter. It isn't real.

But don't take my word for it. I'm a cretin. Ask an egghead channel. As part of this week's US election mini-season,(Oh God NO, please!),President Hollywood (Mon, 9pm, BBC4) takes a squint at the curious co-dependent relationship between fictional and real US presidents. Each has informed and influenced the other, it seems: Hollywood and the entertainment industry swap positions as regularly as enthusiastic rutters in an even-handed one-night-stand. One minute Kennedy's giving the world of fiction a blowjob by providing a role model for noble decency that survives to this day, and the next, TV's slurping straight back, preparing the ground for Obama courtesy of The West Wing's Matt Santos.

As a result, the lines between fiction and reality are almost hopelessly blurred. And probably a bit sticky. Voters would dearly love to elect some kind of mythic "innocent outsider", the archetype for which was defined way back in 1939 by Jimmy Stewart in Mr Smith Goes To Washington. That's why both Obama and McCain attempt to portray themselves as warm-hearted agents of change.

Bush pulled the same trick, of course, although his down-home aw-shucks act rings fairly hollow these days, what with the war and the waterboarding and all that. Nixon's ignoble spell in the White House inspired a string of conspiracy thrillers and slippery, sinister commanders-in-chief. But Nixon impersonations are growing stale. If nothing else, Bush's legacy should at least provide an exciting new template for movie presidents: the war-mongering pseudo-rube.

Anyway, President Hollywood itself is a pretty interesting programme with one glaring flaw: it was made before anyone knew Sarah Palin existed. If, as the show suggests, every election campaign somehow resembles a movie plot, this was the moment a rough'n'ready Dolly Parton/Erin Brockovich character stepped in to dispense a little butt-kickin' straight talk on behalf of everywoman. Or at least that's how Team McCain is spinning it. As a way of distracting everyone from the perceived weaknesses of friendly-but-doddery McCain himself, it appears to have worked, and worked well.

But their inspiration seems to have been drawn not from Hollywood at all, but the world of reality TV. The structure is markedly similar. Palin arrived as a complete unknown, which meant the news media had to spend hours explaining who she was in little VT packages; bung some gaudy pop and a few lens flare effects on top and you could've been watching a contestant biog on The X Factor. It helps that she's hot. Hot for a politician, that is. In the street she's a standard Milf. Stand her next to 500-year-old John McCain and she's a Barely Legal covergirl. While half the electorate argue about her hardline stance on abortion, the other half is debating which position they'd do her in first. Not out loud, you understand, but in their heads. Or online.

Furthermore, as a moose-hunting former beauty queen, Palin is a kooky character - precisely the sort of person a producer would home in on at the auditions like a dog sniffing meat. Obama's a stock character too, of course - the "likable tryhard" - but although he ticks precisely the same reality boxes as Palin (unknown, good looking, etc), he's not as obviously kooky. Given a choice between "kooky" and "able" in a talent contest, reality viewers reward "kooky" every time. And why shouldn't they? They're watching a TV show, not picking the next government.

Except they are in this case, obviously. It just doesn't feel that way. The unreal whiff of reality TV has overwhelmed the senses, and now, if some booming voice-of-God suddenly announced the whole thing would be decided in a live election day sing-off, none could raise an eyebrow in wholly honest surprise.