Sunday, September 14, 2008

Reading the Palin Swag

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN Palin swag and a pit bull? One wears you out; the other, you'd never actually wear out.

And yet, the world's speediest entrepreneurs are hoping to cash in at the Palin picnic. The question is, are the ants already marching toward the cupcakes? Sure, our friends over at SemiObama are doing a fine job reading images of the Democratic candidate in popular culture, but who is paying attention to Saracudda?

To be sure, the McCain buttons, t-shirts, and tote bags were among the lamest since the Michael Dukakis gimme caps, but the addition of Alaska governor Sarah Palin to the ticket has put the t & a back in "political."

To wit:

The t-shirt to the right is a little dirty, in part because it plays off of the geeky fantasy of the naughty librarian with that buttoned-up outfit, the neo-hair bun, and the nerdy glasses. But, the shirt's double entendre is notably more suggestive than your typical political bumper sticker.

That said, the series of MILF and VPILF options take this one step further.

I'm almost never shocked, but I have to say, these particular products caught me off guard. I was surprised how quickly Palin's image has been sexualized--much more than Hillary Clinton, for whom sex, sexuality, and the discourse of sexuality has long been part of her macro political persona (whether she's liked it or not). Interesting also is how much more eroticized the Alaska governor has been than Cindy McCain or Michelle Obama, both of whom are attractive women in positions of power.

The button to the left, like the one above, also points to another mystifying tendency--the need to Photoshop Governor Palin's face and beehive onto a lingerie model's body. If she's so naturally attractive, why falsify or fake her comeliness? I wonder if both the MILF/VPILF and the Photoshopping are a way of humiliating her, reminding her and everyone else she can still be objectified.

A similar thing might be going on in this t-shirt as well. Dogs, lipstick, type A moms, bitches . . . I don't know. I may be reading too much into it, but I don't think so.

To be sure, part of the fun of Palin in pop culture is the newness of gender on the vice-presidential ticket in this age of fast images, visual media, and buzzy buzz. There is so much to make fun of, so many puns, so much discourse to riff on, comment on, and riff on again. So many lines to repeat, edit, and culturize; so many jokes. So many comments about Tina Fey . . .

The best of the lot also plays with gender but of a gendered strength from a different era. Here, sexuality is less a weapon than it is potential.

TWR has no interest in telling people how to vote, but we're not sure if anyone should take Governor Palin's candidacy for president seriously. Ultimately, we wonder if the comic, over-sexualized, destabilizing images above don't also make the same argument.


  1. I think TWR very much has an interest in telling people how to vote....mmmm, insincerity.

  2. Right on, Rader. And pimike, whoever you are, there's a difference between expressing a political opinion and telling people what to do. So shut up.

  3. anon and pimike? These are the commentaries. There is something there for a comedian.

  4. This is your funniest post in a while. Do more political stuff.

  5. the author clearly likes being sucked up to....who doesn't?

  6. The author is more interested in seeing pimike having his handed to him . . .