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November 18, 2009

Oprah, Sarah and the Girls


Here’s the single promo shot Oprah’s production company released to the media. What it shows is four women who are thoroughly experienced posing for a camera. If there is a curious element, it’s the unusually tight grip Oprah has on Sarah and Willow — reflective, perhaps, of Oprah keeping everyone close having scored the first interview of circus week. …Not so curious, but mesmerizing, is the competing intensity for the lens Sarah and Oprah emit with those gazes. Ah, star power.

But then, I was also interested in this screen shot I grabbed from a cut-away while Willow and Piper listened to Mom discuss how the decision to accept the Veep offer — uncharacteristically omitting the kids, Palin adds — was made.


If you watch the video, you see how conscious Willow is of being on set, shifting her eyes, for a split second, toward the camera. And then there’s Piper, who is unselfconsciously engrossed by Mom’s discussion, but, in a different way, seems to recognize the stakes in all this. Considering the breezy and bemused expressions on the faces of the two other women, the tension in the Palin girls — the most pleasing extras in the Palin Show — is more than palpable.

(images: Harpo Productions)

  • Johnson

    They’re only kids, it’s not surprising.

  • g

    Why does she drag the kids around with her everywhere she goes? Why does she put them on stage and on camera again and again and again?
    Aren’t they supposed to be in school?
    I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m really curious what her rationale is. Is it because their presence in the studio will give interviewers second thoughts about pressing her on questions? Is she trying to make them “celebrities” in their own right? Is it that she needs a supportive, uncritical team around her all the time? Does she think it’s educational for them? Or are they just big Oprah fans?
    I don’t know of any other professional parent, male or female, who exploits her kids this way, other than reality TV stars.

  • mcmama

    The presence of the kids shouts: I’m a Good Christian Mother. I’m above reproach and don’t you forget it.

  • bystander

    the unusually tight grip

    Couple that with Oprah’s closed mouth (?) smile, and straight ahead, directly at the camera gaze, and I read it as: These are my girls, I support their being here, you will not citicize them in this space. The posture + affect seems protective to me.

  • tekel

    bystander: if that’s really it, then good for O. She really does have a good grip on them both. But too bad Wasilla Barbie looks so vacuous and batshiat crazy- sort of spoils the moment. Can’t wait for the libel suits to start.
    As for Willow’s jaded sidelong glance, what do you expect? She’s over this whole charade. She knows her mom is a grifter and a flake. She played along for a good six months last year while her illegitimate pregnancy and high-school romance were splashed all over every tabloid in the world. Now she can’t get on TV without her spotlight-hogging mom tagging along, and she has to watch her baby-daddy doing the Today Show and Leno etc etc etc. She’s tainted by the crazy and no boy her age in his right mind will ever want anything to do with her. She’s probably figured all of this out by now: it’s not fair to expect her to keep up the shiny happy “I LOVE MY MOOSE-SHOOTING MOMMA!” facade at all times.
    All of that being said, the place I see that sardonic look most often is on the face of p0rn models.

  • g

    Willow’s not the one who had the baby, that was her older sister Bristol.

  • thomas

    You know who would be a great addition to that top photo? Chris Elliot.
    Both Oprah and Palin are professional bullshitters, and I mean that in the most flattering and technically descriptive way possible. Personally, I think it’s as foolish to take book recommendations from the former as it is to take evolutionary biology instruction from the latter. But it’s their job to be superficial, mercenary psychopaths and its everybody else’s job to not buy what they’re selling. Which, outside of their combined market share, is pretty much the way it’s working. So there’s some comfort in that, I suppose.

  • tekel

    oh wow, you’re right. So I guess Sarah has to carry all the blame for the state of mind that lies behind that look.

  • Julia Grey

    Why the fluffy, over-long “babe” bangs, Sarah? They’re so long they’re getting into your eyes and catching on your eyelashes. That would drive me crazy.
    Besides, they scream “wanna be teenager.”
    It will be so sad to see this woman in 20 years. Seriously. She’s so fixated on being sexy, her 60s are going to be terrible for her.
    Plastic surgery can only do so much.

  • TellMeWhy

    I’m curious as to why the kids are dressed in short sleeved/sleeveless outfits. Isn’t Chicago usually pretty cold this time of year? Shouldn’t a “Good Christian Mother” make sure that her children are dressed properly?

  • bystander

    There one other, more superficial, possibility for the way Oprah has Palin and her daughter snugged on each side of her. Given Oprah’s issues with her weight, the placement effect may be “slimming” for the camera. I imagine Oprah is in front of a camera enough to be fairly sophisticated with respect to being photographed.

  • Harlan Colt

    I’ve worked in media about 15 years. Concerning the critiques within this post, I see nothing beyond typical, human behavior that most people would do in the same situation. You people are way over-reaching and way over-analyzing just about everything, especially in regards to Palin’s girls.
    The Newsweek cover shot was obtained through questionable means. If Hillary Clinton went to a photo shoot for a story in Yoga Magazine, and a picture of her bulging thighs wrapped in tights showed up on the cover of TIME – she would be equally justified in being PO’d.
    Perhaps Newsweek has decided they want their magazine, not on the rack with the other news magazines, but moved up to the check out line next to the National Enquirer.

  • KateC

    Willow was looking for David Letterman. Of course she’s tensed, with a camera in her face. What politician’s kid isn’t? Amy Carter, chime in here. The other two in the shot are audience members–they’re blissfully free from media scrutiny.
    The studio lights are very hot, thus the lack of parkas. They were most likely told to bring 2 or 3 outfits and the producers selected the ones they have on.
    And if I was going to be on Oprah, I’d bring my kids too.
    For a blog that analyzes visuals, perhaps an FAQ for your readers would help.
    No, Sarah didn’t do her own hair or makeup.
    Yes, Oprah did probably hug the girls in to get them all in the frame. Is Piper really that experienced in posing for the camera?
    And that cutaway could have been shot at any point in the taping. It’s not broadcast live in real time, and yes, the show is edited.

  • desertwind

    Well, that story Palin tells about accepting the VP slot has changed so often that Willow is fully aware of the bullshit.
    It was that story that made me realize early on that she’s a serial liar about the smallest things. That she’s a con-artist always looking for the angle. Never trusting anyone but herself. A pure political animal.
    I may not have the order straight, but this is what I remember:
    In first few days after she was announced, the cute story was: I told my family we were going to Ohio to suprise Dad for his birthday. Then I sprung the news on them that I’d accepted.
    Second story given about a week or so later: Before accepting & going to Ohio, I asked the kids what they wanted me to do. They said “Go for it, Mom!”
    So, who knows?
    That’s the thing about dealing with con-artists. You can’t help questioning your own doubts & wondering: Did I really hear that? Did my own suspicions or prejudices make that comment/action of hers ring phony to me? Are my suspicions wrong? Am I crazy?

  • janjamm

    I think Oprah is pulling them close to effect a slimmer look. Standard photo op trick.

  • Progressive Mom

    Interesting … “her bulging thighs…”
    You just made the point that the entire Newsweek cover was an inappropriate sexual look at a politician — a female politician — by making an ad hominen attack on another female politician’s physical features.
    We’ve come a long way, baby.

  • desertwind

    I just realized that Oprah probably recalled the discrepancy, too, and wondered how Palin would reconcile the two stories.
    I remember clocking the first story because it rang a little phony to me at the time like a sort of “meeting cute” romantic movie plotline. Plus, it also seemed a little creepy & not quite fair to the kids. When the second story came out so soon (kids take vote. “Go for it, Mom.”), I figured she’d changed the story because the first one wasn’t playing well.
    Who knows? Somewhere within the three stories may lie the truth. I’m guessing she didn’t consult anyone.

  • Julia Grey

    If Hillary Clinton went to a photo shoot for a story in Yoga Magazine, and a picture of her bulging thighs wrapped in tights showed up on the cover of TIME
    Uh, this just indicates what the entire problem is with the Sarah Palin cheesecake photo.
    1) Hillary Clinton would not DO a photo shoot for a story in Yoga Magazine. She would consider it inappropriate and beneath her dignity.
    2) If (as the result of some weird form of brain damage, no doubt) she WERE to decide to cooperate with a feature for Yoga Magazine, she wouldn’t wear “tights”
    and show off her “bulging thighs.”
    So your hypothetical just demonstrates the dimensions of Palin’s mistake.
    The embarrassment to Sarah Palin is not the fact that the Runner’s World photo was put on the cover of Newsweek. The embarrassment consists in having posed that cutesy-poo way in the first place, amongst those props, with oiled-up legs, in shorts, for a national magazine cover. It demonstrates a severe lack of judgment, or an inability to resist titillating her audience…which I guess is the same thing.
    Remember when she casually showed up in front of staffers clad only in a towel? That is Sarah Palin in a nutshell. And so is this photo. Which is why Newsweek used it. It demonstrates the dimensions of her — and her party’s — “problem.”

  • moistenedbink

    I was immediately struck by the difference between Oprah’s forceful hug and Palin’s limp hand on Piper’s arm.

  • yg

    piper is going through the paces, being a good soldier. but at what cost?

  • yg

    oprah seems to be a gripper:

  • Samantha

    I haven’t posted here in a while, nice to see the BAG is still going strong.
    When I first glanced at the photo on another site, I thought, oh here’s Sarah and kids hogging the camera again. But examining it closer here, I can see that Oprah still maintains her dominance. She’s the focus of the shoot, albeit slightly so. Her grip IS very tight on her guests, which reinforces that. The grip I think also betrays the hidden emotion of the event. Oprah’s expression shows reconciliation with her feelings about having Sarah on the show. Oprah had to refuse the vp candidate, with so much at stake, but is now free to invite, and perhaps even embrace the cultural figure, not political, that Sarah has become. The kids too, have a look of relief. Sarah herself shows none of that, and looks oddly detatched and stiffly posed. This is just one stop on the media blitz, I suppose.
    Another thing I noticed is the clothing. Mom and kids could be torn out of a JCPenney catalogue. We know they can look good, we’ve seen them on the campaign trail. But they wanted to deliberately tone it down, and give off the “working mom” look.
    I’m quite the liberal and no fan of Palin’s, but I have to say it’s nice seeing ONE photo of four strong women/girls posing together, without having to take on one of the b*tch, wh*re, spoiled, or crazy personas that the media presents each day as the female example. So good for them.

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  • Dreika

    Ummmm…Will and Pipe were just glancing to the side , probably because they were being distracted by something for a split second or just…were looking way…what is the big effin’ deal??? I swear you libs literally pick apart and scrutinize every single, last detail of everything ANY Palin does. If one of Obama’s would have glanced off to the side, there wouldn’t have been a blog made out of it! Good Lord people WILLOW GLANCED TO THE SIDE, MAKE A PUBLIC OUTCRY OF IT!!!!
    Also, the kids go where Sarah goes the same reason Obama’s kids go where he goes. They are HER CHILDREN! Get over it!

  • Sherri

    Willow Palin often has a very psycho like gleam in her eyes in many photos taken of her when she doesn’t realize she is being photgraphed. Anyone else notice that? It is like she always contemplating where to stash the bodies this time around.

  • Mike Barnes

    OMG SHERRRI! I noticed that a LONG time ago LMFAO. She looks down and through her eye lashes with a seething glare like she s looking through people! HAHAHA! Willow Palin is psycho!!!!

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