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July 13, 2010

Palin’s Grizzly Mammas (Or: But Enough About You, What About Me?)

Whoops, did I say “grizzly mammas?”  Well, there’s nothing plural about this show. It’s “Momma Grizzly.”

If Sarah Palin’s new web video is about a stampede of new conservative female candidates, try to find one in the piece.  If the video is about female empowerment, there’s little doubt as to who’s on the power trip (or the Momma Bear).

As Digby writes:

She is not a serious politician. She is a political celebrity/entrepreneur, collecting money from her fans to fund herself and sell her brand. To the extent that she is working for anyone but herself, she’s working for The Republican Party, bringing together some of the disparate strands of the conservative movement, striking the pose of the “outsider.” But that is the extent of her serious commitment to politics.

Palin is a “reality” entertainer. Look on the covers of the celebrity magazines and you’ll see lots of them. There’s a lot of money to be made by someone like her in merchandising alone, much less personal appearances, books etc. I’m guessing she’ll find herself on the personal growth/religious circuit too, along with her reality show on TV.

She is a creature of the new political media, maybe the first pure version of her kind.  As soon as people grok that, her fund raising and touring will begin to make more sense.

If the hallmark of a narcissist is that, when she look at others, she see herself, it’s not surprising how much this video, ostensibly about every other “she” out there, mirrors Palin at every turn — either literally, or via stills of women inserted for the primary reason that they represent living clones of various Palin personas.

For example, the woman above is the “savagely” angry, Sara-like hotty thrilled to annoy. (The fact the t-shirt traces back to Michael Savage fans only amplifies Palin’s skill at indirectly tapping into deep anger, racism and homophobia.)

This image is simply fabulous for the way it echoes and brands the now iconic photos of Palin at the Republican Convention as the mommy glued to baby (it’s Trig all over again) as a validation of her patriotism.

And then, shades of Savage, this frame is interesting for the way it can activate some subliminal misandry, or hatred of men.  On the manifest level, of course, it’s just pure, straight-ahead tea party slogan taking on big government.  At another level, though, especially in the ‘women-only and “don’t be fucking with with us”‘ context of the video, it can also be read as an attack on men and courtship — i.e. Opposed to Man dates.

And then, of course, you have the pictures of Sara that, dispensing with symbolism completely, literally mirror her, as if you can’t get enough of her (the way she can’t get enough of herself) so (and, more than once in the video) let’s have two!

Of course, filling in the edges are otherwise standard campaign shots (in a non-campaign and a non campaign-video, mind you) of cell phone and point-and-shoot idolatry.  …Before they took down the photo link from Palin’s Facebook page, it was flooded with “citizen paparazzi” pics like these.

Still though, given Sarah’s fascination with legends, as well as her honestly impressive instincts when it comes to siphoning credibility by visually and rhetorically mirroring top top dogs, I like this frame the best — just don’t tread on the lapel button far right!

Watch the Mamma Grizzly video here.

  • g

    I thought this video was odd, and very full of mixed messages. What the voiceover says and what the image displays are often in conflict. The cheesy piano music sets an emotional tone that contradicts the words.

    The shot of the woman with the “Annoy Liberal” is shown while the voice-over says “speaking out for common sense solutions.” So annoying other people is a solution?

    “Fundamental transformation of America” sounds like a good thing with that optimistic rising piano music, and it’s shown with a heart – the visual says its a good thing, too.

    Women smiling and hugging one another shown while the voiceover says “We don’t like.”

    Smiling faces shown with sign “I am not angry” (no time to read the whole thing, just the first line) while voiceover says “Rising up and saying No” and “Something’s wrong”

    Description of Mama Grizzly Bear rising up on hind legs when someone’s attacking their cubs – while images play Sarah hugging, Sarah bending down to children, Sarah handing out flowers. The words say Grizzlies rising up, the picture shows Sarah bending down. The words say “attacking cubs” the pictures show hugging and gifting.

    Picture of woman reaching for Sarah’s hand, then breaking the connection when the voice says “ADVERSE” with emphasis – the image and movement combined with the voice hint of conflict here.

    “Pit bull” and she shows a wee thin submissive dog.

    “Grizzlies” shows old women.

    At “Rising up banding together” – there’s a “girls night out” kind of shot, with women’s mouths opening in a “Yes” face, not a “saying no” face.

    “This isn’t right” shows Sarah in conversation with women.

    “We’re gonna do something about this” shows a group of young people (a family?) together smiling.

    “Lotta women coming together” lingers on an image of Sarah alone on the stage.

    It’s as if it were designed to reach two separate audiences – the one that will hear the dog-whistles in her speech and the other that will emotionally respond to the heart-touching music and the warm, friendly smiling women, without paying attention to her words at all.

    I’m sure that was the intent – to give women voters who aren’t paying attention a warm fuzzy feeling about her. That nice lady with the smiling happy fans and the cute dog and hearts and stuff.

    • Michael Shaw


      Beautiful analysis. Extremely interesting to hear how the same discordance I was interested in plays out between the words and the images, and between the words, the images and the music.

      Now that Palin is working with such a huge bankroll, I expect we’ll be “treated” to many more examples. To the extent the double-messages and the “splitting” is being produced quite consciously, or is just a manifestation of Palin’s own troubled and dangerous psychology, it’s there, it’s clever and it’s quite a sharp blade.

      (Just a general note to readers, while I’m at it. If the site has had a kind of milquetoast flavor lately, I’ve been a little lethargic since my London vacation and it feels like I’ve been pulling my punches. I’m not traveling anywhere for a while and I’m hoping to “sharpen my own blade” as well.)

  • AJ

    Perhaps the video is designed to trigger cognitive dissonance in order to halt critical thinking? It’s a classic tactic – the human mind can only handle so much contradiction before it sort of ‘wanders off’. From your description, g, it really sounds like scripted contradiction to bypass (short circuit) critical thinking.

  • thomas

    The words and actions of Palin herself are, and have always been, dissonant, confused, conflicting and flighty. She does not linger over any one topic or office too long because that requires being informed and responsible. That’s somebody else’s job. She doesn’t do informed and responsible. She does the emotionally-charged cheerleading that is needed to really move money around. And I think she has a real instinct for it. She’s good at it. The only thing keeping her from becoming President is that her father was not an extraordinarily wealthy and well-connected oil man who was President himself.

    Which may be a bit unfair to W. who did in fact make small gestures suggesting he wanted to escape the elitism that shaped his character and his life, and wanted to be seen as doing what was right. He was just too stupid and too vain and too callous to keep up the act for more than a few minutes. The earnest face of concern quickly fell into his habitual smug indifference. He had no idea how to be a good person but seemed to sense that it was something he should be. But Palin eschews that pretense of civility. She is a roaming, dressed-up, power-hungry outsider, and right under the surface is Francis Bacon’s Screaming Pope.

  • black dog barking

    Good call on the mixed messages and cognitive dissonance. It feels like the so-called “popular” music when I was growing up, angst or just plain gibberish (doo-wah-diddy diddy-dum diddy-doo)lyrics layered on top of peppy tunes. We heard the kick drum, not the words.

    Gotta thank KKKarl for bringing pop styling to politics and governance. Heckuva job. Notice the repetition of “fundamental transformation”, “common sense”, “conservatives”. Doo-wah. Love the “stampede of pink elephants”. This is the closest she comes to saying “Republican”, a word we’re not likely to hear very much between now and November. If she is going for Hungover Morning in America then pink elephants is brilliant.

    I wonder just how many credible threats cub grizzlies face in the wilds of Alaska.

    • g

      Actually, grizzly cubs in the wild face the most serious threat from adult male grizzlies.

      The enemy mama grizzlies mostly have to defend their cubs against are the fathers of the cubs – or the suitors of the mama grizzly – who want to kill them.

    • black dog barking

      So Sarah is telling us to beware of Todd. Nice. They should probably rethink this whole Pink Elephant Mama Grizzly image projection thing. It’s not working.

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