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Why not vote for a queen, or even a king?

September 3rd, 2008

pageant crownSettle down, people.

All this frappe over Sarah Palin having been a beauty queen—please, let’s keep a few things in mind. Firstly, while the woman is generally attractive, with her goofy specs and the sloppy do plopped on her head, it’s in a sort of kinky school marm way, not the meticulous-ridiculous manner that is de riguer in the world of Miss This and That. Or, as one man I know put it, Palin’s hockey-mom hair-do is a clear expression of “I got things to do, and my hair ain’t one of ‘em.”

And that’s the point. She’s not a beauty queen. She’s an American who transformed her beauty, her raw materials, into something else she needed.

Let’s put these so-called beauty pageants Palin entered, in context. Miss Wassila? Miss Alaska? In a frozen land where hunting moose trumps hunting hair mousse, these are pageants where a good percentage of the entrants are simply the ones least likely to look like lumberjacks. The pageants are a means to an end—an education. And that’s what Palin got out of them: scholarship money.

It’s that hair do thing again: what’s the most practical way to get done what needs to be done?

Which is why, betcha hair pins to hair nets, what she looks like is about to change. With her appearance on national TV at the Republican National Convention tonight, she enters the real beauty pageant. She’ll have a stylist. She’ll have a make up artist. She’ll probably even lose the bee hive and the funky frames around her peepers—if not tonight, then soon. Because once again what she looks like is the means to an end—this time, helping the Republicans win the presidential election in November—and her look, by mainland standards, needs an update.

Chris Satullo of the Philadelphia Inquirer commented, “As for women who supported Clinton, I just can’t see them easily switching allegiance from their dogged feminist hero to someone they may well view as an arriviste prom queen.”

As there is no record of Palin having been a prom queen, Satullo must be speaking metaphorically, and so could even be saying the same thing of that other easy-on-the-eyes candidate in the race, that prom king of a guy, Barack Obama. Since he’s no dog, it does beg the question of whether in American politics, a little pretty on your meat and potatoes doesn’t go a long way to completing the meal. After all, Hillary has far more experience than either Obama or Palin. But she also looks like she would tear your head from your neck, salt, and eat it, you know—’cause maybe you deserve it, and ’cause maybe she’s hungry.

In America, the land of “reality” shows like What Not to Wear, Ten Years Younger, Extreme Makeover, How Do I Look?, and Project Runway , one’s looks do very well matter. Former VP and presidential candidate Al Gore knows that. Current Democratic VP candidate Joe Biden knows that. Even the media, with its own share of former beauty queens, knows that. After all, they’re the ones bringing us our election process and reporting to us our participation in it—it’s the ultimate reality show, and we all know how honest and life-like THOSE are.

It’s a national psychic split that we act as though we don’t care what people look like—especially the ones upon whom we confer authority—when we clearly do care. Why are we so disingenuous? If the candidate whose policies we agree with, whose philosophies comfort us, and whose record of achievement bodes well for our expectations also happens to be pleasing to the eye, then we’re just getting what we want. It’s the American way: having it all, looking the part, using what we’ve got to get where we want to go.

Better to admit we like the bird with the fancy feathers, the one who’s making practical use of what’s on hand, than to pretend we don’t see and appreciate it. Otherwise, we’re just a nation of fakes.

Posted Under: Media & Journalism, Public Relations
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