Tina Fey as Sarah Palin: Why Do We Care So Much? [Updated]
You are, no doubt, aware of the timeline. First, John McCain announces Sarah Palin as his running mate. Then the internet-o-sphere immediately remarks on the physical similarity between Governor Palin and comedian/writer Tina Fey. There is a feverish build-up – and no, feverish is not too strong a word – to the season premiere of Saturday Night Live as people wait, with bated breath, to see whether ex-SNLer Fey would impersonate governor Palin. Sure enough, as if they almost didn’t have a choice, Tina Fey appears with Amy Poheler in the opening sketch doing a bang-on impression of Palin. The internet goes wild.
Fair enough. What I’m a bit baffled about is why we all seem to care so much. Are we so desperate for a repeat of Dana Carvey’s four year run as Bush Sr. that we now are salivating at the prospect of Fey as Palin? Are we so giddy at the coincidental resemblance between the two that everyone from CNN to a local Toronto news station felt it newsworthy to report – shock of shocks – that a contemporary comedian did an impression of a politician suddenly thrust into the international limelight?
No, there’s something else going here. And my guess is that a largely Democrat/Liberal blogosphere could not wait for someone to give a public voice to their skepticism, disbelief and dismay at the next potential Vice President of America. As the HuffPo’s Rachel Sklar live-twittered the skit with something bordering on glee, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this was Tina Fey occupying Jon Stewart’s traditional role: the comic who points out the sheer absurdity of contemporary politics with far more wit and insight than ‘news journalists’. As so many have said, things seem to have gotten so bad that comedy is now the only form of political analysis that still makes sense.
I think there was a little schadenfreude around the whole thing though and if I were a conservative, I think I’d be put off by just how much back-slapping there seemed to be between a New York comedy instituion and a largely left-leaning ‘two coasts’ blogosphere. Still, it was interesting to watch the interaction between people’s private twittered reactions and a public manifestation of that response in the media. I think it’s often this private-public dynamic and the need to for a response to exist in mass culture that the internet is often so good at, even though, at the same time, it is the same structure that fragments and dissipates the space of ‘pop culture’ that was once so much more ‘common’ to us all.
Update: I think I was sorta’ insinuating that the ‘blogosphere’ is ‘left-wing’. That’s patently false. I guess what I meant was the left-leaning sections of the blogosphere were quite vocal about how much they wanted Fey to ‘do Palin’. Impersonate, I mean. Get your mind out of the gutter. Anyway, that eagerness for a much-loved comic to do an impersonation of a politician who many left-wingers are, to say the least, unimpressed with revealed something about the private-public relationship and what may or may not be the fracturting of mass culture (i.e. it’s definitely more fractured than in the past, but isn’t totally fragmented and is perhaps divided along rather strict ideological lines.)