It should come as little surprise that liberals don’t think much of Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Unfortunately, it should also come as little surprise that some conservatives don’t think much of it either. Palin has always had her conservative critics and this latest enterprise is no exception.
In an article which appeared last Friday in National Review Online, Mona Charen dismisses Sarah Palin’s Alaska as “another cheesy entrant in the reality-show genre.” While Matt Labash of the Weekly Standard doesn’t call the show cheesy he does call it “tacky.” Labash also argues Sarah Palin’s Alaska is nothing more than an act of “self -love.”
Alas both Charen and Labash miss the point. Having watched the first two episodes of Sarah Palin’s Alaska I’d say it is neither cheesy nor tacky much less an exercise in vanity. Rather it should be seen as a series of extended home movies. Now not everyone likes home movies, especially those who are unwilling participants. But for the open-minded among us we now have an opportunity to view Sarah Palin and her family on their own terms. It also gives us an extended look at a part of our country that is seldom given a second thought.
Let’s face it. Most Americans have never been to Alaska and this show is probably the closest a lot of us will get. Of course, one could make the case that if one wanted to see the wonders of Alaska on television one could tune into a PBS program like Nature. But it is one thing to see bears fighting in a river; it’s another to see it as it is being observed by the Palin family.
Labash points out that critics of the show on Twitter take 9-year-old Piper Palin to task for making “racist anti-bear calls.” (Frankly, I didn’t know growling at bears constituted an act of racism. Do they think Piper would have spared polar bears her heckling?) But what Labash doesn’t point out is that the Mama Grizzly herself took young Piper to task for scaring the bears. For generations children have found ways to scare animals, leaving it to their parents to tell them it is not a nice thing to do.
If one wants to have a complete picture of Sarah Palin it would be impossible to do so without her husband and her children. One could argue that Palin is exploiting her children by including them in <em>Sarah Palin’s Alaska, but it’s an argument that collapses on its own weight. Sarah Palin is one of the most recognizable people on the face of the earth. Unfortunately, many people despise her for what she believes or what they think she believes. Consequentially, her children become part of the public domain and are hit with the debris of defamation. As long as Palin’s children are public figures they might as well be presented on their own turf and in their own element — warts and all. Yet in some way it is reassuring that Piper picks on her older sister Willow and vice versa and Mama Grizzly has to tell them to settle down.
Alas Charen and Labash find the proceedings more than a tad undignified. They certainly don’t find it presidential. Why else would they both complain about Palin’s Twitter use? Let them sneer at reality television and social networking to their heart’s content. The fact of the matter is these things mean a great deal to people. Whether we like it or not, who wins Dancing with the Stars means more to people than our monetary policy. Whether we like it or not, people define themselves by their Facebook status. All Palin has done is to tap into this new reality. She is merely using the social networking medium the way Ronald Reagan used television when he hosted General Electric Theater. While Palin espouses traditional values she is not taking a traditional path to the presidency. The question is whether she can carve out her own path to electoral success.
Assuming Palin decides to take a run at the White House, she will undoubtedly do so with the knowledge that she will encounter enormous barriers along that path led by a liberal media (with a little help from some condescending conservatives) determined to keep President Obama in office. In fact, she should expect them to be a thousand times more arduous and vicious than those she faced in 2008. The difference now is that no one will stop her from clearing the brush. With her pioneering spirit, this time she gets to do things her way.