Tunku Varadarajan, normally a perceptive writer, fumbles in a recent Daily Beast article about Sarah Palin. The piece is an attempt to explain why Palin drives the left insane. Tunku’s conclusion: Palin arrived via the back roads of America, not through Andover and Yale. She’s plainspoken, and elites hate that. And not least, she’s beautiful, which always irritates journalists, who tend to be losers. Thus, both Barbara Bush and Frank Rich can’t stand her.
Varadarajan doesn’t quite get to firm coherence in his argument, probably because he ignores the most obvious thing about Sarah Palin: the woman is dead sexy. And that, more than Palin’s schooling, TV show, or Mayberry diction, drives liberals insane. Contra Varadarajan, Barbara Bush’s dismissal of Palin was more of a wise crack; it was not animated by the kind of volcanic dementia that liberals like Frank Rich, Andrew Sullivan and Keith Olbermann display. This more vicious hatred on the left arises from the fact that Sarah Palin is arguable the sexiest woman alive.
Varadarajan couldn’t say it in the Daily Beast, because some truths are so discomforting that they would get spiked even in the wild tundra of the internet. He does cite her beauty as a reason liberals can’t stand her, but beauty is different from sex appeal. Someone who got closer to the matter was Lee Siegel, the writer who aroused the left several years ago when he wrote a piece in the New Republic about the TV show “Sex and the City.” Siegel found the show to be deeply misogynistic; more, he tied its hostility to women to the gay writers and creators of the show. Siegel notes that while there have always been gay writers and actors who poke fun at heterosexual life, “there is a quality to Sex and the City’s subversions that is more bitter than playful, an element that is almost vindictive. Running through Sex and the City is a subtext that amounts to a manifesto for a certain kind of raw, rough, promiscuous, anonymous gay male sex. Star and King sounded the call to arms in one of the very first episodes, when they had Stanford Blatch, Carrie’s loyal gay friend, declare that ‘the only place where you can find love is the gay community. It’s straight love that’s closeted.’”
When Sarah Jessica Parker, the show’s lead actress, got pregnant, one of the creators said: “Sarah’s our workhorse, our show pony. We put her in high heels and tell her to run thirty blocks. Now, all of a sudden, she has to be babied.” Siegel: “In its caricature of women who talk about sex like men, and, like men, have orgasms every time they have sex, the show represents a kind of counterattack on women’s biology. The expensive, mismatched, chic-ugly clothes that Carrie wears; Sarah Jessica Parker’s confused interpretations of her character as a black girl one episode and a self-conscious suburban cutie the next; Samantha’s robotic-erotic, stud-like manner (and the sweaty, atrocious acting of Kim Cattrall, who could not stand still and convince you that she is a person standing still); the women’s starry-eyed gold-digging; their countless humiliations: the picture of heterosexual life projected by Sex and the City, though it sometimes hits the nail right on the head, is the biggest hoax perpetrated on straight single women in the history of entertainment. The series’ misogyny is matched by its homophobia: the only regular gay characters, Stanford and Anthony, are self-hating and flaming, respectively.”
It is this hatred of female sexuality that fuels much of the Palin Derangement Syndrome. During the cultural revolution of the 1960s, liberals who were enlightened about the dignity of blacks nonetheless often expressed a deep-seated misogyny. Pornographers like Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt are two obvious examples, as are the male “free love” hippies who were out to get theirs from women without acting honorably. But it also expressed itself in more mainstream cultural forms. I recently saw Robert Altman’s movie M*A*S*H for the first time in years, and I was stunned by the brutal hatred of women in the film, of the debasement of them and their sexuality. It was not enough to verbally reject the patriotic and, yes, sexy, Margaret Houlihan; she had to be publically humiliated in a practical joke that exposed her naked body to a large group of men — a kind of gang rape. It’s not a far step from there to Keith Olbermann calling Michelle Malkin “a mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick.”
It’s important to emphasize that what is striking about Palin, and what I am talking about, is not just her beauty, but her sexiness, and that these are different qualities. There are beautiful woman all over the media: Megyn Kelly. Dianne Sawyer. Soledad O’Brian. But the raw, fertile, wild Alaska woman sexuality of Palin is of a different degree. When pictures of her in her running shorts were published a few years ago, the reaction from most guys I talked to went beyond the hubba-hubba quips murmured when an attractive woman passes by. It was more like stunned silence. They — and, OK, me — had been seized by not only appreciation, but desire. Going through puberty in the 1970s, I was programmed to think of liberal women like Barbara Streisand and Diane Keaton as the sexy ones — conservatism was for steely Phyllis Schlafly and cold Anita Bryant, who was beautiful but not sexy.
With Palin, everything has changed. The dynamic, explosive, and primordial power of her kind of sexuality explains why some Palin-haters lose control of themselves, even if it hurts their own arguments. The most obvious example of this, of course, is blogger Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan’s hatred of Palin has curdled into something truly bizarre. He doesn’t blast her anymore, but instead has retreated into a state of paranoia. Palin is not an idiot; she is a dark star, a dangerous and manipulative entity who is deeply evil. It has gone beyond sarcasm to the worst kind of fuming high school bitterness. When the newspaper editor hates the most popular girl, it’s hard to get a coherent argument out of him.
And the truth of the matter is that Sullivan, like Frank Rich and the creators of “Sex and the City,” may have a serious problem with women. Especially when it’s a woman who is a cyclone of fertility and sex appeal who has actually, to the dismay of the pro-abortion left, had children. She has become more than merely human. She and her legs have achieved a kind of talismanic power over the hateful, resentful and pathetic.
Mark Gauvreau Judge is the author of several books, including Damn Senators and God and Man at Georgetown Prep. His articles and essays have appeared in various publications.