January 16, 2011

During the last episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska," TLC put up this teaser for its special "Kennedys' Home Movies."



Yes, they are both TLC shows, but why did TLC think the people watching a show about Sarah Palin and her family would be susceptible to a show about the Kennedys? (Meade raised this question in the comments to the post earlier today about "Sarah Palin's Alaska.")

Your first thought might be that it doesn't make much sense because liberals love the Kennedys and conservatives love the Palins. But let's assume TLC isn't run by idiots, that they know how to appeal to viewers. If you had to argue that a good chunk of the "Sarah Palin's Alaska" audience would like to watch "Kennedys' Home Movies," what would you argue?

I'd say: Not all American TV-watchers are strongly grounded in one political party or the other. These people are not cemented to abstract ideology. They may feel their way into politics through personalities. Or they may not care that much about politics at all and simply enjoy peering into the family lives of celebrities, and politicians are a special, elite breed of celebrity, like royalty. The Kennedys have been, for many people, America's royalty, and the Palins may be the new royal family that people who like that sort of thing like.

Obviously, there are differences. The Kennedys posed as European-style aristocracy, and the Palins present themselves as working-class Americans. But both are very much big, colorful families with a strong sense of geographical place — Massachusetts/Alaska — and a mesmerizingly beautiful and feminine woman to fascinate us. Both families have a lot of children who we get to see looking robust and active in outdoor settings — especially boats.

There's a romanticism of the family about it all. I'm not saying that's good. It's a point of entry by which political opinion seeps into a certain very common type of American brain. And it happens through television. Pay attention.

***

By the way, what do you think of the crazy culture clash that is Johnny Cash singing the Beatles ("In My Life") over home movies of the Kennedys?

92 comments:

Synova said...

I think you got it with "large, interesting family".

I would expect that quite a lot of the same people would find both shows interesting.

rhhardin said...

These people are not cemented to abstract ideology.

Abstract repels concrete.

chickelit said...

...what do you think of the crazy culture clash that is the Johnny Cash singing the Beatles ("In My Life")..

I eat it right up and love Johnny Cash even more.

rhhardin said...

Johnny Cash home movies

chickelit said...

It's interesting that you compare the Kennedy clan to the Palin clan. I've long thought that Obama was the anti-Kennedy, based on his thoughts and speeches. I hope your idea has legs.

chickelit said...

@rhhardin: You've seen this one too I hope?

shoutingthomas said...

There is a "mesmerizingly beautiful and feminine woman" in the Kennedy family.

You got me.

Who?

chr1 said...

Dear God, maybe we're becoming Britain!

And not in the best way...

Class factotum said...

Obviously, there are differences.

Yes, but didn't Sarah Palin drive over a bridge into the water and leave a guy to die? I mean, there are some serious commonalities.

fivewheels said...

No, I think that we've all seen that the people most intensely interested in and obsessed with Sarah Palin are the haters, not the fans. TLC probably has audience data that proves this.

Ann Althouse said...

"Yes, but didn't Sarah Palin drive over a bridge into the water and leave a guy to die?"

No, but she did get on a plane after her waters broke and leave Andrew Sullivan's rationality to die.

shoutingthomas said...

What a compare and contrast.

The favorite family of the liberals tries to emulate European royalty. The Kennedys want to create a European welfare state, where the little people petition the royals for ever better handouts.

The favorite family of the conservatives lives the frontier life. The Palins preach self-sufficiency and personal responsibility. If you want to better your life, go out and do it yourself.

Who wins this comparison?

edutcher said...

I'd say most American TV viewers aren't wedded to any ideology or party. The Kennedys are ancient history, somebody from your grandparents' time. Be interesting to see the demographics that come back.

Frankly, I think people are sick to death of the Kennedys. That whole "America's royalty" business was the same Establishment Media drooling over another generation of "sort of Gods".

Synova said...

I think you got it with "large, interesting family".

Don't forget dysfunctional. This is where the Palins seriously diverge.

Hagar said...

For a classless society, there is an awful lot of talk about class in this country, and most all of it is drivel.

SMGalbraith said...

No, but she did get on a plane after her waters broke and leave Andrew Sullivan's rationality to die.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Ann Althouse.

She'll be opening for Rickles all this week.

mesquito said...

I'd say: Not all American TV-watchers are strongly grounded in one political party or the other. These people are not cemented to abstract ideology.

After one hundred years of sturm und drang, the percentage of people who are ideologically categorizable has stayed stuck at about 5 percent.

Henry said...

By the way, what do you think of the crazy culture clash that is Johnny Cash singing the Beatles ("In My Life") over home movies of the Kennedys?

That was weird. And yet what the montage most reminded me of was the outdoor wedding scenes at the beginning of the first Godfather.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Big Mike said...

A few months back liberals were arguing that Ronald Reagan could not be nominated in today's Republican party. (IMAO they were wrong, as usual.)

But here's a question for people to chew on. Could John Kennedy be nominated in the Democrat party of 2011?

Henry said...

Think about it (the Godfather). At the beginning of the movie you are introduced to all of these beautiful characters who are going to go bad, or come to a bad end. You can't watch any of the joy without a feeling of melancholy apprehension and even (flash the mug of Teddy) horror.

shoutingthomas said...

But here's a question for people to chew on. Could John Kennedy be nominated in the Democrat party of 2011?

No. His reckless personal behavior would not be covered up by the press, like it was 50 years ago.

He was sleeping with Sam Giancana's girlfriend, probably in the White House. The press knew and covered it up.

I think you're also making a mistake in thinking that he would represent some sort of moderate Democratic candidate.

Youngblood said...

Althouse,

Demographics frequently trump politics. The median age of Alaska's viewers was in the high 50's. That means that roughly half of the shows audience would be in the sweet spot for Kennedy nostalgia.

1jpb said...

"They may feel their way into politics"

As if the TPers (and hard core left folks) don't feel their way into politics?

Has Althouse read the comments on her blog?

Has she been listening to her spousal unit, and his visceral (but absurd, by historical standards) feelings of oppression, that he's expressed in these threads.

Youngblood said...

1jpb,

I thought that what you're getting at was the whole point of the last paragraph in Althouse's post.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

On a very distantly related (discordant commercial), but really just an O/T topic, has anyone paid any attention to the ads on Fox News (and elsewhere?) for something called RT.com? The fifteen-second ad shows a group of solemn types playing something like Monopoly and tells you if you want the straight story you must go to RT.com. No other information.

Curiosity got the best of me so I went. Turns out "RT" stands for Russia Today, a pro-Putin propaganda organ financed by the Russian federal budget. What in hell is Rupert Murdoch thinking?

Hagar said...

Shoutingthomas,

Judith Campbell was Teddy's girlfriend, taken over by JFK, and then passed along to Giancana.

So the don was sleeping with a Kennedy moll; not the other way around.

Bruce Hayden said...

What was humorous to me was that I clicked to Meade's link while I was waiting for another segment of the Palin video to load. And, then I found myself watching the Kennedy video with the Palin sound track. A lot of Mrs. Palin's "awesomes" while watching the Kennedys acting royal. Quite the unplanned juxtaposition.

I think that maybe part of the thought behind the Kennedy video is that they are trying to show that liberals really have real families too, and those families are just more sophisticated than the red neck ones supporting Palin and the Tea Party movement. Plus, of course, another tug of Camelot, the last time that the Democrats really had something for the rest of us to aspire to.

Who would want to grow up in the Carter or Clinton families? Some times I almost feel sorry for Chelsea, growing up with those looks and two very disfunctional parents. Especially her father, who is still one of the most self-absorbed narcissistic men on this planet.

chickelit said...

SMGalbraith said...

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Ann Althouse.

She'll be opening for Rickles all this week.


Galbraith, you should see Joan Rivers's "A Piece Of Work" (2010) to appreciate what you wrote even more.

CatherineM said...

"Narrated by Stockard Channing." She is part of the generation that worships all things Kennedy. The same people who think Sarah Palin is unqualified for anything and everything, but Caroline Kennedy, a woman who has never held a job, is qualified to be appointed Senator. Obviously, Caroline thought she was qualified too.

Hopefully, Patrick is the last Kennedy to go into "public service" (I hate that term - as though winning public office is a sacrifice and a selfless act) and be elected just because he's a Kennedy.

Phil 3:14 said...

I think you're reading too much into this. Like all of the pundits this past week, you're assuming that attention paid to a politician implies a political motivation.

Seems to be more of an issue of celebrity.

traditionalguy said...

The Kennedys needed lots of love...from every young lady that they could get. Not that there is anything wrong with that. And Marilyn Monroe arranged to murder herself, right. There was something wrong with that.

Ann Althouse said...

Is there a word for what commenters do when they make the same point I made in the post as if they are disagreeing with me or pointing out something I missed?

edutcher said...

Big Mike said...

A few months back liberals were arguing that Ronald Reagan could not be nominated in today's Republican party. (IMAO they were wrong, as usual.)

But here's a question for people to chew on. Could John Kennedy be nominated in the Democrat party of 2011?


That, of course, is the real issue.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Ann Althouse said...

Is there a word for what commenters do when they make the same point I made in the post as if they are disagreeing with me or pointing out something I missed?


That's why you're the blogger and we're the blogees.

Phil 3:14 said...

But this does suggest an alternative way to "elect" our presidents. Instead of nasty, expensive and prolonged campaigns, why not have candidates create their own reality show. After a 12 week run we could review the ratings. Those in the top 6 could get a second run and then again we'd review the ratings. In the third and final season, we'd just have two campaigns/shows.

If each season was only 12 weeks we could be done with it in less than a year. You could even create an entire network:

The Campaign Network.

Think of all of the shows! Ooh, the possibilities. This picture" alone begs for a sit-com!

Donald Douglas said...

Well, since you're talking about Palin, I'll track-back this post here.

Linked: 'The Left's Big Lie: A Chronology of Progressive Deception in the Aftermath of Tucson, 1/8/11'.

traditionalguy said...

That word is "illiterate". But no body's perfect all of the time...or most of the time ...or heck with it.

William said...

Maybe it's a bank shot against the Palins. There's a pang of sadness every time you look at Kennedy's happy, perfect family, but you cannot help wondering how much of it was a scam. There was such a huge gulf between what you saw and what was happening. I'd like to think that the Palin scandals are within normal limits and do not approach those of the Kennedys, but one never knows.

chickelit said...

Is there a word for what commenters do when they make the same point I made in the post as if they are disagreeing with me or pointing out something I missed?

How about comment à la vous?

I think it's mostly a friendly gesture.

Fen said...

Hey hey hey! Crack got an Instalaunche! Grats!

Henry said...

Wonjaypeebeeing doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Fen said...

1jpb: As if the TPers (and hard core left folks)

I know you've been subjected to a torrent of liberal propaganda over the last 2 year re the Tea Party, but including them alongside the "hard core left" is a bit much.

bgates said...

His reckless personal behavior would not be covered up by the press, like it was 50 years ago, or like Clinton's was 15 years ago, or like John Edwards' was three years ago?

wv "proni" - how discussions of Democrat personal behavior inevitably sound.

deborah said...

"Is there a word for what commenters do when they make the same point I made in the post as if they are disagreeing with me or pointing out something I missed?"

Hmmm, you could coin one, or just say 'one demerit for Phil.'

rsb said...

Kennedy's are in there because they have proven themselves to be good ad revenue.

Meade said...

Class factotum: "Yes, but didn't Sarah Palin drive over a bridge into the water and leave a guy to die?"

Ann Althouse: "No, but she did get on a plane after her waters broke and leave Andrew Sullivan's rationality to die."

Me: And Andrew Sullivan is still driving over that same bridge to nowhere.

Ralph L said...

They used Cash because he sounds like he's about to croak.

Any guesses why the Kennedys waited this long to release this stuff? Caroline can't be thinking of running for something.

chickelit said...

Meade said: And Andrew Sullivan is still driving over that same bridge to nowhere.

I think it's because he can see Alaska from D.C.

wv = andian adj. Early 21th century term for followers of columnist Andrew Sullivan. "Andian" was considered less derogatory that "Sullivanist" although the veiled reference to "Randian" was often overlooked.

R.L. Hunter said...

There's a romanticism of the family about it all. I'm not saying that's good. It's a point of entry by which political opinion seeps into a certain very common type of American brain. And it happens through television. Pay attention.

Indeed, These movies were shot on 8 mm film that didn't have sound, so unless you were there when they were shot (there's that nasty metaphor again.) you only have a vague idea of whats going on.

The narration of what these films represent should prove interesting.

Joan said...

the Palins present themselves as working-class Americans

No, the Palins are working-class Americans. People who fish for a living, or work on the slopes in an oil field, are not white collar workers no matter how you look at them. That Palin transcended that by moving from PTA mom up through the ranks to governor of AK speaks well of her work ethic and willingness to dive across that class boundary.

As someone who has spent most of life similarly straddling the blue collar/white collar class divide, I only recently became fully aware of how much coming from a mostly blue-collar background has influenced all the major decisions of my life.

America has never been a classless society. What we have always been, though, is a society wherein you get to choose, through your own efforts, which class you'd like to live in.

Phil 3:14 said...

Well Professor my wife calls it "wife deafness" but that wouldn't apply in this case since I didn't hear it and you're not my wife.

I have but one defense:

Y chromosome

(When you use so many words about a possible connection and then conclude there is no connection, I get confused and go into my "fix it"mode. I must be "tamed" of this predisposition.

I'll just sit quietly now and watch the football game)

garage mahal said...

Better question for TLC is why they would want the Palins on a learning channel on a science network.

Michael said...

The meme that Reagan could not be nominated by today's Republican Party is an obsession over at Washington Monthly lately. Interestingly enough, there is also great interest in Ron Jr's new book where he says his father was senile through his entire presidency.

I haven't seen the theme emerge yet that he couldn't be nominated because he was senile. Somehow, that is one that won't appear.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

Is there a word for what commenters do when they make the same point I made in the post as if they are disagreeing with me or pointing out something I missed?

If you meant me when I said, "I'd say most American TV viewers aren't wedded to any ideology or party.", I was simply making a distinction where you said not all and I just thought it would be wider-spread than that.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

garage mahal said...

Better question for TLC is why they would want the Palins on a learning channel on a science network.


Good point. As well, why would they present programs about ghosts, UFOs, global warming, or Howard Zinn's version of history? Frickin' capitalist pigs.

Youngblood said...

"Better question for TLC is why they would want the Palins on a learning channel on a science network."

Ha! You don't think that the names of cable networks have anything to do with what they broadcast anymore, do you? (TLC hasn't been "The Learning Channel" since the mid-to-late 1990's.)

Phil 3:14 said...

More on the subject

kent said...

No, but she did get on a plane after her waters broke and leave Andrew Sullivan's rationality to die.

Devastating only because it's so inarguably true. ;)

deborah said...

Althouse has eyes in the back of her head.

ricpic said...

Could John Kennedy be nominated in the Democratic Party of 2011?

If the economy is as rocky in 2011 as I think it will be there is a real possibility that Obama will be challenged by Evan Bayh. Bayh is a man of the center-left, about as close to Kennedy as one can get, politically.

rhhardin said...

Is there a word for what commenters do when they make the same point

Déjà view.

Florida said...

"Better question for TLC is why they would want the Palins on a learning channel on a science network."

Viewers, baby. VIEWERS!

Youngblood said...

Joan,

Sarah Palin has spent the majority of her adult life as a politician, a political appointee, and a media personality. She is no more working class than President Obama would be if Michelle took up bricklaying or something like that tomorrow.

That's not to say that Palin is a horrible person or even that she would make a bad president*. It's just that she does work to present herself as something other than a career politician when, in reality, she has been exactly that.

Her backup plan in case her 2006 run for governor didn't pan out was a marketing and consulting firm called "Rouge Cou" -- bastardized French for "red neck". You don't think that she hasn't been thinking long and hard about marketing things the amorphous working class population outside of the Northeast and the South, do you?

Palin is very savvy and has a grasp of communications and marketing that most people working in the industry can only dream of. That's not a bad thing, but it is a thing, and it has a huge influence on the way that she presents herself and her story.

Hagar said...

The 2012 primaries are likely to be 5-ring circuses for both parties.

Stevie said...

You do know that the Kennedy show has been deemed "unfit for public viewing" and will not be shown after all, don't you? They have had "second thoughts" even though the case has some notables and the show is in the can.

Seems the Kennedy influence of the entertainment industry is still alive and well thanks to the Shriver-Schwartzenegger connections.

How many millions did that connection just cost investors of TLC? You know, those folks investing in their 401ks that buy stock in DCI - the parent company. You know, the little people.

Florida said...

"Better question for TLC is why they would want the Palins on a learning channel on a science network."

Sarah Palin’s Alaska averaged 2.56 million viewers - the highest rated show on TLC.

Keith Olbermann, on the other hand, saw double-digit declines in his audience in 2010 ... worst performance of the year for MSNBC.

People are voting with their clickers and you're losing.

Finally, TLC is a "non-fiction media company," not a "science network."

kent said...

"Better question for TLC is why they would want the Palins on a learning channel on a science network."

Makes at least as much sense as does sporting Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews on a (*snicker*) "news network."

Florida said...

"t's just that she does work to present herself as something other than a career politician when, in reality, she has been exactly that."

Bullshit.

Sarah Palin graduated from the University of Idaho with a Communications degree and was for most of her early adulthood was a journalist. She also helped run her husband's fishing business.

She did not become a politician until 1996 when she ran for Mayor of small town Wasilla, AK ... where she garnered a total of 651 votes. Hardly a Washington insider or corrupt Chicago pol.

Her first action was to reduce her own salary by $6,800 a year - a 10% pay cut.

How much did Barack Obama cut his pay? Or the pay of federal employees?

She then cut property taxes 75%.

Sarah Palin was always blue collar. That's why the Harvard crowd hates her with a passion.

She is horning in on their hegemony and threatens to interrupt the Goldman Sachs Train Robbery.

knox said...

You do know that the Kennedy show has been deemed "unfit for public viewing" and will not be shown after all, don't you?

That was the Kennedys miniseries that was going to air on Discovery, not the home movies on TLC. I'm pretty sure.

knox said...

Why the Kennedy's (a bunch of gross politicians) are deemed especially interesting, or even "royalty" is beyond me.

I am so over this Boomer obsession. BARF

Deborah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kent said...

The Kennedys = the political/intellectual equivalent of the Kardashians.

Youngblood said...

Knox wrote:

"That was the Kennedys miniseries that was going to air on Discovery, not the home movies on TLC. I'm pretty sure."

The miniseries on the Kennedys was made for the History Channel.

JAL said...

The Kennedy family thing makes me think of Charles and Diana. They looked great with their little ones too. And talk about extended dysfunctional family ....

Because JKF died young and in such a dramatic way -- we'll never know if and when Jackie would have said "Good-bye Jack" and walked out the door.

I do think she had more "class" than Hillary had/has. And Jackie didn't need Jack as much as he needed her. No political ambitions and a life of her own.

We do like to romanticize young families.

Back to Palin -- why wasn't she wearing gloves when she was scrambling up the mountain? Wasn't she afraid of messing up her nails?

Politically -- I think she is also smart enough to realize she doesn't have to be the answer to everything ... but if she were prez you can be sure we won't be hostage to $100 barrel oil and we could evolve our energy answers instead of having them rammed down our throats.

kent said...

... but if she were prez you can be sure we won't be hostage to $100 barrel oil and we could evolve our energy answers instead of having them rammed down our throats.

Also: "memorial services" wouldn't be the equivalent of MTV Spirng-Break-at-Fort-Lauderdale specials, complete with free beverages, complimentary "group identity" t-shirts and orchestrated stamping/chanting/applauding.

Hagar said...

Jackie Bouvier had a deal with old Joe that she would not walk out on Jack, and he would guarantee that she and her children would be financially secure for their lifetimes.

And Jackie kept her word; there was good steel in her.

hombre said...

Ted excepted, I find much more to admire about John and Robert Kennedy than about the bozos running the Democrat party today.

I imagine there are plenty of Dems like me from the old days for whom the Palins and the earlier Kennedys look a hell of a lot more like America than the lefties and the current Chicago mob.

E.M. Davis said...

Once Johnny Cash covers your song, it's no longer belongs to you —it's his.

"One" by U2 is a great song, but Cash managed to improve on it.

Same with the cover of NIN's "Hurt."

PatCA said...

ABC is going full Princess Di now.
The Congresswoman and the Astronaut: An American Story of Love and Strength

Methadras said...

Is their version of the Fairness Doctrine?

bagoh20 said...

JFK had more in common with Palin supporters than today's liberals. I think the spot was smart marketing.

Penny said...

TLC is the "Tender Loving Care" channel.

Reality TV for the family oriented woman.

David said...

Hagar..."For a classless society, there is an awful lot of talk about class in this country, and most all of it is drivel"

This is becoming far more of a class-based society than it has hitherto been, and 90% of it is driven by obsessive credentialism, which is encouraged by and benefits the universities.

It is ironic: the expanded public support for higher education, beginning with the GI Bill, was based on the premise that it would *reduce* class barriers and encourage social mobility. Maybe it did this for a while, but now it is working in the opposite direction.

BigDave said...

a good part of this appeal must be considered this way--

modern Americans know the Democrat party has shifted hard left, is now thrusting socialism or worse upon us, no longer loves and respects the great traditions of America.

But those who have lived long enough are aware that the Kennedys weren't that way. At least not until the late 80s when Teddy became a soviet stooge, and Patrick joined the ranks a bit later on.

I do not remember JFK as a leftist. I think he was a proud American in the Truman tradition. I was easily tired of the Aristocrat pose, but I was still interested.

BJM said...

@garage

"Better question for TLC is why they would want the Palins on a learning channel on a science network."

To make money.

Perhaps you should take a look at Discovery Communications Inc's executive committee and founder for a clue.

Do the names John Malone or David Zaslav ring any bells?

I'll leave it to you to figure out which party which party they support.

bob said...

There's one fundamental difference between the Kennedys and the Palins... the Palins earned their money honestly, unlike the Kennedy fortune built on rum-running and stock manipulation.

Bill Dalasio said...

To compare Sarah Palin and her family to the Kennedys is outragous and inappropriate. There's no evidence whatsoever that either Todd Palin or Charles Heath was a gangster who leveraged political influence to shut down their competition. There's no evidence either Todd Palin or Charles Heath ever brought their mistresses to Sunday dinnner. There's no evidence either has ever had their kid lobotomized for backtalk. Although I'm sure Andrew Sullivan is working on that last one.

Moneyrunner said...

Bob,

Another difference is that Sarah Palin earned her money while the Kennedy boys inherited it.

Moneyrunner said...

Sorry, I hit enter before finishing.

Another difference is that Sarah Palin earned her money while the Kennedy boys inherited it. Earning your money instead of having it handed to you, along with the Presidency, makes you appreciate the effort it takes. It also teaches you that the money people earn is first of all theirs, not the government’s. Trust fund babies like the Kennedy boys focus on other things, like status and rank, the prerogatives of royalty.

BJM said...

@moneyrunner

Trust fund babies like the Kennedy boys focus on other things, like status and rank, the prerogatives of royalty.

Especially when they are never called to account for how Joe made the money, or Rose's father's political thuggery.

Before garage gets his mensies in a wedge, as a naive, fledgling Liberal, I worked tirelessly for the JFK campaign and would have cast my first vote for a second term.

However something brought me to my senses in 1965, it began with:

Greetings,

From that point on my motto as regards the left has been: Hell No!

Methadras said...

What are we supposed to get out of this series of homey images? That the Kennedy's in their lavish east coast lifestyles are the progenitors of the Ralph Lauren way of life? That they are the product of the illicit bootleg trade thanks to dad and this is how they basically have whitewashed their money up to the level of acceptability? That everything they have touched is cursed either on them or on those that follow them? This family is cursed. They've made their deals with the devil and the payment has effected us all. I've said this before that the assassination of Kennedy to this day still has ramifications and reverberations that we are still dealing with to this very day. And not for the better either.

ampontan said...

There might be some synchronicity going on here. Try this recent David Warren column:

"Indeed, on plain policy as opposed to superficial style, I defy anyone to prove that John F. Kennedy was to the left of Sarah Palin. From tax-cutting to anti-Communist confrontation -- with all the Norman Rockwell in between -- his positions were generally those we now associate with Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, though presented in the smoother suit of an age when men wore narrow ties, with two-inch collars."

http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/index.php?id=1235