January 23, 2007

"Effort to 'Humanize' Clinton Is Underway."

That's the hilarious teaser on the home page of the Washington Post, leading to this article.
The effort to "humanize" Clinton, as her advisers have put it, was in full swing just two days into her presidential campaign.
Oh! So it's her advisors who are supplying the term that implies that she is not human. Wouldn't want the WaPo editorializing. But since it's her advisors... well, let's just have a laugh at the ineptitude of political advisors. Come on, you fools, just humanize her. Don't tell the press you're trying to humanize her!
Dressed in the same pastel jacket for all her appearances, Clinton sat on a sofa against a soft backdrop of bookshelves and a yellow curtain for her Web chat. She was joined by her campaign's blogger, Crystal Patterson, who read viewer questions aloud. Almost all of the inquiries were from women, and nearly one-third were from New York. One question was about the role Chelsea Clinton will play in the campaign (unclear, her mom said).

She hedged on her favorite movie, saying that, as a child, she had loved "The Wizard of Oz," only to discover "Casablanca" in college and law school, watching it so often that she memorized the lines. (Her passion for the Meryl Streep-Robert Redford classic "Out of Africa" came later, she said.) But she was clear about her own conviction that she can become president.
Can't you just picture the robotic brain gears turning, trying to think of a movie that would say just the thing she needs said? Oh, why didn't she have a "favorite movie" planned before she went into this on-line chat to humanize herself? "Wizard of Oz," can't go wrong there.... except it's childish, and not very imaginative or distinctive. "Casablanca"! That's a great movie everyone loves. Possibly more sophisticated than "Wizard of Oz." But anyone could think of "Casablanca." I need something that would have at least some individuality to it. Was there ever anything that ever stirred me? Damn it, I've been busy. I haven't been sitting around like you cookie-bakers staring at screens, waiting for some damned moving image to stir some -- what is it you people have? -- emotion. Oh, hell, there was that thing.... "Out of Africa"!

Plot summary
(with spoilers):
Karen Blixen [Meryl Streep], a Danish woman, marries a friend for the title of Baroness and they move to Africa and start a coffee plantation. Things unfold when her husband begins cheating on her and is away on business often, so she's at home alone, working on the farm and bonding with two men she met in her first day in Africa. She eventually falls in love with the one, Denys Finch-Hatton [Robert Redford] and goes on safari and whatnot with him. Later, she begins to want more from him than the simple friendship/relationship they have and pushes marriage, but Denys still wants his freedom.
No, no, damn you, bloggers! You're so eager to bring up my problems with Bill. Don't you be digging up my problems with Bill. Don't you bastards say that I picked "Out of Africa" because I empathized with Karen Blixen! Who the f*ck do you think you are? How dare you dredge up this scurrilous suggestion that I am............................. human.


Anonymous said...

This is my first visit here. That was hilarious--first, that her own advisors admit the need for "humanizing" (or is it humanization?) and second, your analysis of the movie selection.

Brent said...

She seems to have Al Gore syndrome . . .

This woman "named after Sir Edmund Hillary" (not!):

"Probably when I was in college and law school, Casablanca. You know, I watched it, I don't know how many times, and you know it was always so just much fun, and by the time we watched it over and over again we were actually reciting the dialogue"

Just how did she watch Casablanca so often during college and law school?

Was it playing at a theater near her during her college (graduated Wellesley 1969)and law school years (graduated Yale 1973).

She certainly wasn't watching it on Sony's betamax - introduced 1975. Or VHS - introduced 1976.

Ann Althouse said...

Actually, Brent, not only were there campus cinemas that showed old films all the time in those days (when I went to college), but old movies were shown on TV, and "Casablanca" was one of the most popular of the movies shown on TV. In fact, the classic status of the movie developed over the years as people grew fond of it from repeated TV watchings.

Brent said...

Thank you Ann. My college graduation was 1977, and I do remember campus movies - though, to be honest, very few had many repeated showings. You are certainly correct about TV constantly repeating. I just checked a TV guide from 1974 (LA edition)and found 3 showings that week of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" on a local station - and this was before cable channels.

bill said...

If she had a sense of humor, she'd of said "Macbeth."

KCFleming said...

Ann has definitely had her Wheaties this morning. On fire, she is. Damn funny commentary.

Maury E said...

I watched the entire Hilary show live last evening--even submitted a [disregarded] question. I was impressed by Hill's savoire faire. 'Humanize' did not for a nanosec imply She isn't human--it simply acknowledged a public/media perception which a levelheaded campaign had to address. Yes, the favorite movie question/response was a bit overprepared--but any candidate is going to have a safe, canned answer ready for that one. But if you watched the Hill show last night, weren't you just a little bit impressed by her command?

Mark Daniels said...

I do think that there are at least two robotic candidates in the field right now. One, of course, is Senator Clinton. Having been around the game awhile, including media firestorms, she's so cautious and calculating that it's difficult imagine her connecting with voters.

The other is Mitt Romney. I think past experience plays a role in that as well. His father was eliminated from consideration for the presidency because of his famous "brainwashed" interview prior to the 1968 New Hampshire primary. Romney seems to be paranoid about making the same mistake.

Mark Daniels

Jennifer said...

Mwa ha ha ha ha!! Oh, sigh. And here's a great example of what keeps me coming back no matter how many wacko anti-Althousianites set up shop.

Jim Hu said...

The other two choices (spoilers):
The Wizard of Oz is about several of the characters thinking they need humanization. And Hillary doesn't need comparisons to the Wicked Witch of the West.

Casablanca is about a self-absorbed American coming to recognize the need to fight a global threat. Not the best choice to explain either her early votes for the war to Dems,

Rick: I bet they're asleep in New York. I'll bet they're asleep all over America

or her recent stands to anyone else.

Rick:...I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world...

Anonymous said...

Hillary had to switch from "Oz" because her advisors didn't know all the words to "We Represent The Lollipop Guild."

If only Sandy Berger (no, not the Norwegian Berger in Casablanca!) had gotten away with The Letters of HealthCare! Signed by General DeGaulle! Cannot be recinded, even questioned!

Hmmm...Vince Foster = Peter Lorre?
Albright = S.Z. Sakall?
Gengrich = Major Strasser?

No one is witty enough to be Claude Rains, sorry!

If Bill is Bogie...then I'm Jack Warner!

PatCA said...

Didn't anyone ask a substantive question of Oprah (Clinton)?? Or maybe Gayle (Crystal) intercepted and quashed them. What's next, her favorite 'stay home and bake cookies and support her man' recipe?

This is going to get really old really fast.

Kirk Parker said...

Shorter plot summary (courtesy my brilliant wife):

"Rich woman makes a mess of her life, in a beautiful setting."

Richard Fagin said...

Of COURSE The Wizard of Oz is Hillary's favorite movie! I didn't realize all we needed to do to sink her presidential ambitions was to dump a bucket of water on her. Apologies to Margaret Hamilton.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Thanks for that bit of research.

I had thought Out of Africa was the "The dingo ate my baby! The dingo ate my baby!" movie. Perhaps I was wrong.

Notice the progression. Childhood fantasy; adult romance; middle-aged adultery. It's the story of her life in movies.

It is also striking that the movies hit a number of genres and great performances at the same time. I'm not saying someone should like bad movies. But most people I know would pick three movies within the same genre and one would probably be noticeably better or more mainstream than the other two.

David Pinto said...

Harvard Square Cinema showed Casablanca at least once a month back in the 1970s. It's not that much of a hike from Wellesley. I used to enjoy dragging friends who never saw the film before to watch the movie on the big screen.

Laura Reynolds said...

I lived in a college town in the 70s and smallish theaters near campus showed lots of classics of which Bogart movies were very common.

Also Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields along with up to date fare like Groove Tube. I am not sure but I think having smoked pot within an hour of showtime was required for admission.

Bill Dalasio said...

I'll play the role of the contrarian once again. I don't want "human". I want larger than life, strike-fear-into-the-hearts-our-enemies, marble statue, above-the-fray, demi-royalty. Bring back Newt!

Richard Dolan said...

"Come on, you fools, just humanize her. Don't tell the press you're trying to humanize her!"

Yes, of course. In this context, that's just a demand that these handlers be minimally competent. And it's funny that they can't even rise to that not-very-demanding standard.

But better yet, Hill should just get rid of all the marketing wizards (a/k/a/ "you fools") who want to sell her as if she were a deodorant. That she is cold and calculating is both true and, in a presidential candidate, all for the good -- who wants some hand-wringing wimp as president, someone who will confuse sentiment for the national interest, or can't figure out the consequences of whatever they are proposing to do if they just had the ability to look three (or thirty three) steps down the road?

Far more dangerous to her candidacy than the "cold and calculating" stuff is the view of Hill that she stands for nothing and is prepared to say or do whatever is convenient at the moment -- all in pursuit of power for its own sake. That's another way of saying that Hill is often assumed to be a faker and a fraud, offering a phony public image invented for the latest campaign by a bunch of hucksters. Many dismiss her "move to the center" in that way, as well as her tortured efforts to come to terms with Iraq and the GWOT while still remaining a viable Democratic candidate. I don't think she is a faker or a fraud at all -- certainly, not to the extent that so many politicians are -- nor would I dismiss lightly the complicated positions (particularly on national security issues) she's tried to stake out. Unlike some of the other potential Dems, she strikes me as a candidate who understands the problems facing America as well as the political realities. If she ends up running against a McCain or a Guiliani, I think her candidacy will be dead in the water if she lets these "humanizing handlers" try to make her into something she obviously isn't. Instead, it would do her good just to bare -- a little bit, anyway -- the cold, hard, calculating kind of person and politician that she really is, and along the way to give the rest of us some reason to believe that she should be the person keeping America safe while leading us to wherever she thinks the country should be going.

These are not the times when America can afford to have a feel-good lightweight as president. Whatever you think of Hill, a feel-good lightweight doesn't describe her. She's the only currently announced Dem candidate that I could imagine ever supporting. I doubt that I will end up supporting her, but I'm quite sure I won't if she opts for the fake handler/humanizing stuff.

chuckR said...

Scripted? Remember when President Nixon was caught in a 'relaxed' moment walking on the beach? He was wearing a dark suit and oxfords. This sounds similar.

And has she been using Kerry's folks to help devise tone-deaf answers?

Bruce Hayden said...

Bill Dalasio:

Then I think that your candidate has to be Mrs. Clinton.

And, indeed, though I don't like the woman, and distrust her immensely, the one reason that I wouldn't be as scared with her in the White House than most others of her party is that I would possibly trust in fighting the War on Terror. She has a well deserved reputation for hitting back twice as hard whenever she is attacked (Dick Morris in his book on her suggested that it came from her father teaching her how to respond to a bully).

My dislike and distrust of her comes primarily from her use of this against political opponents and that she is extremely venal, putting money and power (in that order I think) above ethics and morality more than anyone else I know at her level (which says a lot).

But a woman, esp. a Democrat, running for president, esp. now during this War on Terror, has to be tough, and Hillary is that tough.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that Mrs. Clinton needs to humanize herself primarily to get the nomination. All those who are so into feeling, etc. on the left need to be placated. But after that, she can mostly revert to self, and let her toughness come out, as that is the thing that will bring over those in the middle and disarm those on the right.

Fat Man said...

Hilary just doesn't seem like the type who would say that her favorite movie is: "The Big Lebowski."

BTW: IMHO, WoO is far more profound that Casablanca.

Abe said...

This "conservative" thinks Hillary will be our next President -- and believes it to be a good thing! I'm beginning to wonder if 2008 is going to be a disaster.

Maxine Weiss said...

The ubiquitous sofa prevails.

And, it's a definite sofa....not a couch!

But, why the yellow curtain, and not drapes?

Is there a difference between curtains and drapes?

Peace, Maxine

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I, for one, thank Hubbard that they're trying to humanize her and not deify her [like Tom Cruise].

Drew W said...

The Wizard Of Oz . . . Casablanca . . . Out Of Africa . . .

After reading Prof. Althouse's post, the WashPost article and the commenters above, the movie that comes most to mind is James Whale's Frankenstein.

I see a hunchbacked Crystal Patterson lurching excitedly around the slab on which the junior Senator from New York lies swathed in pastel bandages. A lab-coated Mandy Grunwald strides purposefully across the room and closes an oversized single-throw switch on the wall, channeling a massive charge of charismatic electability into the prone candidate and bellowing "She's alive! She's alive!"

Well, it worked for Boris Karloff anyway.

Meade said...

Sometimes its hard to be a Clinton
Giving those advisors a free hand
Oh, they'll spin bad things
And they'll spin good things
To make you almost seem human

But you crave power and so you'll give in,
Feign passion voters can comprehend
And since you need them
You'll have to feed them
'Cause after all you're in to win

Stand by their spin
Give them factoids that ring true
Bake cookies warm like moms do
You might seem less robotic

Stand by their spin
Just channel Karen Blixen
They've got to make you seem human

Stand by their spin

OddD said...

My vote goes to any politician who lists The Big Lebowski as his or her favorite film.

Or Evil dead II.

Ruth Anne--That Sun piece is awful. A "source" somewhere in the vicinity of Tom Cruise says that Scientology's leaders are saying he'll be worshiped like Christ. The headline makes it look like someone in the Church is being quoted, when it's really someone who's claiming to be connected to someone who was told that.

David said...

She should have combined South Pacific with Out Of Africa and "washed that man right out of her hair!"

Trying to be human is as difficult as riding a bicycle. The more you think about it the harder it is.

Anonymous said...

I had thought Out of Africa was the "The dingo ate my baby! The dingo ate my baby!" movie.

That was "A Cry in the Dark" or something like that.

Make no mistake, no matter where she is or what she's doing, she's going to be very well scripted lest the lamp-throwing beast gets out.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Hilary just doesn't seem like the type who would say that her favorite movie is: "The Big Lebowski."

Yeah, exactly. That's my point. It means either the movie choices were focus-grouped by Mark Penn to target the constituencies she wants to appeal to or she's simply really, really lame. Most people I know who love Casablanca also love Hitchcock and other noir. And most people I know who love The Wizard of Oz also put Gone with the Wind in their top three. I mean, it reminds me of Chris Dodd's iPod -- everything on there is acceptable and a bit old (so confirmedly good) and clearly won't ruffle any feathers, but when taken as a whole, who could listen to such a mainstream mix all day long? Those can't possibly be your favorites. You can't possibly just happen to love every top 10 hit from 1963 to 1979. How could anyone be so mindless? Don't you like anything esoteric, crappy, or niche? That's obviously fake. Real people have actual interests that wax and wane, so their CD collections reflect that. I mean, I'm not saying I expected the woman to say her favorite movie is "The Big Lebowski," but this targeted sample of cross-genres doesn't cut it. Hillary is just too afraid to say something that will hurt her image, like "Steel Magnolias" or "Scarface". At least when you see the 897th Alan Jackson song on Bush's iPod, you have a suspicion that he actually listens to the stuff. I mean, he's got 897 of them on there. Unless he really, really wanted "the Alan Jackson vote"....

Mortimer Brezny said...

That was "A Cry in the Dark" or something like that.

Oh. I thought Meryl Streep screamed "The dingo ate my baby!" in every movie she was in. That's why I refused to see the Devil Wears Prada. Actually, I refused to see it because I figured there's no way even Meryl Streep in a dominatrix outfit could rescue such tripe. See, now that is why I could never run for elective office.

Maxine Weiss said...

"....and really helped this conversation about our country get started."

"So please log back on tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. eastern so we can keep this conversation going. Send me more questions, ask me anything you'd like."

"I want everyone to be part of the discussion because we need everyone to be part of the solution."

MadisonMan said...

The Big Lebowski is a horrible, horrible movie.

This dissection of HRC's favorite movie choice is fascinating. I know of no-one who has favorite movies similar to mine. I don't begrudge them their (ridiculous) choices one bit. I wonder what Mitt Romney's favorite movie is. How come that's not being reported?

Anonymous said...

Oh. I thought Meryl Streep screamed "The dingo ate my baby!" in every movie she was in.

I remember all of the "dingo got my baby" jokes after that movie came out. Streep did too good of a job, made that line too memorable, and made an okay movie into kind of a joke.

Anonymous said...

Poor Hillary's people, they just don't get it.

For starters no one who spells Hilary with a double-l can be anything other than an alien life form that got significant details wrong when reconnoitring the planet prior to invasion. (Think the aspirin box in 'The Man Who Fell to Earth', or, by extension, the whole of 'Solaris'.

How hillarious [sic] is that?

Or again this is Gaia/Newton's Third Law territory: for every smart move there is an equal and opposite dumb reaction.

Bill was all too human. Hillary all too not. The more humanised she becomes the less he. Do we really want Ol' Billy Boy turning into a Stepford husband while his best gal goes out on the pull? Naw.

Margaret Thatcher was pure android and that never did her any harm. She had good ankles though. Does Hillary?

Anonymous said...

Hillary could never have chosen Wizard of Oz - she's no idea where Kansas is.

She should have said:

'To Kill a Mockingbird' was the movie that first inspired me to fight injustice. That and 'Twelve Angry Men'. Then of course I went through a rebellious phase - as all human people do at a certain age in their development [that in a robotic monotone voice] - and pictured myself as Faye Dunaway in 'Bonnie and Clyde'. Eventually of course I grew to full maturity as a person [more monotone] and there's not a week goes by when I don't watch 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day'. Hasta la vista Oprah!"

vbspurs said...

Wizard of Oz," can't go wrong there.... except it's childish, and not very imaginative or distinctive. "Casablanca"! That's a great movie everyone loves. [...]Oh, hell, there was that thing.... "Out of Africa"!

Out of Africa? Casablanca? THE WIZARD OF OZ??

Well, she has the woman and gay votes sewn up. Shame she didn't mention "The Dirty Dozen", "The Quiet American" or anything by Sergio Leone, so that she'd give herself a fighting chance to get some male votes...

P.S.: Anyone else here hate The Wizard of Oz? It's very lonely for me sometimes.


OddD said...


Actually, that would be a pretty good response. At least a "human" one. As would be a guilty confession, say, "Honestly, I loved Showgirls."

It's more remarkable to point out classic films you don't like. Like The Godfather. And the oddball ones like--oh, wouldn't it be something to see Hillary laughing hysterically at Very Bad Things?

Revenant said...

Anyone else here hate The Wizard of Oz?

I do. I thought it was a lousy adaptation a great book.

I'm one of approximately three people in the world who thought the sequel was a better movie.

Anonymous said...

"Dingo's got/ate my baby" - it's more a meme and less a quote.

It should have been said and therefore it must have been. Even if it wasn't, it was.

You good guys/gals have just invented another word for a truth/reality that absolutely doesn't require any foundation in fact or empirical evidence. It just has to be true because it feels so right.

Beyond phenomenology into something totally surreal yet utterly obvious.

Truthicity? Something like that. Remind me please.

Plus, pro bono publico, films Mrs Clinton should admit to wetting herself laughing at:

'Bad Lieutenant' - Harvey Keitel and some seriously savaged nuns

'Un Chien d'Andalou' - who can resist that moment when the razor slices the eyeball?

Anything by Andrei Tarkovsky. Andrei Rublev: where were you Macaulay Culkin? The part was written for you!

The butter mounting scene in 'Last Tango..' OK now that was really a gas. Salted or unsalted? We should be told!

There is more, but the Belgian beer is precluding synaptic resonance.

Let's move on: Hillary doesn't watch good movies, she remakes them:

Pulp Fiction Redux: Mrs Clinton welcomes Vincent into her smart techno house, whilst Bill is out of town 'at a convention', ODs on burgers, dance ["I do believe Marsellus Clinton, my husband, your boss, told you to take ME out and do WHATEVER I WANTED. Now I wanna dance, I wanna win. I want that trophy, so dance good."] and Vincent's best H.

Mrs C only saved by the haphazard administration of cardiac adreneline by a reluctant dealer who happens to be hitched one of the Arquette sisters.

Mr C later rescued by Vincent from a particulary fraught encounter with a shopkeeper. Harvey Keitel rides to the rescue of all. (Mr and Mrs C enjoy an off-screen reconciliation - I invent that.)

Notice though that Mia is essentially an incidental character: she dances, she nearly but doesn't die, she vanishes from the screen.

Tarentino - like the Amercican electorate - is really only interested in the men.

Vote for Hillary. Best Supporting Actress.

Anonymous said...

That's...just...like... your opinion, man.

That rug really tied the room together, did it not?

Cat said...

Peter Palladis - you think Margaret Thatcher was an android?
If you think so, you never saw that woman on the floor of the house of commons.

Cat said...

I started doing my Hillary impersonation back in 2000. I noticed that whenever she's in an interview, say, on the Today Show her habit is to always shrug off tough questions with this smile, shaking her head, looking down (like, oh, that's such a silly question, how can anyone think that! Of ME! ha ha ha!), "Ahhhhhh, you know Matt....." Gives her time to pause...download the right answer and prevents her from reacting. Even her pause is unnatural. It's the same every time. Practice, practice practice!

I do this at (boring) parties. I am told it's uncanny.

Anonymous said...

I think Hillary is remarkably life-like for an android. I've always wondered if, like Lt. Cmdr. Data on Star Trek TNG, her blinking program uses Fourier equations to simulate randomness.

Palladian said...

I wonder how I would fare if I was running for president and revealed that my favorite movie is "The Shining"...

Do you have the slightest idea what a moral and ethical principal is? Do you? Has it ever occurred to you what would happen to my future, if I were to fail to live up to my responsibilities? Has it ever occurred to you? Has it?!

Anonymous said...

'Peter Palladis - you think Margaret Thatcher was an android?'

Androids have emotions too. Deckard was meant to be a replicant. I checked with Harrison Ford's PA once.

'If you think so, you never saw that woman on the floor of the house of commons.'

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

- Mrs T's resignation speech.

Oh, and btw, the name's PalladAs, Reverend Palladas - as in 4th century Alexandrian poet and all the Bond movies.