Sunday, January 6, 2008

And That's Why I Fell For The Leader Of The Pack!

Howard Fineman at Newsweek wrote a rather lengthy piece comparing U.S. Presidential campaigns to high school. IOZ directed our attention to it, and to Digby's annoyed dismissal thereof, and her pointer to Lance Mannion settling Fineman's hash -- which he does with maniacal literal-mindedness. (Like Fineman's chronology is so gay, and since when did anybody's high school totally bomb Iraq, okay? I am so sure!) I'd like to see what Mannion would do with Animal Farm (Oh yeah, like animals can talk! Like, duh!), or Swift's "A Modest Proposal" (Eat little babies? That is so awful! How could anyone write such an awful thing? You have to be, like, totally a monster to do that.)

True, I suppose Fineman has a tiny point, but so what? He doesn't go anywhere with his metaphor, has nothing to say about it, and his irony (or whatever you want to call it) is a bit dull. The best thing about the piece, evidently (even to IOZ), is that it made Digby have a hissyfit. But is that so hard, really, to do?

I think the mindset Fineman's talking about is what people like Katha Pollitt and (I think) FAIR and Molly Ivins were saying in 2000 and 2004, which shows what Fineman left out of his picture: the press. Most of the kids in school never really got excited about Bush, but the kids at the yearbook and newspaper loved getting so close to big money and power. They went wild for the Popular Rich Kid, who contrary to myth is not a smooth creep like Reggie Van Pelt or Chatsworth Osborne Jr, but a nasty rat-faced prick who can afford cocaine and swears by Spanish fly, knows all the dirty jokes and thinks it's funny to knock up girls from the wrong side of the tracks. Dubya knows how to glad-hand the boys in the media, and they love him for it, probably hoping he might let them have sloppy seconds. Okay, so he's not the sharpest pencil in the box, but that just means he's too dumb to lie!

A better model would be the immortal Heathers, which always read well for me as a political allegory. When I first saw it in 1989, I immediately thought of Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal, telling the nation: "You wanted to be citizens of the most powerful nation on earth. If I wasn't already the head of it, I'd want the same thing. C'mon, America -- you used to have a sense of humor!"

Or, better, her mother's line when Veronica complains that teenagers only want to be treated like human beings: "How do you think adults act with other adults? Do you think it's all one big game of doubles tennis? When teenagers complain that they want to be treated like human beings, it's usually because they are being treated like human beings!" The typical teen angst comedy depicts the suffering of pure teens struggling in a world of corrupt adults. Pump Up the Volume, the nadir of this genre, was liked by a lot of kids I knew who apparently misunderstood Heathers. Daniel Waters and Michael Lehmann knew better. The reason adults are corrupt is that they used to be teenagers.