The announcement of Sarah Palin’s selection as John McCain’s running mate set off a Klondike Gold Rush level stampede to carve out territory in the blogosphere. The spot for the definitive viral YouTube impersonation has been taken by comedian Sara Benincasa and her spot-on take on the Alaskan Governor. The no-“h” Sara is the girlfriend of Francesco Marciuliano, the unseemly object of my long-standing man-crush. When I saw the first video it had been viewed 6000 times. It’s now gone viral with over 100,000 views and been picked up by the mainstream media. I wish these hard-working comedians lots of success. Let them ride that pony until it collapses like Eight Belles. And I also hope that “Bristol, go breastfeed your brother.” becomes the comedy catchphrase of the campaign.
The trouble with parody and satire is that they can be too subtle or people just prefer to be blinded by their own prejudices and preconceptions. As a person that dabbles in the under-recognized art form of putting politicians heads on silly pictures, I’m pretty suspicious of pictures that are too good to be true. The star-spangled bikini picture of Sarah Palin at a pool party just couldn’t be. It was quickly noted as a paste-job by those in the know, but that didn’t prevent it from going viral among the more gullible schadenfreudistas.
With all the self-proclaimed photoshop experts out there all too willing to vouch for its authenticity, it didn’t take much sleuthing with my mad googling skilz to find the original pictures on Flickr. The bikini picture was taken by one Doctor Casino in August of 2006. The picture itself was taken tongue in cheek and the good doctor is mildly amused by the attention and is philosophical about his unwitting role in a viral phenomenon. Here is his take. Be sure to read all the comments on the picture page and the photoshopped version. They are very interesting:
To anyone else reading - I still have misgivings about all this. The tropes being attached to Sarah Palin here - of being unserious and also of being a sexual body rather than a professional intellect - are, not coincidentally, sexist tropes about womanhood generally. The image is funny to the extent that it plays on something specific to Palin: she is a goofball and more specifically a gun nut who makes lipservice to patriotism (a la American Flag Bikini) while harboring dubious views on fundamental American principles ("Can you tell me how to go about banning a book?"). But to the extent that it's a lightweight's first resort against a female political candidate, it's odious. The proliferation of lizard-brain responses to/uses of the image is particularly telling.When the more conspiratorial minded are confronted with the source picture, they knee-jerk respond that maybe the “first” picture is a photoshopped cover for the REAL picture. That would be plausible if it weren’t for the fact the Palin head cut into the picture is also on Flickr. It was also taken in 2006, at a Fourth of July event. Note that the face has been mirrored to fit the image. There is also a Flickr post of a screen capture by a person alleging to be the original photoshopper. On it he says:
What I choose to do in my free time is no concern of yours. If I want to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon Photoshopping Sarah Palin's mug on a bunch of bikini-clad gunslingers, then so be it.Who am I to judge indeed? If this guy is the real deal, there was never any intent to pass this picture off as a legitimate photo as so many mailing list forwarders did.
I think what makes this image so compelling is the ‘truthiness’ of the portrayal of Palin as a redneck gun-toting bimbo. Much of the humor directed at Palin plays up the snow-billy aspect of Alaskan culture that makes Wasilla look like Yoknapatawpha County with moose. And the photoshops that aren't nearly as funny rely on just the shock value of Palin's face on a nude or embarrassing picture. These just aren't funny and will lead to a backlash eventually. It takes a certain panache to make a photoshop that hits on an underlying vein of humor. And most don't.
Taking another track is this geek humor site that stretches the conceit that John McCain and Sarah Palin resemble Battlestar Galactica characters Saul Tigh and Laura Roslyn. This one-joke gimmick seems to be doing quite well with regular posts and a discussion forum. Who knew that geekitude and politics could be a hit on the internet.
And of course there are fake Sarah Palin blogs and Twitter accounts of varying humor level. It's all part of being in the public eye. But something tells me Palin will be giving internet humorists a lot of material for a long time.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: What is fair game in parodying politicians?