Posts Tagged ‘politics’

How Obama and Palin redefined political sex appeal.

October 31, 2008

by Tina Brown

There was a photograph in The Times Sunday that showed a rumpled David Axelrod slouched wearily in a chair wearing an old green sweater—with Barack Obama perched in the background, checking the display of his PDA. The room reeked of the pizza box weariness of a campaign in its last days—except for the candidate. For the millionth time the picture served to show how mesmerizingly crisp Obama always looks.

I can’t say if those hand-pressed looking shirts are made of the finest Egyptian cotton or not—maybe they’re from Costco—but the point is they suggest it. The simplicity of Obama’s lean, monochrome suits and solid blue ties makes every other pol appear porky and plebeian, old school glad-handers in oversize watches. It’s not just the clothes, of course. It’s the wearer—his carriage, the loping grace of his walk to the stage.

It’s also that the way he’s put together works simultaneously south of the Mason-Dixon line and south of 14th Street. When Obama works a rope line to most people he just looks neatly dressed. But to others he looks as stylishly minimalist as one of those Meatpacking District boutiques where a few shirts are piled artfully on otherwise empty shelves. It’s a little like the Republicans’ dog-whistle rhetoric, in which routine-sounding words like “worldview” and “wonder-working” convey a special, coded meaning to Christian conservatives. Obama’s look conveys the message of a new world order to the young.

It must be hell for John McCain and Bill Clinton, both alpha males who were always the sexiest guys in the room and have now been outpaced by this new kind of charisma. McCain was a heartthrob when he came back from Vietnam, with his hell-raiser smile and hair turned fetchingly white. One sentence of his backstory and the job was done: he had you at “my plane got shot down.” On the Straight Talk Express he was still an irresistible charmer. And Bill? Well, I’ve been in rooms when every woman he passed in the line was left with a deep burning blush of surprised conquest.

Hence the rage on both Clinton and McCain’s parts. McCain hates being deprived of his flyboy glamour as much as he hates being bested by a cool political novice who hasn’t paid his dues. He wasn’t looking old until Obama came on the scene. He was craggy, he was devil-may-care. He could still get the girls. As for Bill Clinton, Joe Klein’s biography was rightly titled The Natural. Bill always knew there was one phrase set aside for him in political retrospectives. The words “preternaturally gifted” belonged only to him. Until now. And that doesn’t even take in the galling fact that the younger man stole his wife’s exceptionalism. Obama’s glamour didn’t just eclipse Bill it made the first serious woman running for president look passé too.

What’s interesting is the androgynous quality of the Obama appeal. He’s almost like an avatar sent out dressed as himself to turn red states into blue. There are no “jumpers” at his rallies like the girls who jumped up and down at Kennedy rallies in the sixties. It’s significant that the Obama girl who lipsynched about “having a crush on Obama” in the YouTube clip during the primaries was immediately assumed to be a viral Internet plant. Obama is too contained to have the kind of sex appeal we are used to in public men whose drive to seduce sometimes becomes literal when it comes to the opposite sex.

Sarah Palin is now almost as large a celebrity as Obama but her appeal is as tactile as Obama’s is abstract, as Dionysian as his is Apollonian. She is genuinely gorgeous, with that thick, cascading soap opera hair, generous mouth, and beauty pageant legs. (If the Republicans really wanted Joe the Plumber’s vote, they should have blown some of that 150 grand at Victoria’s Secret.) The notion that after the campaign they’ll make her give the new wardrobe back, by the way, is palpably ridiculous. Don’t we want Sarah Palin to look hot?

Besides, no woman who has worn a $2,500 dollar silk Valentino jacket is ever going to return to wearing bargains from Out of the Closet, or desert the glossy standards of the new hairdresser who travels on the campaign plane for the Beehive in Wasilla. Palin may fish out a few old outfits for spin control to show she’s still real on the trail but she is more likely to trade in Todd than give up her new A-list look for long. She fought too hard for it. Her raw, striving quality is one of the qualities that makes her so compelling to watch. Are we now surprised that she’s campaigning for her future rather than the ticket?

She’s tasted the big time now. Go, Sarah! Obama versus Palin in 2012 sounds like a pretty incendiary reality show. The two stars from the same generation have redefined charisma and sex appeal for the multimedia age. Meanwhile, when the governor of Alaska returns to Anchorage after the election she is going to be about as content with her old life as Madame Bovary in Yonville. That’s the movie I really want to see.

Lust, Caution

February 28, 2008
Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution is the most powerful movie I have seen in a long time. To be direct; I don’t know what was wetter, my shirt sleeve (from crying) or my underwear.

No but seriously, Ang Lee has a subtlety that makes everything sensual, as delicate as provocative in this controversial tale of wartime espionage. Lust, Caution is set in the early 1940s during the Sino-Japanese war, mostly in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. The heroine belongs to a university drama troupe plotting to assassinate a collaborator. Assigned to seduce the target, an official in the puppet government, she falls into an oh-so predictable-yet-addictive affair.

The politics are fascinating; the music is enveloping and delicate. Suspicion is enhanced by passion, and vice versa. Til this day I had never been scandalized and turned on at the same time. It made me feel like my sex life used to be a desert compared to this (and it’s not for lack of activity). And it made me remember I have a heart.

And no the movie is not all sex, the scenes might make only 5% of the time. But you remember them. The positions could not be worded, yet everything seemed natural and oh-so-worth of trying if only I could figure out where the legs went. Raw yet tender. The lovers seemed to know each other inside out yet seemed to be discovering something nirvanously new every time. It made me want to be the girl. It made me want to be the guy. I just so wanted to be part of it, not only the sexual part, but also the political activism, in place, in time. I wish I also had something to die for; country, love.

All I can say is, the movie made me want to act, and now. Yet I’m here writing.

Thank you, Bill and Monica!

March 7, 2007


Okay, so maybe it’s old news, a little bit, but I just can’t not share it. A friend of mine sent me a link to this news article: Apparently, some theatre in the US was forced to change its marquee from The Vagina Monologues to The Hoohaa Monologues, because some parents found it “offensive”.

Okay, skipping over the sheer idiocy (and the irony) of the name change, because that’s just too easy to make fun of, I’ll ask instead: What is it about vaginas that so often gets people’s goats?

Strangely enough, I think this situation actually can find its parallel in Harry Potter: You know how everyone’s afraid to say Voldemort’s name, because he’s such an all-powerful wizard? And how they have to replace his name with You-Know-Who instead because they’re so scared of him? I think that’s what’s going on with vaginas.

People are scared to death of vaginas, because vaginas are representative of sex, an act that traditionally is seen as dirty and forbidden and terrible. Thus, they must resort to veejayjays or down theres or hoohaa instead. Vaginas are the Voldemorts of this world. (They even start with the same letter! ‘Nuff said?)

Furthermore, why is it that the word anal, as in anal-retentive, is used relatively often and without fear? There doesn’t seem to be a stigma attached to anal the way there is with vagina, even though an anus strikes me as a body part that’s a hell of a lot dirtier than a vagina can ever be. So really, it’s totally the sexual aspect of vaginas that gets people scared.

You know, it’s stuff like this that makes me wish for another huge Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. In the ensuing media explosion, we were constantly bombarded with stories of sex and sex and even more sex. Over the space of a couple of months, we heard all the gory details about Bill and Monica’s sex lives: their sexual intercourse, their “I did not have sexual relations with that woman“, their oral sex, and if you were lucky enough to hear it, their “kinky” use of a cigar as a sex toy.

It’s not that I bear any ill will towards Bill Clinton or any other hapless politician following his pecker. In fact, I don’t believe that what goes on in a person’s bedroom (or on the expensive mahogany desk in the Oval Office) should be exhibited for public judgment and scrutiny. No, but just pause for a minute, and imagine what would happen if George Bush was caught bangin’ his intern while in office …

… The world would undergo a temporary sexual renaissance of sorts: For a glorious few months or so, their sexploits would be splashed across newspaper headlines and blaring from primetime newscasts. For those wonderful few months, sex would be completely demystified and stripped bare. For those liberating few months, there would be no stigma placed on sex, and people would actually be unafraid to talk about it in public.

And maybe, hopefully, it would be during those few months that The Hoohaa Monologues could regain its rightful name again.

– Yun