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Decoding 'Sarah Palin's Alaska': Spoiled by family love

Having watched three full episodes of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” I am still amazed that Palin seems to interact with her family the exact same way she interacts with the American public: by continually saying anything that will appeal to her fan base, regardless of how frequently and spectacularly the facts contradict her interpretation of reality. Or, in the case of the most recent episode, how frequently and spectacularly her own children do.

1. This is America, and we speak English! No, seriously, we do.

As 9-year-old Piper assembles the ingredients for cake from a mix, Sarah becomes concerned about possible excessive egginess and tells her to recheck the instructions. After Piper confirms that she’s done everything correctly, her still dubious mother glances at the recipe and does a double take. “It’s in Spanish!” Well, no wonder her red-blooded, American, hardworking, tax-paying third-grader can’t figure out how many huevos to include! Except ...

Piper: No, it’s not. [Points at the box to distinguish it from the imaginary one Sarah just read.] “Three eggs.”

Sarah: Oh. You’re right.

2. What every teenage girl really wants is the gift of a loving family -- or a car.

Right from the beginning of the episode, Sarah repeatedly reminds us that Willow’s 16th birthday is on or about the Fourth of July, so there will be a grand, patriotic Palin party to honor the middle child in front of her extended family and Mom’s camera crew. Isn’t that thrilling? Won’t it make Willow feel special? “We don’t want the kids to be so materialistically spoiled,” Sarah says, “but we want them spoiled in terms of knowing what family love and camaraderie and teamwork is all about. So a party like this, with all the family together and celebrating her birthday, it means a lot to us.”

Well, all of us except Willow, who tells the camera, “I don’t like birthdays, personally. I don’t like attention on me.”

As for not being “materialistically spoiled,” Willow reports that she got “some clothes” and “some money” for her birthday, “but I really wanted a truck. I don’t know why my parents didn’t get it for me, ‘cause I’m a really good kid!” Sing it, sister. I was a ridiculously well-behaved honor student, and I must have asked for my own horse, like, 100 times, but my parents never came through. Twenty years later, I’m still trying to figure that one out.

3. Hard work is the only path to success in life, unless your parents bail you out.

The main storyline in this episode is about 21-year-old Track demonstrating that he’s ready to take over his father’s salmon fishing business. Sarah explains, “It’s very important to remember that the more successful fisherman is gonna be the harder working fisherman. The harder you work, the more money you’re gonna make, the more fish you’re gonna be able to pick. That, again, is a life lesson that so many should and could be learning.” Ahem, poor people. Did you catch that?

Unfortunately for Sarah, the folks who could stand to learn that lesson include her firstborn, who’s shown sleeping in while that voice over plays. Here are some other things Track does to prove he’s prepared for adult responsibility: flattens a tire on his father’s boat trailer and doesn’t think to mention it to anyone, much less change it; leaves an unholy mess in the boat shed, which his parents and baby sister eventually clean up; makes a mistake that almost loses him a net full of salmon; back-talks his father repeatedly; catches very few fish.

At one point, Todd starts bossing his bumbling son around -- which Track appreciates about as much as being woken up to go to work -- and I think we’re meant to see this as some sort of universal coming-of-age father/son tension. But since the whole episode has reinforced the message that Track is basically lazy and incompetent, I was cheering for Todd all the way. 

Nevertheless, Sarah says at the end, “We’re really proud to have learned that our son was ready to captain the site and take over.” Um, I guess that happened off-camera? Or maybe it’s just that if you’re Sarah Palin, what matters is the words you choose to repeat ad nauseam, not how people actually behave.

“I’m very blessed to get to be a part of this lifestyle,” she says in a final voice over. “You know, it’s all about family for us, and it’s all about teaching kids a strong work ethic, and being together, and being productive.”

When you hear something like that over shots of Sarah snuggling her adorable youngest child, the older kids looking cheerful and attractive and the Alaskan wilderness being all fierce and majestic, you almost want to believe it.

-- Kate Harding

Photo: The Palin family: Track, left, Piper, Willow, Bristol, Sarah, Trig, Trip and Todd Palin. Credit: Gilles Mingasson / TLC

Comments () | Archives (38)

I agree with John, Kate Harding seems to watch the show, DVR it , rewind it and find negative things to talk about. I would LOVE to put her live on TV so I can pull it apart and find all the negativity or maybe Miss Harding is just too good for that much attention. Do us all a favour keep your negativity to yourself and write a story on the soliders who didn't get to come home for the Holidays or something else meaningful.

Are you guys for real? You're actually picking apart these people on the show for acting like normal families do. This writer needs to get a life. The American people like Sarah Palin because she is just that...An American!!! Go back to Russia or wherever you liberals/socialists want to live because obviously the American way of life is not for you.

Who does America respect more; a two-year governor who is one of the people, or a two-year senator who thinks he knows better than the people?"?

So perfectly said, wish I had thought of it.


I find it interesting that people have been praising her literary skills for writing those books. While if you do the reasearch, it is known that she used gost writers. Not that there is anything wrong with that, many authors do, but keep it real.

It's too bad some of the folks commenting believed you were only writing to cut down the Palin family. That really is the bottom line, if you do cite reality vs. Sarahs version you are considered a "hater".
The first time I noticed her alternate reality was during the campaign when Sarah was asked how she was feeling after being found guilty of ethics violations. I think she was getting on a bus when she looked right at the questioner and claimed how happy she was cleared of all charges. Her statement was the complete opposite of the decision.
Personally, I think she has some sort of disorder - the question is, does she really believe this false persona she has created or is it just for the money?

Why would anyone expect Sarah Palin to recognize the difference between Spanish and English, even on a box of cake mix? It has already been established that the woman doesn't read.

Oh, and by the way--the best way to really learn about Alaska without having to experience hyper-patriotic manic hyperbole (and bored, bratty kids) would be to go to your local library and check out the most recent travel books for the state.

But see, the thing is not that we won't just understand that the 16 year old wants a car, or the 20 year old would rather sleep in, etc. Fine, natural, of course. That's not any problem, those are normal things. The thing, for me, is that the mother is essentially telling me a lie. There's a real story, and then there's the story she's forcing. She's telling it to us, thinking she's completely in charge of our perceptions, but we're seeing something so different. I don't hate her, I don't hate her family, I'm not jealous of her and her family. Since almost the first time I heard words from her mouth, I've been struck by her hypocrisy. All along, it's been this very hypocritical nature of Sarah Palin's that has kept me appalled. I have eyes, ears, a brain. I believe I see the real Sarah Palin.

I do not like S.Palin at all but I decided to take a look at that show. I lasted 2 commercial breaks...What a crock of bull!! First thing I saw were the kids filleted salmon with their Eskimo grandma, Todd's mom, who is really adorable. Palin made it sound like they were doing that all the time while you could clearly see the kids had no idea how to do it. Totally staged!!
Then, she hops on a plane to see Todd's cousin, at her fish camp. Another great family I have to say, really nice people it seems. And again, she make it seems like they are so close knit, then says to one of the girls who look 16 "Last time I saw you you were a baby!!"...That family has a Down syndrome boy who seems to be around 12 and Pain never met him before!!!!!! You would think being so close and all she would have share that experience with her cousin. That woman is so phony it makes me sick. Her whole family serves as a launch pad for her political career. There is not a sincere bone in her body. How can people fall for her bull is beyond me.

love to see the palin haters with all their elitist reasons for not watching the show.News flash do not watch it go back to your hero maddow whom you think is such a great person .Normal families do scare elitists.

lefty women are just so jealous it is funny.Hope you lefty belles do not catch your husband watching her reruns.ha-ha

Okay we get it, you are part of the "Palin Haters"....Does this mean that you also do not agree with her points that family is important along with a strong work ethic?! There are always going to be those who do not like others out of sheer envy and jealousy. Take a deep breath, slow down, and enjoy life. Remember what is important in life and embrace it. Hating on others is just tacky and makes you look like an ugly person. I bet if the show was staged of your favorite politcal figure you would still have something to complain about. Life is too short...pay attention to your own.

Every show Sarah Palin has to put a dig in about the neighbor next door. She just can't get over him!!!! really carrying a grudge. The police chief made a comment when McGinniss left that he was a true gentleman the whole time he was in Wasilla, that he caused absolutely no complaints, even with the Palins; and the chief said McGinniss would be welcome to come back anytime. He added that he has gotten plenty of complaints about the Palins--but none for McGinniss and that he was never divisive or polarizing. Way to go, Joe.

I find this program a huge disappointment. I thought I'd learn something about Alaska and instead this is nothing but a reality show about Sarah Palin who is now experiencing Alaska for the first time herself. It is obvious she never experienced Alaska before this show and that comes across loud and clear. The title is a huge misnomer. Using her air time to supplement with political digs is simply pathetic. I watched a few shows, but no more.

Kate..you are sick. The hate and jealousy you harbor is amazing and evil.

I rather like Sarah Palin but her children couldn't be more different. They are spoiled, (at least the 3 oldest) unengaged, lack ambition or direction, and seem to barely be able to carry on a conversation. That includes the latest greatest role model for teen abistinence, Bristol Palin.

And why isn't Bristol working or attending school? Can't have it both ways; bitch about having attention called upon your family and then make a career out of exploting the fact that you're Sarah Palin's daughter.

The Palin's "special needs" child I bet will turn out to be the most movitivated and loving of all of her brood!

I actaully like the show. I never really cared for Sarah Palin much, but I sat down last night and watched it for like 4 hours with my mom. I think why I like the show, is that I can sort of relate to her type of family enviroment. However, I think she would make a better tv personalitly than a president. Then again, most people in the White House would make better tv personalities. But y'all keep arguing about left-wing and right-wing politics, and it's not about that. The government wants us to argue amongst ourselves, to see whose better, keep us distracted. It's just a giant ploy. Sarah Palin isn't going to be president unless the powers that be want her to. Americans votes don't count anymore; not really. It's the rich people who control America. It's the guys who pay for everything and bail out Obama. They call the shots. So stop arguing. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, so all y'all Palin haters, stop hatin' on the Palin supporters, and all y'all Palin supporters, stop hatin' on the Palin haters. It's what they want.

Mrs Palin I am a disabled Gulf War Vet. from Kentucky. I was wondering if you could do our country a favor and run for President of our great nation before Oboma runs it into the mud. We need you to be our President very much.

My husband I viewed a marathon Palin in Alaska 1 -22-11. What an incentive for us to get out more as a family. Thank you Palin Family.

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