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Decoding 'Sarah Palin's Alaska': Cuteness overload

December 20, 2010 | 10:18 am

Halfway through Sunday night’s episode of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” I already suspected the producers were trying to erode viewer resistance by packing the maximum amount of cuteness into one hour. Finally, we got a satisfying dose of 2-year-old Trig grinning, giggling and dancing adorably, plus a glimpse of Bristol’s little towhead, Tripp; several amusing Piper interviews (“Mom is horrible as a waitress. I wouldn’t tip her because she spends too much time talking”); and an actual grizzled old prospector named “Bones,” who came complete with a bouncy companion spaniel.

And all that was before the puppies.

“They’re not playing fair!” I whined to my husband after watching. “There were Husky puppies! Two sets of Husky puppies!”

Husband: “Did she kill and eat them?”

Ah, yes, this is still Sarah Palin we’re talking about. And as always, she has some lessons for America.

Hard work and service are important. In small doses. For money.

Once again demonstrating her overpowering Alaskan work ethic by interrupting people’s actual work day to play “Let’s Make Believe I’m Not a Millionaire” for the cameras, Sarah dons a costumey waitress uniform and puts in a shift at a “legendary” local restaurant. Or, well, part of a shift. Actually, she says, “we had a few extra minutes.”

But, hey, who’s counting? What’s important is that in those few minutes, Piper “saw what hard work was all about and tolerance for other people and what it means, truly, to be of service for other people.”

Psst, Sarah? I’m with you on the “hard work” part, but “tolerance” and “being of service” in the sense you’re talking about mean respecting and helping your fellow human beings because it’s the right thing to do. Waiting tables means providing service because you get paid to do so, and being tolerant because you make less than minimum wage and need the tips. You actually just taught Piper about capitalism, not giving back to the community.

Climate change is awesome!

“Glaciers have carved the valleys in which we are right now,” says Sarah, as the camera offers us yet another breathtaking aerial view of frozen landscape. “So it was neat to show Piper what this chunk of ice looks like right now and explain to her that centuries from now it’s gonna look completely different.”

Here’s even better news for Piper: It could be decades, not centuries. You might just get to see that glacier disappear in your lifetime, kiddo. Won’t that be a hoot?

Gender essentialism is basically the same thing as feminism.

Palin has made it clear she considers herself a feminist, and, boy, can you ever see why in this episode.

After explaining that Trig is too little to join her for whitewater rafting, for instance, she says, “Luckily, Todd volunteered to play Mr. Mom.” Ha-ha-ha! The feminists I hang out with just call that  “being a father,” but for Palin, that would have meant forfeiting a golden opportunity to make a joke that was officially played out by 1983. (That’s why they call us bloggers “humorless,” I guess.)

Later, when her mushing instructor explains that females are the alpha dogs, she says, “That’s 'cause females are more intelligent.” Ha-ha, right on, sister! I mean, sure, joking about gender differences among dogs isn’t exactly like challenging sexism in the human population. And sure, female social justice activists have been fighting for decades to dispel the myth that they think they’re superior to men, so it’s kind of a bummer when a self-identified feminist puts forth that strawman, even in jest. But never mind all that -- how 'bout those stupid male dogs, LOL? Girl power!

Aw, maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh. Worn down by all the extra cuteness this week (there was a puppy on a giant hamster wheel, I am not even kidding!), I can almost feel a twinge of sympathy for Palin when she says, “It’s nice to get the heck away from idiots and bloggers who do not like our family. Yes, it’s good to be out here in the real Alaska.” But then I remember she brought a camera crew out there precisely so she could eventually share the whole experience with idiots and bloggers like me. And since she has such tremendous respect for working people, I know she’ll understand when I say, sorry, but I’m just doing my job.

-- Kate Harding

 Photo credit: TLC