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Decoding 'Sarah Palin's Alaska': What we learned when Sarah met Kate + 8

21239_2107 There are certain ideas that sound brilliant to reality TV producers, and to no one else in the world. "Conveyor Belt of Love." "Fat March." The all-too-straightforwardly named "Hurl." And now we can add: Kate Gosselin and her eight children join the Palin family on a camping trip in bear country. What could possibly go wrong?

Actually, not much does. The kids have a blast until their cold, whiny mother insists that they leave, an outcome that could have been predicted by anyone who has ever been camping. Or seen people camping on TV. Nevertheless, the show, as always, has valuable lessons to teach us.

1. If you love your kids, you’ll shoot to kill.

The first half of the episode is devoted to lessons in bear safety, the procurement of an enormous new gun for Palin, and a lot of remarks like this one: “Bein’ out and about in Alaska’s wilds, it’s more common than not to see somebody having some kind of weapon on their person. In fact, it’s probably as commonplace as if you’re walkin’ down the street in New York City and you see somebody with a BlackBerry on their hip.”

At this point, I have some questions. Like, do people still carry phones on their hips, or was that some kind of bizarre product placement/dog whistle mash-up, in which “BlackBerry” also means “imaginary illegal handgun that certain paranoid rural voters are sure all New Yorkers carry”? And when you’re out and about in Alaska’s wilds, how often do you see other people at all? And wait, didn’t you all say this show wasn’t an eight-hour political ad?

Palin answers that last one for us: “Even for those who, maybe on a political level, think they are anti-gun, they need to realize, if you are out in the wilderness -- and perhaps you’re with children -- camping, well, you’re putting yourself and your family in danger if you are not armed, if you are not prepared for a predator.” Sure, and that totally explains why your average suburban family needs a gun in the home. I mean, come on, does that really still work on anyone?

Yep! Kate Gosselin: “I can’t say I’m a gun advocate, necessarily, but there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect my kids.”

Except, say, refuse an invitation to take them camping in bear country for a reality TV stunt.

2. When your favorability rating is at an all-time low, it helps to hang out with someone the public finds even more odious than you.

Four words I never, ever, ever believed I would say: “Right on, Sarah Palin.” When she’s rolling her eyes and snarking about Gosselin’s completely predictable Oh my god, you meant outdoor camping? meltdown, it's awfully hard not to relate to her. 

3. But that only goes so far.

That brief moment of shared humanity was, of course, tempered by (among other things) Palin’s relentless lust for bear blood; the scene where she gently chides Piper for cheating on her homework but doesn’t actually insist that she stop; and the fact that once again, Mama Grizzly’s on vacation, banging on about the importance of spending time with loved ones, minus her youngest child. Perhaps this trip would have been unpleasant or unfeasible for Trig, but where I come from, parents usually plan “family vacations” that don’t require leaving a little kid behind. I guess that’s not how they do it in Alaska?

If that weren’t enough to undo my microsecond of appreciation for Sarah Palin, then there’s the fact that despite it all, she still has Kate Gosselin’s endorsement. “I admire her for being a strong woman who doesn’t back down, who doesn’t let the world’s opinion of her change her or get to her,” says Gosselin in an interview that could easily be from a “woman on the street” campaign commercial, if the woman on the street had Botox, a spray tan, and her own reality show.

I don’t suppose it’s occurred to either of them that when your approval rating is plummeting toward single digits, it might be worth giving the world’s opinion of you a second look.

-- Kate Harding

Photo: Kate Gosselin meets Trig Palin, carried by Willow Palin, as the Gosselin children climb aboard Todd Palin's plane at the Palins' house in Wasilla, Alaska. Credit: Gilles Mingasson / TLC

Comments () | Archives (64)

I thought the Kate Gosselin episode was pathetic! How that woman could stand under a tarp and cry because it was cold and rainy while her kids were having a great time just shows how spoiled she really is! There are so many kids out there living in conditions worse than that on a daily basis and she couldn't stand it for one night! Shame on her! Will people please stop putting her on t.v. she is not a celebrity, but just a woman who had six children at one time!

LA Times not understanding Sarah Palin's popularity. Gee, who would have known?? I think it's hilarious to find someone at the LA Times trying to undermind Sarah Palin. Without Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, would the Republicans ever had picked up 63 seats in the house? It was a complete blowout!!! Expecting an elite writer from the LA Times to understand Sarah Palin is akin to a diabetic writing a review of a chocolate factory. Stick with writing tips for shopping on Rodeo Drive or what's happening with Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt and you'll be better off. It's more of your comfort zone. Leave the Sarah Palin discussion for patriotic Americans who appreciated a hard working, common sense, family oriented woman who is a wonderful human being. I am on bended knee for all that Sarah Palin represents. She is simply fantastic!!!!

Sarah isnt so bad. and her show didnt even need a gay male hispanic for me to relate. bullying Palin old n tired, chill out already. unless ur intent is to make her stronger of course, then knock urself out. FELIZ NAVIDAD!

The whole silly episode was nothing more than a publicity stunt to beef up ratings for both of these ridiculous broads. I guess it worked. Next...

Glad you mentioned thst Trigg was missing on the camping trip. I'd forgotten all about him.
My favorite part of the whole episode is the fact thst Piper has slowly developed Prom Hair just like her mom. She's a total mini-Sarah now!

That being said, i don't think its fair to say the Gosselins went camping as a big publicity stunt. Think whst you will sbout Kate, but the kids had a BLAST and they wouldn't have had the opportunity to do this w/o the show. Any 6-year-old in the world would love to go camping in Alaska

Palin and her family are nothing but nice to that insane woman Kate. She came off like a spoiled brat and Palin appeared to be genuine in trying to show Kate and her children a good time. Next time leave Kate at home and let the kids go to AK to hang out with a normal family like the palins.

This review is just your typical liberal agenda pushing tripe. Sarah Palin came off as a nice, down to earth mother not afraid to take charge. LA Times is a sad excuse for journalism.

Another biased article that I wasted my time reading against Palin. The media's love affair with the socialist liberals is only making people like Palin more powerful. So please continue liberal media in telling us how dumb Palin is and how smart people like Joe Biden and jimmah carta are.

I thought it was hilarious, watching Kate get all freaked out. She would have pitched a fit no matter where she was camping. Now, Ms. Harding, be sweet. Sarah's actually growing on me. She handled the situation as graciously as one could. And she didn't want bear blood, just wanted to protect her family. I've been as close as I wanted to be to a grizzly or two (or hundreds) while in Alaska. Yet, I learned a thing or two from the bear ranger. Also, we don't know that Trig wasn't there. We didn't see Grandma either, as I recall, but some of the last words of this episode were "Good night, Grandma." Maybe Grandma was hanging with Trig...

I find it humorous how you state that families typically plan vacations "for the whole family." What you are implying is that Trig was excluded from this one of a kind family vacation. First off, it was two days. Secondly, Trig is an infant, whether or not he was mentally challenged has nothing to do with the fact that the Palin's made sure he was well cared for during a two day period rather than risk taking an infant camping. It's really not that surprising. What would a young child like Trig have gotten out of this experience? NOTHING. He would have been in cold weather for no reason. It actually seems like the Palins made a responsible decision in leaving him behind. You act like this weekend venture was the only vacation the Palins will ever take. When you have the amount of wealth the Palins have, this two day jaunt surely does not even count as a "vacation." I'm sure little Trig will have plenty of fun on family vacations in the future, (when he can actually enjoy it.)


This was an awful review of the show. Why did you bother Kate if you don't like Sarah Palin? Did you jump up and volunteer to write on Palin so that for once people would read something you write or does thr LAT not have one decent human being who can write unbiased reviews on their staff?

I've been enjoying watching the show and seeing who the real Sarah Palin is. I think she is great and has an awesome family. I'd be proud to say President Palin especially after we got gypped with the guy there now.

Personally, I wouldn't vote for someone who spends their time filming a reality television show. Face it - Sarah Palin is not filming a tv show with her kids because she wants America to benefit by her good example; she's doing it for the money and for the publicity. Some amount of both of these things is necessary for a politician, but Palin's got enough backing to fund a major campaign without a bear-hunting tv program.

I think the whole thing was staged with Palin the worst actor. She was just bizarre in the ride to the gun shop (no eye contact with Kate and going at that Blackberry) and at the firing range. Very self focused and intent to freak out Gosslin at every turn. Creepy, if you really think she intended to be hospitable. I am glad that despite the weird energy between the divas, and that fact that this is a messed up reality show, those kids did seem to have a good time in Alaska. Maybe at some point someone, maybe the kids psychotherapist (they're going to need one) will explain to Mommy Kate just how damaging it is for a kid to hear that mom isn't mom anymore. It was clear on the faces of some of those kids. Really icky-the whole show I mean.

What a bunch of hogwash is this article!
More liberal trash.

I agree with most of these comments. This writer is pathetic!!
The writer is clueless about camping in the wilderness. This is not camping in the park or in the back yard. Leave it to the LA times to have no clue. If it does not happen in the big city it does not happen.
Kate was no different on this camping trip than she was on DWTS.

I have been to Alaska with cruise line once but after watching Sarah Palin"s Alaska , I want to go back to this exciting state and explore it by land. The episode with Kate Gosslin definitely showed that she's so stupid and ignorance. She did not care of her children's feeling when they were having fun but she tried to put guilt to them by saying stupid thing like, "You're Palin not Gosslin". She should just go with the flow and enjoy her kids having fun. For god sake,Kate, you become rich because your children. Don't tell me Kate that you've never been camping in your life. By the way, your children are half Asian and Asian people love nature.

This is why no one reads LA times

What is there to decode? Actually, nothing. Anyone would have a miserable experience if they were not fully prepared; even Sarah’s daughter was shown to be asking where they were going. No one in their right mind would drag and introduce a family to their first camping experience in such conditions. And it would be interesting to know the full details of that extended invitation to Kate because Sarah’s skills as a hostess was shown to be seriously lacking and untrustworthy; for instance, snickering at one’s guest is rude. It is disappointing and like Kate said, it is shocking that people would do this.

This was not a good column. It sounds like it was written by a JournoList who is seeking any way they can find to attack Palin.

I watched the show and didn't see any blood lust for bears. I saw a safety lesson for camping in Alaska.

I also saw Kate treating Sarah in much the same way she treated Jon for the past eight years.

Kate has to be in charge and will bully her way into making sure she gets her way, damn the children and their fun.

Palin's dad is great and should have his own show.

Todd has to be the best husband ever. He backs Sarah and the kids without making waves.

I've never been a fan of hunting, but I am a fan of people being safe around wild animals.

I'm also in favor of accepting that those who hunt are making their best case for hunting by using the animal for food, clothing, and shelter...just as the Indians did and do in the U.S. for hundreds of years.

Somebody wants to go to an enclosed area where they shoot animals in a pen, I just don't get that and do not support it.

Hunting for food or protection, that's a different story.

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