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Right wing temper tantrums, distilled

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, December 27, 2011 14:18 EDT
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I have a theory about the Spiderman musical, and its inexplicable popularity despite being the most hated piece of pop culture in 2011 (people's loathing for "Friday" is mixed with giddy affection, taking it off the list). It's a combination of two things. One, the amount of bad press it got raised its visibility, so when tourists come in and are looking for a show, they latch on to Spiderman because it's a known quantity. Of course, that's not enough to push it over the top. If you go to Times Square and take in the ads, you'll see Broadway is awash in known quantities to appeal to incurious tourists, revising all sorts of classic movies and TV shows to reel them in, plus Mamma Mia. No, I suspect what's helping Spiderman out is backlash. This is just a theory, but I suspect that this scenario plays out over and over again: A Fox News-loving  family is planning their trip to the Big Apple, and they want to see a Broadway show. They look over the list of available shows and Spiderman sticks out. They heard a lot about it this year! Of course, it was all bad reviews. But hell, those reviews probably came from those elitist liberal snobs who want their Broadway shows to be nudist interpretative dances about the deaths of animals from oil spills, so fuck 'em. They bet Spiderman is great, because those reviewers hate it so much. And another batch of tickets is sold. 

If this theory seems a little far-fetched, I invite you to read Media Matters' end-of-year round-up on the right wing war on health. Health is a thing those elitist liberals like, with their jogging and their fiber. The liberal associations with health grew stronger because of the health care reform battle. Now healthiness itself is suspect. Some of my favorite highlights:

Fox & Friends Attacked HPV Vaccine Law While Promoting Teenage Tanning. During the October 11 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts attacked a California law that will allow adolescents as young as 12 to receive the HPV vaccine, which can protect against cervical cancer, without parental consent. They also juxtaposed this law with a California provision that restricts those younger than 18 from using tanning salons, but failed to note that tanning beds increase the risk of skin cancer by 75 percent.

I liked this one, because it not only touches on the hostility to health, but also encompasses the creepy right wing obsession with the sexy virgin. Jessica Valenti wrote about this in The Purity Myth, but to recap: the right doesn't just want young women to be virgins. They want them to be sex object virgins: slender, beautiful, preferably buxom, apparently super-tan, and compliant. The virgin's value is ratcheted up dramatically by how sexy (by the most conventional standards) she is. It's like objectification on steroids. Thus, the constant churning out of one blonde sex symbol after another who puts on a faux-modest look while bragging about her virginity. And, of course, the inevitable fall…..

Fox's Gutfeld: "Why Are Health Food Freaks Always So Sickly Looking?" On the August 23 broadcast of The Five, Gutfeld said, "Why are health food freaks always so sickly-looking?" Co-host Andrea Tantaros replied, "They're unhappy, because they're not eating any fat."

Projection is the favoritest of all right wing neuroses. This is the war on health equivalent of when a guy hits on you, and when you shoot him down, he calls you ugly and denies that he had any interest, due to the ugliness.

Right-Wing Media Freaked Out Over Red Lobster, Olive Garden Decision To Shrink Portion Sizes. In September, after Darden Restaurants Inc., the parent company of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, announced it would shrink portion sizes and reduce sodium in its meals, right-wing media responded by attacking the decision and claiming the company was "bending to the whims of Michelle Obama." In a blog post, Malkin claimed that Darden was "strong-armed" into "re-designing meals" by Michelle Obama, while the Drudge Report linked to the story with a picture of Michelle Obama and the words, "Adult Supervision for fries."

Fox Promotes Hypothetical Junk Food Tax, Responds With A "Cultur[al]" Defense Of Macaroni And Cheese. On the July 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Carlson discussed a hypothetical junk food tax, beginning the segment by saying, "Do we really need the government … policing this?" Her guest, Robert Ferguson, then claimed that "[n]o one has ever really talked about" "what makes foods healthy." He also said that a person needs to "tak[e] into account different cultures" in order to calculate nutritional value, then concluded: "In my world, I like mac and cheese. … I'm going to eat it."

Right wing media has quite literally cast its audience as belligerent, picky children and Michelle Obama as Mom standing over them telling they they can't have any dessert if they don't eat their vegetables. One could argue the facts on this until the end of time—do they seriously believe the First Lady has such all-encompassing powers that Olive Garden would rather cater to her than make money?—-but I'm more interested in the psychology of this. Why are so many conservatives eager to imagine themselves not just as children, but as annoying, picky children? You'd think a bunch of authoritarians would at least prefer the image of well-behaved children who politely eat what's served, but their hatred of the Obamas runs so deep that they are willing to cast themselves in the role of the pointlessly petulant child.

Of course, it probably runs deeper than that. The truth may be that they don't realize that they are casting themselves in that role, but are just naturally drawn to it, because they are petulant and childish. That's probably the better explanation, since it also goes a long way towards explaining "Wah! I don't want to play nice with others!", the lavish worship of the bullies who steal other kids' lunch money, and seeing people in distress, such as the unemployed, and wanting to give them wedgies instead of help them out. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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