I'm sure you've all seen Tim Pawlenty's jaw-droppingly silly ad, but if not, here it is:
I found this ad fascinating, for one major reason. Right off the top, it invokes a bunch of cliches that we are used to getting from action film trailers. Which is the intention, of course, but is a really strange thing to do, because aping the cliches of film trailers is something that is done frequently in our culture, and, until Pawlenty made this ad, it was done every single time as parody. Even when people are goofing off with friends, you know that when someone starts to intone, "In a world where....", whatever comes next is a joke. If it's a video that makes use of film trailer cliches for any reason other than to be a straightforward film trailer, then it's a joke.
I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, but this happens so often examples are easy to come by. There's the amateur versions:
Then Hollywood got into the game, mocking itself:
And so have politicians:
Film trailer cliches, I thought, had exactly two meanings to Americans: you are about to see a film trailer, or you're about to see a joke. The earnestness that Pawlenty brings to this is baffling. It's like he's only speaking to people who never have read the Onion, never have seen a comedy made after 1960, think the word "camp" only refers to places you go for vacation, and only watch YouTube when someone sends them a video of a kitten licking a puppy(which is, admittedly, the best thing ever in the Video, Just Cute Not Humorous category). This video says, "Are you obtuse? Completely out of touch? Unable to understand even the most primitive of jokes? Completely devoid of any appreciation for irony? Then vote for Tim Pawlenty."
It was confusing until I read Digby's take on it. Don't get me wrong; she's as bemused as I am. But she shook my brain awake with this:
Between this and his constant references to his "red hot smokin'wife", I don't know if he's running for president or auditioning to play James Bond. There is such a thing as protesting too much.
At what point, I thought, "Not really for teabaggers and the Christian right." Just think of the epic amounts of cultural garbage exhibiting a distinct lack of self-awareness they're capable of generating. Even that Christine O'Donnell ad, which tries to be funny, is off. But, more to the point: wingnuttery is an American subculture with a high tolerance for utter humorlessness. Dressing up as revolutionary era soldiers, crying in church, talking about the gold standard, using the word "homosexuality" as if it's dirty, and putting decals of crying bald eagles on your car? We live in a country where some people think it's appropriate to get 9/11 tattoos. You or I might think, "What kind of morons is Pawlenty trying to rope in with this weirdness?", but your answer lies right there.