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Trish Sie: ‘People Didn’t Dislike My Video For The Reasons I Thought They Would’

Last week, we told you about Grammy-winning director Trish Sie video for Red, White and Milf, a spoof of Sarah Palin‘s candidacy (which, is itself a spoof of, you know, an actual candidacy).

Our interview got lots and lots of press attention, but not the kind Sie expected. Turns out the Age of Irony is over.

Trish explains: “I’m Not Turning Sarah Palin Into An Empty Sex Symbol. She And The GOP Took Care Of That Already.”


Trish writes:

“Once upon a time, there was a female vice presidential candidate for the United States of America. Her party chose to market her, not as smart, well-spoken, educated, or ready for the job, but as a sex symbol, who was expected to do little more than look good in designer clothes, wink coyly to clinch the white male vote and “energize the base” with her folksy sound bites. This woman, rather than making all women proud, was to the political landscape what a zesty back-up dancer is to a rock and roll music video.

“So that gave me the idea of satirizing this strategy in a music video… an aggressively tacky, tasteless, gratuitous, sexist all-American music video, featuring every tawdry, time-tested white-male-targeted rock and roll banality I could think of, from scantily-clad babes winking, licking, and grinding, to phallic symbols, cherry pie, ejaculatory slo-mo spraying and orgiastic girl-on-girl action. I made the lead singer a sneering, leering bare-chested, alpha-male asshole, dripping with douchebaggery and sleazy vests. And now, for his enthusiastically sexy, intellectually bereft back-up dancers… How about not just one, but three Sarah Palins! Indistinguishable, synthetic, machine-made clones! And as a finishing touch, since Sarah’s clearly more than game to hop on board for the MILF-ride, why not add a flatbed truck to the equation, so our Sarah Palins can hop on, too, just to drive the point home?

“I knew some people would dislike my video. I thought it might piss off the handful Republicans who still pretend that Palin is a credible candidate, for example. And my mom, of course. I figured it might make her cringe in a bad way, the way you’d cringe if you caught your kid masturbating. But the people who disliked my video weren’t the people I thought would dislike it, and they didn’t dislike it for the reasons I thought people would.

“‘Palin has enough funny about her without reducing her to a sex object,’ says one comment about the video on salon.com‘s Broadsheet. And in The Guardian, Kira Cochrane lumped my video in with Sarah Palin blow-up dolls and hardcore porn films, calling it a ‘misogynist slur’ which ‘underlines the fact that any woman entering public life runs the risk of being reduced to the most basic female stereotype that springs to mind.’

“Whoa! Hold up, people! Cowboy hats, tommy guns, Kid Rock stylings, American flags, and other cliches notwithstanding, I must not have been making my point as clearly as I thought. To take my video as misogynistic entirely overlooks the irony and misses the point.

“I’m not attacking Sarah Palin for being a woman, or for being a good-looking woman, or even for being a right-wing conservative woman. I’m pointing out that her candidacy, like my video, is a hollow, insulting, vulgar, obvious low-brow joke. My video is simply a caricature, like cartoons of that guy who has a trophy head with ears that stick out. If we had true equality in today’s political scene, a woman would get just as harshly chided for her shortcomings as any man.

“It bugs me that, from day one, Palin has been held to different standards than a man. She’s been shielded from the press by her own party. Her performance in the debate was deemed a success if she did anything short of burst into flames and speak in tongues. The undercurrent of anti-intellectualism and divisiveness in her rhetoric is appalling, terrifying and disgraceful, yet gets cast as quaint and ‘authentic’ by the GOP. Would a 65-year-old man with her resume ever even have been considered for the position in the first place? Hell no.

“We women should be able to shine a harsh spotlight on one of our own with playfulness and frankness and without damaging women’s progress or reputation in the world. Are we so scared of being sexualized or cheapened that we can’t make fun of someone who willingly has been? Do we really need to politely ignore — or even defend! — Sarah Palin for starring in her own larger-than-life cheesy music video?

“Sarah Palin is not a victim here, and it does women no good to treat her as one. We’ve come far enough to say, ‘It’s not sufficient merely to have the existence of a woman vice presidential candidate. She also needs to be credible, poised, professional and prepared. And if, instead of those things, she and her party use sex to sell her, then we’ll speak up and call them out on it.’

“My women friends (including my mom, by the way) get it. When they see this video they laugh; they shake their heads; they squirm a little. They feel that rather than celebrate or promote Palin’s objectification as vacuous sex symbol, this video scolds her (and her party) for having done it already. We, as women, need to slap each other on the wrist from time to time.

“I don’t want to tread carefully or treat Sarah Palin with kid gloves. I think — for all her faults — she’s tough, certainly tough enough to handle this. I’m holding her to the same standards I would hold a man: If you’re a public figure and you’re ridiculous, I will mock you. (Next up: power ballad break-up song from America to George W. that will make this video look like an episode of Little House on the Prairie.)

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