The Perfect Mandate: Obama & Becks (& the Media)

David Beckham, global poster-boy for met­ro­sexu­al­ity, sport­ing an Edwardian beard, had a hot date with Obama at the White House today.

Though he had to bring his team-mates along as LA Galaxy were being hon­oured with a recep­tion after win­ning the Major League Soccer Cup, America’s equi­val­ent of the Premiership.

After list­ing the soc­cer star’s achieve­ments, intro­du­cing him josh­ingly as a “young up-and-comer,” and adding that, “half your team­mates could be your kids”, Obama quipped (almost fluff­ing the line): “It’s a rare man that can be that tough on the field and have his own line of underwear.”

Or as rare as a GQ Commander in Chief?

Contrary to recent reports, Obama is not the first gay President. He’s the first met­ro­sexual President. Or as I wrote in Metrosexy:

A well-dressed mixed-race, poly­glot male who makes the Free World wait on his gym visit every morn­ing. A man whose looks are reg­u­larly praised – par­tic­u­larly by male jour­nal­ists. A man who won the Demo­c­ra­tic nom­i­na­tion in part because he was much pret­tier than his more expe­ri­enced female oppo­nent. His wife Michelle is very attrac­tive too, of course – but in some ways Obama is the first US Pres­i­dent to be his own First Lady.”

Which makes the Beckham and Obama’s hot date quite a his­toric occasion.

I can’t quite decide though whether Obama’s own rampant met­ro­sexu­al­ity makes his bitchy remark to Beckham about his under­wear funny or a bit… pants.

Becks Obama The Perfect Mandate: Obama & Becks (& the Media)

Metrosexual Daddy Mark Simpson interviewed by Elise Moore

English author and journ­al­ist Mark Simpson on love-hating the met­ro­sexual, why bromance lacks balls, and why women are strap­ping on Captain Kirk.

By Elise Moore (Suite 101, May 6, 2010)

If you could copy­right neo­lo­gisms, Mark Simpson would be a bil­lion­aire. Since you can’t, the British gay/gender issues and pop/culture com­ment­ator talked to Suite101 about the real defin­i­tion of met­ro­sexu­al­ity and gave his views on gay mar­riage leg­al­iz­a­tion, slash fic, bromance, and more.

The Metrosexual Past and Present

Being respons­ible for the met­ro­sexual could keep less hearty souls awake at night. But Mark thinks the guilt should be shared. “Probably con­sumer­ism, post-feminism, Men’s Health magazine and Jersey Shore should shoulder at least some of the respons­ib­il­ity for the nor­mal­iz­a­tion of male van­ity. I mean, the fact the President of the US now makes the Free World wait every morn­ing for him to fin­ish his work-out, and is some­thing of his own First Lady, isn’t entirely down to me.

Like most people, I have a love-hate rela­tion­ship with the met­ro­sexual. I love it when he pays me atten­tion, and hate it when he’s flirt­ing with someone else. Then I call him ‘self-obsessed’.”

Speaking of love-hating the met­ro­sexual, Jerry Lewis argu­ably made the first met­ro­sexual movie, The Nutty Professor, in 1963. “The Nutty Professor is a remark­able film,” Mark agrees. “It’s a kind of proto-metrosexual sci-fi. Geeky, unkempt, invis­ible and unlaid, Lewis con­cocts a potion that makes him the centre of atten­tion and irres­ist­ible – by boost­ing his nar­ciss­ism to mon­strous levels. It’s Viagra and Biotherme Homme for Men in one product – dec­ades before either were invented.”

Metrosexuality and Consumerism

Metrosexuality has lots of ante­cedents of course: the virile degen­er­acy of Brando, Dean and Elvis in the 1950s, Jagger ‘s petu­lant nar­ciss­ism in the 60s, Bowie’s glit­ter­ing glam­ness in the 1970s, the mirrored male world of Saturday Night Fever and American Gigolo – and the mil­it­ary gay porn aes­thetic of Top Gun. But they didn’t coalesce into the main­stream, High Street, off-the-peg phe­nomenon of medi­ated, com­mod­i­fied, love-me-or-love-me mas­culin­ity known as met­ro­sexu­al­ity until the late Eighties, early Nineties.”

This close cor­rel­a­tion between the met­ro­sexual and increas­ing con­sumer­ism is what gets Mark annoyed when he’s con­fused with the late 19th cen­tury dandy. “As if we can pre­tend that the sexual and aes­thetic divi­sion of labour of the Nineteenth and most of the Twentieth Century didn’t hap­pen. As if Oscar Wilde – per­haps the most fam­ous and in many ways the last dandy – hadn’t been des­troyed by Victorian mor­al­ity for his ‘gross inde­cency’. As if male nar­ciss­ism and sen­su­al­ity hadn’t been asso­ci­ated with male homo­sexu­al­ity – and thus crim­in­al­ised and patho­lo­gised – for the next hun­dred years.

And as if a dandy would have done any­thing so vul­gar as go to the gym and get sweaty.”

Manlove for Ladies and Bros

Mark is also up for equal-opportunity equal oppor­tun­ity when it comes to women who like the idea of man-on-man, as exem­pli­fied by the fan fic­tion phe­nomenon known as “slash fic.” “I’m fas­cin­ated and some­times a little scared by the way that women inter­pret and fan­tas­ize male-on-male sex. Manlove for ladies is very dif­fer­ent to gay porn. For starters, it uses ima­gin­a­tion. Gay porn never does that. Slash-fic also tends to have a lot of feel­ings. Which always, always cause loss of wood in gay porn.

Sometimes it seems as if women are try­ing, rather fab­ulously, to escape their pre­scribed fem­in­ine sub­jectiv­ity by pro­ject­ing them­selves into the bod­ies of their male prot­ag­on­ists. Captain Kirk as the ulti­mate strap-on.”

Is “man­love for ladies,” as Mark calls it, com­par­able in any way to the new neo­lo­gism in town, “bromance”? “Manlove for the ladies has much more in the way of… balls than ‘bromance’. As the name ‘bromance’ sug­gests, actual sex, or in fact any­thing phys­ical, would be a form of incest. It seems like it’s being left to women to put men in touch with their bi-curiousness. Which is as every­one knows – but pre­tends not to – even more com­mon than the female variety.”

The Greatest Iconoclast

If the views expressed above haven’t made it clear, Mark has upset a few people in his career, not least other, more “ortho­dox” gay com­ment­at­ors. But who out of his infatu­ations and inspir­a­tions would he deem the greatest icon­o­clast — Camille Paglia, Lady Gaga, Morrissey, Jerry Lewis? “I would prob­ably have to pick Gore Vidal. He took on everything that is sac­red in America: Machismo. Empire. The Kennedys. The Cold War. Hollywood. Monotheism and Monosexuality. What’s more his hil­ari­ous late 1960s trans­sexual novel ‘Myra Breckenridge’ figured out what was hap­pen­ing to mas­culin­ity and fem­in­in­ity before I was out of short trousers and long before the Twenty First Century got underway.

Come to think of it, I should prob­ably clast Mr. Vidal for leav­ing so little for the rest of us to smash.”

Future of Metrosexuality

Now that the 21st cen­tury is unavoid­ably under­way, what does the new mil­len­nium hold for the metrosexual?

A big, scen­ted candle. And even more product.”


Republican Great White Hope Scott Brown’s Pink Leather Past

Scott Brown new3 Republican Great White Hope Scott Browns Pink Leather Past

A pro­file on the truck driv­ing Republican Presidential hope­ful from Boston Scott Brown in Vanity Fair caused a few chuckles last week with his wife’s cheeky rev­el­a­tion about the pink leather shorts he wore to his first date with her in the 1980s.  Here’s the money shot:

The pink­ish color drained from [Brown’s] face when I asked him about it dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion in his cam­paign office just before we took off in the truck. He cla­ri­fied that the shorts weren’t some­thing that he went out and pur­chased — it wasn’t like that at all. ‘I did the cou­ture shows, and instead of pay­ing in cash, they paid in clothes,’ he said. ‘And one of the things I had to wear were leather shorts. And these happened to be pink.’”

It’s cer­tainly a relief to know Mr Brown didn’t buy them — that would be kinda faggy — that instead he was given the pink leather shorts for sash­ay­ing up and down the cat­walk at a cou­ture show.

How funny to think that the US was the only coun­try that had any­thing approach­ing a ser­i­ous back­lash against met­ro­sexu­al­ity, back in the mid-Noughties.  Oh, come on now, surely you remem­ber?  That so-called ‘menais­sance’?  Those prissy lists of ‘manly’ ‘do’s and don’ts’?  And those com­pletely non-ironic ‘Reclaim your man­hood — go shop­ping in a Hummer’ ads?  It got lots of cov­er­age  in the press at the time.  Supposedly metro was out and retro ‘reg­u­lar guys’ were back in.  Oh, and George W. Bush was re-elected in part on an anti-gay mar­riage anti-metro ticket (his Democrat oppon­ent was por­trayed by the Republican machine as a girly-man met­ro­sexual pas­si­fist).

And yet,  just a few years on, faux Texan ‘bring it on!’ George Bush has been replaced by a svelte mixed-race President who starts every day with a workout, who ran a cam­paign based on slo­gans prin­ted in the GQ font, and who is, for all Michelle’s pret­ti­ness, some­thing of his own First Lady.

And now the great white hope of the Republicans, who whipped Obama’s skinny ass in a Democrat strong­hold, is a former Cosmo centre­forld and male cou­ture model who liked to wear pink leather shorts because they showed off his tanned legs.

But per­haps the most inter­est­ing thing about Scott Brown’s very suc­cess­ful 1980s male mod­el­ling career, look­ing at the pic­tures, is this: he wouldn’t get the work today.  He’d have to do hard­core gay porn.  And cer­tainly not Falcon or any respect­able stu­dio — no, Scott would have to do fetish/extreme stuff.  Fisting in black (not pink) leather, that kind of thing.  Or cash-in on his sur­name.  And he still wouldn’t get paid very much.  Though they prob­ably would let him keep one of the XXL toys.

I’m not being bitchy.  No, really.  I’m just being real­istic.  And any­way, it’s not about him; it’s about us.

He was nice enough look­ing in a wooden sort of way, but since the 1980s an entire gen­er­a­tion of young men have been raised to be male mod­els — and they work at it a lot harder than Scott evid­ently did.  They also look at them­selves a lot harder.  Scott had it rel­at­ively easy because there was much less aware­ness of what was ‘desir­able’ in the male body back then — amongst women and men.  Young men as a sex hadn’t learned to desire to be desired.  That was still offi­cially women’s role.  And because there was prob­ably also rather more in the way of stigma attached to his pro­fes­sion there was even less competition.

Yes, it looks like Scott had a pert bum and what they used to call back then a ‘hunky’ physique — but today it would be a case of ‘Don’t call us dear, we’ll call you.’  Such is the choice avail­able of absurdly desir­able, obscenely fit young men, I doubt any­one would even bother to tell him what he so obvi­ously needed to do: get down the gym and take ster­oids and crys­tal meth.  (And if you work really hard and you’re really lucky you’ll end up on Jersey Shore.)

His body looks far too nat­ural to be cred­ible today as a ideal­ised male image: the lack of porno pecs, a six-pack and ‘cum-gutters’ is hein­ous.  The untrimmed, un-waxed body hair is griev­ous.  The unbleached teeth unfor­give­able.  He wouldn’t make the audi­tion for today’s male Cosmo — Men’s Health — let alone the cover.

In fact, the most buffed and pumped thing about the young Scott Brown to our crit­ical 21st Century eyes is his hairdo.

Star Trek Boldy Goes Into the Obama Era

zachary quinto spock star trek 2597267 2560 1921 300x225 Star Trek Boldy Goes Into the Obama Era

Mark Simpson, The London Times (April 16, 2009)

It died a death dur­ing the Bush years in 2005, but it’s back. I’m talk­ing of course, about the American Dream. Rebooted. In kinky boots.

The first teas­ing trailer for the new Star Trek movie in January last year showed glimpses of a shiny new USS Enterprise “under con­struc­tion”. In the back­ground President Kennedy was fam­ously speech­i­fy­ing about space and Neil Armstrong’s crackly “One small step for Man” was heard. And then came the voice of a much more fam­ous fig­ure: Mr Spock, speak­ing the immor­tal, still spine-tingling line: “Space, the final frontier …”.

As things turned out, a year or so later it wasn’t just the Enterprise that was “under con­struc­tion”. It wasn’t just the most suc­cess­ful TV and film fran­chise to date being rebooted — it was also the USA that was hit­ting the “reset” but­ton. And what is the default set­ting? That Sixties optim­ism. They believed in the future back then.

There was always a very close rela­tion­ship between the American Dream — not to men­tion American imper­i­al­ism — and Star Trek, with its lib­eral, sec­u­lar, mul­tiracial, tech­no­philiac vis­ion of the future. But the two seem almost to have mind-melded with the elec­tion of an optim­istic, lib­eral, iPod and Blackberry-loving mul­tiracial President with a Kenyan father and a white American mother (Star Trek fea­tured the first inter­ra­cial kiss on US tele­vi­sion, spark­ing protests at the time) — and, who is him­self some­thing of a 1960s trib­ute act, with his JFK and Martin Luther King cadences. Suddenly, with Barack Obama ‘tak­ing the con’, America looks like a brand that people can believe in again. Or at least root for at the movies.

Obama has admit­ted that he was a big fan of the ori­ginal series. Others have already poin­ted out that “No Drama Obama” bears some facial, voice-pattern and char­ac­ter sim­il­ar­it­ies with Tuvok, the black Vulcan chief of secur­ity in Voyager, the third Trek spin-off TV series, a char­ac­ter who learnt how to mas­ter his emotions.

obamavulcan 300x198 Star Trek Boldy Goes Into the Obama Era

It’s entirely apt then that the Star Trek fran­chise went into sus­pen­ded anim­a­tion in the middle of the Bush pres­id­ency — along with the American Dream itself — after the crit­ical and com­mer­cial fail­ure of the Next Generation movie Nemesis, the TV pre­quel series Enterprise — and the block­buster Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bush, who prob­ably saw him­self as some­thing of a Captain Kirk fig­ure, was cer­tainly at least as inclined to ignore the “prime dir­ect­ive” (of non-interference in alien worlds) as James Tiberius, not to men­tion the United Nations/Federation. But instead of the love­able, roguish Kirk, the world, and even­tu­ally much of America itself, just saw a cowboy.

What’s remark­able about the Star Trek fran­chise is how closely each series cor­res­ponds to Republican or Democrat pres­id­en­cies. The ori­ginal series (1966–69), with its rad­ical optim­ism and Cold War ethos (the Klingons are clearly the Russkies), maps the Lyndon Johnson Democrat pres­id­ency and the “Great Society” (1963–69). The rather more cor­por­ate and hygienic Next Generation (1987–94) cov­ers the Reagan-Bush Republican era (1981–93), while the deeply dull but indus­tri­ous Deep Space Nine (1993–99) and the fem­in­ist vehicle Voyager (1995–2001), fea­tur­ing a female cap­tain (Hillary played by Catherine Hepburn), falls into the Clinton Democrat years (1993–2001).

The ill-fated Enterprise series began the same year as the ill-fated Bush pres­id­ency, in 2001. It starred Scott Bakula look­ing eer­ily like Bush in a flight-suit and even, oppor­tun­ist­ic­ally, included an evil-doing adversary called the ‘Suliban’. Now, of course, we have a movie series reboot that cor­res­ponds to the begin­ning of the Obama pres­id­ency — how­ever long either fran­chise lasts, we can prob­ably expect their fates to be closely related.

There is per­haps another reason why Star Trek has gone back to the ori­ginal Sixties series: to get back in touch with Kirk’s massive, tight-trousered mojo. Although dis­liked by Gene Rodenberry, Star Trek’s cre­ator, for hijack­ing his rather sex­less, sweat­less vis­ion of the future and for tak­ing his shirt off and wrest­ling with rub­ber ali­ens too much, William Shatner, stress­ing words and syl­lables that mere mor­tals might think had no import­ance, paus­ing pain­fully … in the middle… of… sen­tences … while-rushing-over-their-conclusions, some­how con­veyed some­thing cred­ibly human. Even Shatner’s immense soft-focus van­ity is sym­path­etic. Real people are faintly pre­pos­ter­ous after all.

Above all the ori­ginal Star Trek was very … pointy. As well as Shatner’s urgent libido, there were the fab­ulous pointy boots (low-risers for the men, knee-length ones for the mini-skirted ladies), pointy side­burns, pointy breasts, pointy ears, pointy engine nacelles, pointy Federation logos, pointy let­ter­ing in the cred­its, and also the poin­tedly pointy mis­sion state­ment: “To boldly go where no man has gone before,” which of course was bluntly desexed/corrected in The Next Generation to “where no one has been before”.

The new movie though is grat­i­fy­ingly pointy. The kinky boots are back, as are the form-hugging uni­forms and miniskirts — though now they look like fash­ion­able sportswear. The cast is pretty, male and female, and now, forty years on, the men also have bod­ies and pointy-chests (the two stars, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, reportedly work out at the same gym in LA — and share the same trainer). It looks like there’s enough (metro)sexual ten­sion to power the warp drive. Back too are the brightly Utopian col­ours of the ori­ginal series’ sets and cos­tume design. The Enterprise her­self handles like one of those pointy Sixties sports cars.

Kirk him­self, of course, is back. But not Shatner, who, unlike Nimoy isn’t allowed on board, even for a cameo, per­haps because the dir­ector, J. J. Abrams, wants to make sure that his Kirk, played by Chris Pine, is not going to be over­shad­owed by Shatner’s inter­galactic manhood/ego. Whatever the reason, Pine’s Kirk is a Daniel Craig moment, a reminder of the start­ling sex­i­ness of a fran­chise that had become life­less and effete.

Back also, and very much in the fore­ground, is what Abrams has quite rightly sug­ges­ted is the rela­tion­ship without which Star Trek really makes no sense: Kirk and Spock. Here Spock is played by an andro­gyn­ously fringed Quinto (appar­ently chan­nel­ling early 80s Marc Almond), and we finally learn how they met at Starfleet Academy and over­came fierce rivalry to become the most fam­ous male “mar­riage” in pop culture.

Despite Spock’s pointy ears, there doesn’t appear to be how­ever, any­thing ter­ribly pointy-headed in this reboot: no cereb­rals, no reflect­ing on where the American Dream might have gone wrong — just the enhanced, sexed-up aes­thet­ics of hope. But while great effects, pecs and kinky boots might not be enough to res­cue the American Dream, they’re prob­ably enough to be get­ting on with.

Who’s the Diva? Hillary or Obama?

abc obama clinton 070615 ms Whos the Diva?  Hillary or Obama?

As camp comic Kenneth Williams might say: ‘ark at ‘er!

An enter­tain­ing, often incis­ive, if rather, er, campy, Huffington Post art­icle ‘The Diva’s Camp’ about Hillary’s diva power (and why this turns off ‘Obama-colytes’) com­pares Hillary Clinton to Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest:

Hillary Clinton is pos­sessed by the spirit of Joan Crawford. Like that notori­ous über-bitch immor­tal­ized by Faye Dunaway in the camp clas­sic Mommie Dearest, Hillary bull­dozed into a Democratic primary dom­in­ated by men and brazenly declared, as any self-respecting diva would: Don’t fuck with me fel­las! This ain’t my first time at the rodeo!’

Now, that’s funny, but where did I hear that before?

Oh, yes, that was me a month ago talk­ing about the “3am” ad in a piece after her Ohio comeback called ‘The Bitch is Back’ on Guardian Unlimited:

…Hillary answer­ing the White House phone in scar­let lip­stick, has both a touch of 1990s nos­tal­gia, and also one of time­less thrill­ing glam­our — a hint of Joan Crawford talk­ing to the board of Pepsi in Mommie Dearest: “Don’t fuck with me, fel­las — this ain’t my first time at the rodeo!“‘

Even though I hear that Guardian Unlimited is quite pop­u­lar in the American blo­go­sphere, I’m sure it was just a case of diva-revering minds think­ing alike. And I very much doubt I’m the first per­son to com­pare Hills to Joan.

Actually, though, we weren’t really think­ing alike. Despite my com­par­ison when dis­cuss­ing the ad, I don’t think that Hillary is pos­sessed by the spirit of Joan Crawford, or is camp as a row of tents full of impossible divas on the blob. Apart from any­thing else, camp isn’t really pos­sible in a world like the all-singing, all-dancing shame­less one that cavorts and dis­ports itself before our jaded eyes these days.

Everything and noth­ing is camp. Including the Huffington Post. More to the point, to talk about Hillary as being ‘so camp!’ seems to argue, whether inten­ded or not, that the notion of a woman as the most power­ful per­son in the world is merely ‘failed ser­i­ous­ness’. Or a joke.

And this is a very ser­i­ous busi­ness. Medically ser­i­ous. Sometimes it looks as if the Democratic Party is hav­ing a gigantic nervous break­down over the idea of Hills as their ‘man’, or, rather, over the ‘arrog­ant’, ‘hope­less’, ‘divis­ive’, ‘ugly’ idea that she thinks she could be rather than Mr Obama. It’s tan­gibly Oedipal.

Despite that, I do believe that America is slowly, slowly, very, very tor­tu­ously, nego­ti­at­ing the five-alarm idea of hav­ing a ‘bitch’ and ‘cow’ and ‘whore’ and ‘c**t’ — to use the pro­gress­ive, uplift­ing, non-partisan ver­nacu­lar of right­eous Obama fans — as Commander in Chief. America will learn not to cross its legs and whim­per when Hillary is on TV, even if MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson doesn’t.

After all, Hillary has almost all of the cru­cial big states, and if the Democrats used the same first-past-the-post elect­oral sys­tem used dur­ing the Presidential con­test itself, she would be well ahead of Obama. Contrary to what the media likes to tell us, she’s any­thing but Box Office Poison.

Perhaps because it attracts insec­ure men keen to big them­selves up, it seems to be mostly the US media that’s hav­ing the nervous break­down. The more than slightly deranged and hys­ter­ical — cer­tainly much more deranged and hys­ter­ical than she is accused of being — nature of the press bias against Hillary and the extreme, fre­quently all-but mur­der­ous per­sonal abuse cas­u­ally lev­elled at her,compared with the lov­ing, swoon­ing indul­gence bestowed on her strip­ling rival, does rather sug­gest that anxi­ety about a female Big Boss, thus far at least, looms and lurks much lar­ger in their minds, than a black (or, rather, half-white) male one. This isn’t to say that ‘sex­ism is worse than racism’, it’s just to point out that sex­ism — no, sorry, untram­melled, unin­hib­ited, shud­der­ing, shiv­er­ing, gut-wrenching miso­gyny — unlike racism, is con­sidered per­fectly accept­able prime time fare.

And as some­body who isn’t entirely free of miso­gyny myself, I think it ter­ribly unfair that they should be able to get away with it.

Sometimes, watch­ing the American Primaries cov­er­age has been like watch­ing an espe­cially hor­ri­fy­ing epis­ode of 60s ret­ro­sex­ist drama Mad Men, but without the irony or the smoking.

In her bit­ter battle to win this uncon­scious — and there­fore by defin­i­tion unfair — struggle, Hillary is using every power­ful American fem­in­ine arche­type she can lay her hands on. Unfortunately for her, there aren’t too many. Unlike our first female leaderene Mrs T (whom America loved, partly because she was, like Churchill, and Tony Blair, great at giv­ing America head, but mostly because she wasn’t their leader), she doesn’t have chariot-driving Boudicca or Armada-vanquishing Elizabeth I or globe-ruling Victoria to call on as legit­im­ising ances­tral memories.

Because of the vital sym­bolic import­ance of these women in our national myth­o­logy, or maybe just because of Coronation Street, the UK is some­times rather more mat­ri­archal than the US. Elton John, who admit­tedly is not per­haps the best argu­ment for mat­ri­archy, recently announced him­self shocked by the miso­gyny America has dis­played dur­ing these Primaries.

Republics and their ‘Founding Fathers’ favour women even less than mon­arch­ies. Monarchies, which are after all based on repro­duc­tion and fam­il­ies, occa­sion­ally cut them a break, when no worthy male heir turns up — which is what happened with the Tory Party in the 1970s when it anoin­ted Maggie. Though if she had used the fam­ous line of Elizabeth, “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stom­ach of a king, and of a king of England too,” every­one would have scoffed at the idea that her body was ‘weak and feeble’. Even her fam­ous hand­bag was seen as a fear­some weapon.

Powerful women in American his­tory, save per­haps Eleanor Roosevelt, don’t really exist — except as kind­ling in Arthur Miller plays. So they had to be ima­gined in 1940s Hollywood melo­drama, aimed, of course, at power­less women: pro­du­cing, lit­er­ally, ‘divas’ such as Joan, Bette and Katherine. So if Hillary some­times chan­nels a little bit of Joan, Bette and Katherine it’s because she needs to ima­gine her­self as a power­ful woman in a man’s world, and American his­tory doesn’t offer her much else to work with.

OK, she might pos­sibly be a psychotic bitch too, but the media has yet to make that case — though it keeps try­ing. Hillary isn’t pos­sessed by the spirit of Joan Crawford, as the Huffington Post has it — rather, Joan Crawford is pos­sessed by the spirit of Hillary.

Handsome half white/half black but entirely male (if very eager to please) Obama can and does draw on both Martin Luther King and Jack Kennedy, and in fact American polit­ical his­tory at least as far back as Lincoln for his legit­im­a­tion — and invites us, with that sexy smile, to a ‘more per­fect union’. It’s an invit­a­tion that, oddly, seems to turn men on more than women. Hillary hat­ing MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, for instance, talks openly about how how listen­ing to Obama gives him ‘a thrill up my leg’ (a very dif­fer­ent kind of feel­ing, I’m guess­ing, to that exper­i­enced by Tucker Carlson listen­ing to Hillary). Lots of guys are gay for Obama — and out and proud it seems.

And as for Hillary being a ‘gay icon’, des­pite gay parade march­ing Hills being closer in many ways to the gay com­munity than Obama, and des­pite (English) Elton John’s sup­port, most American homos I know can’t bear her, while the main gay blogs prac­tic­ally dance on her head daily. Preposterously bearded MTM trans­sexual and recov­er­ing Republican Andrew Sullivan is com­pletely obsessed, prac­tic­ally scream­ing ‘DIE, BITCH! DIE!’ at her, call­ing her a ‘hor­ror movie without end’ and com­par­ing her to Glenn Close’s insane stalker char­ac­ter in the infam­ous 80s career-woman hat­ing flick Fatal Attraction. Get a grip, Mary. And a shave.

Despite Mr O’s reluct­ance to be inter­viewed by the gay press or attend gay parades, his Christian church base, and his gay plat­form vague­ness, he is much the ‘gayer’ can­did­ate simply because he is younger, better-looking, better-dressed, cooler — and male. He is, in fact, metrosexual.

If we are going to talk about camp, and if camp is a form of style over sub­stance, media­genic Obama is much camper than Hillary — and more of a diva too. Doesn’t he roll his eyes dur­ing debates with Hillary? Doesn’t he fill sta­di­ums with his per­form­ances? Didn’t he flounce out of a press con­fer­ence in which he was actu­ally grilled instead of applauded in a huff, protest­ing ‘You’ve asked me like, eight ques­tions already!.

It’s the male divas you have to watch out for in polit­ics. Over here in the UK we are still get­ting over our own Christian pop star politi­cian, that nice Mr Blair who took us, smil­ing his drag queen smile, into a dis­astrous American war.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2008

The Bitch is Back: Hillary Comes Out Clawing

hillary clinton ps The Bitch is Back: Hillary Comes Out Clawing

After being written-off and told to give up, Hillary has earned grudging respect

By Mark Simpson (Guardian CIF, 6 March 2008)

What is American voters’ prob­lem? The media, on both sides of the Atlantic, has been telling them for weeks that dreary Hillary was “fin­ished” and that Tuesday’s primar­ies were going to be her “Alamo” — and that Obama, the glam­or­ous, smooth-talking 1960s trib­ute act, was unstop­pable. The kindly Fourth Estate made it as clear as they pos­sibly could which way the idi­ots should vote on Tuesday, prac­tic­ally hit­ting them over the heads with it, and what do they do?

Only go and hand “that woman” a stun­ning, breath­tak­ing — and com­pletely unfore­seen by the pun­dits — comeback last Tuesday, pulling the coron­a­tion car­pet from under Obama and Michelle’s smartly shod feet. The cheek of it! The racism of it!

Not that you’d know Clinton won big in the Democratic primar­ies from read­ing the sulk­ing lib­eral media. According to them (here and here), it was “really” Republican McCain who won.

So how did it hap­pen? What gave the voters of Texas, Michigan and Rhode Island the nerve to defy their bet­ters and hand Hillary vic­tory? Well, it’s quite ironic, really. You see, it was Hillary’s will­ing­ness to become the very thing that she has been painted as being by a hos­tile media and Obama sup­port­ers (who for fol­low­ers of a man who preaches so much about “unity” and “peace” can be awfully unpleasant).

A bitch.

Yes, of course, she was always some­thing of a bitch any­way — how could a woman who got that far in polit­ics not be? But in the run-up to this do-or-die primary she came out about it. Rather than shed­ding some tears this time, she presen­ted her­self as an out-and-proud bat­tling bitch. She star­ted to go after that nice Mr Obama head-on, claws out, instead of pussy-footying around, or let­ting hubby Bill do it from behind the lines — or hop­ing, vainly, that the press might sub­ject Obama to any­thing other than ador­ing scru­tiny. So she clawed him on his double-dealings over Nafta, she slapped him about over his dodgy links with slum land­lords, kicked him in the nuts over his inex­per­i­ence and his hot air. She became a back­bit­ing face-scratching brawl­ing bat­tling bitch that you’d bet­ter not mess with.

Inevitably, bat­tling bitch Hillary was por­trayed as simply des­per­ate and bank­rupt by a dis­dain­ful media, but voters seem to have respec­ted her for it. Voters, espe­cially blue-collar Americans in places like Ohio already exper­i­en­cing reces­sion, have begun to see her as their bitch, able to fight their corner in dif­fi­cult times — and, strangely, they’re less con­cerned than lim­ousine lib­er­als about whether this looks “cool” or “pres­id­en­tial” or not.

The Hillary’s now (in)famous “chil­dren” ad — “It’s 3am, your chil­dren are asleep, a phone rings in the White House” — announced the emer­gence of the new Hillary. Denounced by Obama as “the polit­ics of fear”, it showed that at last she was pre­pared to play hard­ball, in pub­lic, and mess with Obama’s sainted hair. That because she was will­ing to run such a ruth­less ad, she was the kind of per­son, the kind of woman, that was worthy of that office. Whoever wins the Democratic nom­in­a­tion will be up against the party of “national secur­ity” — in war­time. A party that won’t hes­it­ate to play hard­ball will Obama’s halo.

Obama’s eager use of the “chil­dren” ad as a cue to play yet again that increas­ingly grat­ing record of his blame­less­ness, his vir­gin stain­less­ness — “The phone DID ring, she answered it and she made the WRONG decision!” worked against him. Plaintively remind­ing the pub­lic how HE didn’t vote for THAT war (because, actu­ally, he wasn’t in the Senate back then) reminded them that inno­cence and inex­per­i­ence can be much the same thing — mak­ing him look a bit too goody-goody for the White House, with all its sul­phur­ous com­prom­ise. That, whatever else it is, the Oval Office is not a pulpit.

Besides, didn’t Hillary spend most of the 1990s — the last time America was pop­u­lar and at peace — in that house, sur­viv­ing everything the Republicans could throw at her? Doesn’t her face, the one the press con­stantly jeers at for being so much less pretty than Obama’s (a can­did­ate whose face appears to turn cari­ca­tur­ists into love­sick teenybop­pers), bear the scars of those battles?

The end of the ad, Hillary answer­ing the White House phone in scar­let lip­stick, has both a touch of 1990s nos­tal­gia, and also one of time­less thrill­ing glam­our — a hint of Joan Crawford talk­ing to the board of Pepsi in Mommie Dearest: “Don’t fuck with me, fel­las — this ain’t my first time at the rodeo!” Or maybe Ripley in Alien: “Stay away from her you bitch!” (though of course Hillary is both Ripley and Alien Mother).

Hollywood itself didn’t rely on hints, mean­while. The hit Jack Nicholson “Who Do You Trust?” YouTube ad — “there’s noth­ing sex­ier on this earth, believe me gen­tle­men, than a woman you have to salute in the morn­ing” — endorsed, not just Hillary’s can­did­acy, but bat­tling bitch Hillary: since we know a love­able bas­tard like Nicholson wouldn’t respect a woman boss unless she was at least his match.

After being written-off and told to give up, and fight­ing on regard­less, her lit­er­ally grim determ­in­a­tion has earned grudging respect. People look at her face, and all the tire­some­ness of it, its lines, its bit­ter­ness, its frozen, career-woman trail­blazer fea­tures, and take them as ter­rible proof of her com­mit­ment. For Hillary, it doesn’t look like a dream; it’s closer to a night­mare. And so, of course, is real polit­ics as opposed to stadium-rock polit­ics. The White House is some­thing she deserves — in every sense of the word.

Meanwhile, people looked at Obama’s much younger, much pret­tier, much softer, much more pleas­ing face, basked in his Hawaiian smile, heard his soar­ing words and phrases, and decided that, while this is one American Idol that they very much like the sound and look of — one who makes them feel mighty good –he just ain’t half the woman that Hillary is.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2008