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.

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

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


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.


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?

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.

[you­tube kcdnlNZg2iM&eurl]

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


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