Sunday, April 22, 2012

Beating an empty suit with a suit full of dead meat: Reagan comedy in a Romney era

One of the first readers to read Raise the Gipper! all the way through has come in with a question: did I wish someone other than Romney was going to be inevitable, because he's such a bland target?

Well, yes and no.

See, Romney to me seems a lot like Hubert Humphrey, Al Gore, and various other super-sincere careerist figures: there's not even a void inside the suit.  The role has eaten the person completely.  (Part of why I like the metaphor of an empty brainpan full of bugs in other parts of the book).   And in  a real sense I think the 'pubs couldn't have nominated anyone who would make the book more possible.  The base is deeply turned off by someone whose appeal boils down to "Dull-minded people who are not paying attention will find him acceptable."  It's like Top 40 pop or network TV were at one time; it's about not losing an audience, not about exciting one.  So he's the guy who makes the whole thing plausible, the Charlie Brown/Rodney Dangerfield Omega Candidate.

There'd have been more to shoot at with a nutcase Alpha like Santorum or Bachmann or Perry.  And desperately loserish crazies like Gingrich and Paul are so perfectly Betas – the natural butt of jokes – that I had to eliminate Gingrich after one long scene lest he take over the book.  So, Romney's not the target he could have been – but he's a pretty peg to hang the comedy on.  Kind of like the way Charles Schultz put Charlie Brown through the wringer of being "wishy-washy" and having a "failure face" and all that, but ultimately Snoopy, Lucy, and Linus carried the act.