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.