Tuesday, August 11, 2009

14 Minutes and 59 Seconds of Fame

In the great pop-culture septic tank we find ourselves involuntarily swimming, occasionally something will surface that will cause even the most jaded amongst us to shake our heads in disbelief. One such baffling eruption is the continued presence of one Levi Johnston on the cultural radar. A sorry by-product of the John McCain/Sarah Palin debacle which began in the presidential election of 2008, he has been popping up here and there in the news like a really annoying rash. Apparently mildly retarded, his road to national prominence started with a detour to the bed of Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol, whom he knocked up.

Hauled from the vast, meth-infused redneck wasteland of Wasilla, Alaska, Johnston was unwilllingly paraded in front of the national media at Sarah Palin's coming-out party during the Republican convention. His squirmy discomfort at being trotted out as the sperm dispenser responsible for the first Palin grandchild was deliciously obvious, but astonishingly this shame was not shared by the Palins or the McCains or practically anyone else at the convention. For being such harsh, unyielding critics of contemporary morals and staunch advocates for sexual abstinence before marriage, the Republican spinmeisters chose to portray the Palins as just another typical, average American family, doggone it, with a pregnant, unwed daughter and a mother who looks and sounds like a flight attendant for Dumbskank Airlines. I'm sure Sarah Palin understands that you can put lipstick on a soccer mom, but she's still a pig.

To absolutely no one's surprise the make-believe relationship between Johnston and Bristol Palin collapsed, which has allowed Johnston more freedom to capitalize on his notoriety and provide us with a front-row seat to the deep, icky dysfunction which defines the Palin family, much to our delight. You can always count on him to blurt out some uncomplimentary tidbit about them, most recently the (totally unsurprising) allegations that Sarah Palin left her position of governor to more easily cash in on the lucrative media deals being sent her way, and that she and husband Todd have been having marital problems for a long time. Not that the Johnston family has much room to criticize, since a while ago his mother was arrested on some drug trafficking charge. They really sound like a family that makes the Connors, the fictional white-trash-deluxe family made famous on the Roseanne television series, seem quite classy.

Johnston showed up at the recent Teen Choice Awards squiring around the acerbic and usually-amusing comedienne Kathy Griffin. Johnston's presence at the awards can be somewhat justified, him being born in 1990 and coming to the end of his teen years. The 48-year-old Griffin, whose teen years are but a very distant, fuzzy memory, decided he was her ticket to an orgy of media-whoring, and she is working it to the very end. Now I love Kathy Griffin; I saw her in person in Phoenix earlier this year and had a great time, but she is really pushing her luck with this latest gig. I can't make up my mind whether she's being incredibly savvy and is orchestrating a brilliant pop-culture satire while jabbing Sarah Palin in the side with a sharp stick, or just saw an opportunity to jump on a passing train to Tacky Town and temporarily rise to the forefront of the celebrity/media gossip industry, which seems to be somewhat disoriented lately in the wake of the month-long Michael Jackson soap opera.

Bottom line, I am definitely in favor of anything which tweaks and annoys Sarah Palin, as any appearance by Johnston undoubtedly does, since it brings up old perceptions of her skeevy family along with new revelations of their bottomless stupidity and loathsomeness. It makes a pleasing counterpoint to her recent Facebook blatherings about Obama's health care reform plans and the "death panels" which are going to dispatch Grandma and Grandpa to the great Socialized Medicine State in the sky whether they're ready to go or not. I am both fascinated and repelled by how a slow-witted good-ole-boy from a seedy Alaska backwater town is somehow navigating successfully the fickle currents of the national media. He has somehow parlayed a snogging session with the daughter of a fourth-rate political hack into a grand tour of the slimy depths of American culture, and that has to be somewhat of an accomplishment. Even worse, it may be the highest achievement of his entire life, which is simultaneously extremely hilarious, pathetic and appalling.

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