By fi11222

As I said in the introduction, the only thing (it is indeed a thing) I will be talking about here when I use the name “Sarah Palin” is the synthetic media persona constructed for the purpose of the current Republican presidential election campaign. When referring to the person whose image is used as raw material for the building of this artificial construct, I will uses expressions such as “the real Sarah Palin” and the like.

Sarah Palin as an instance of the Idealized Female Beauty Idol.

The real Sarah Palin is probably quite a beautiful woman. But from an early age, she was apparently not satisfied with the gifts she had received from God and sought both to enhance them and to receive worldly praise as a result. Her nomination as “Miss Wasilla 1984” is a well know fact and one that would be hard to hide.

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The image above is fairly typical example of wannabe female idolatry. It is not as perfect as the average supermodel picture but it certainly tries very hard to be as close as possible.

However, it is only since her nomination as the Vice-Presidential running mate of John McCain, that the construction of the “Sarah Palin” icon we are now dealing with began in earnest, with all the help available from the tools of modern media technology. The results are a series of heavily engineered pictures and video clips which play the attractive-female-image card as hard as can be:

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We may note the subtitle on the magazine cover to the right: “She is more than just a pretty face”. When such statements need to be made, one can legitimately wonder whether the author is not just making an involuntarily admission, if only of his own awkwardness about the whole matter.

In any case, as her adversaries have been quick to point out, Sarah Palin has not enough political credentials to justify a Vice-Presidential nomination. Of course Barack Obama may have even less but this is hardly the point. Does the fact that others engage in Idolatry justify that we do the same ? What I wish to point out here is that, just like a supermodel, Sarah Palin’s status as a media icon cannot be explained by her personal merit alone. Something else must be at play to “fill the gap” between her limited intrinsic capabilities and the fame she has gained. Just as we concluded that the mechanism involved was Idolatry in the supermodel’s case, so we may conclude in the case of Sarah Palin.

In order to bolster this claim, we are now going to look at more specific aspects of the Sarah Palin icon.

Image Engineering

A few weeks ago, Newsweek released a cover featuring a close-up portrait of Sarah Palin.

Believe it or not, this cover triggered an outraged protest from strongly pro-Palin Fox Network:

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Here are a few quotes from the above sequence:

Have you seen the latest cover of Newsweek ? [enunciated in a slow, threatening voice]

It features a photo of […] Sarah Palin, and some [sic.] say it is ridiculously unfair to her. Not the headline but the picture itself.

This cover is a clear slap in the face of Sarah Palin! Why ? Because it is unretouched. It highlights every imperfection that every human being has. We are talking unwanted facial hairs, pores, wrinkles …

Just as with the cosmetics commercial we used as an example in this section, the logic here is that image enhancement has now become a right. Manufacturing one’s own image is something that every human being, or at least every public figure is entitled to. And this is from a conservative media outlet!

Another interesting element regarding this topic is the fact that an Alaskan female admirer of Sarah Palin thought it a good idea to express her love for her by making a Photoshop faked cover of Vogue Magazine featuring a picture of Sarah Palin and a title comparing her to a supermodel (“Sarah – Supermodel tour de force”). This picture has since been spread all over the internet by her fans.

Girl with guns.

Sarah Palin has allowed herself to be seen publicly handling guns, including military rifles. I have no objections to gun use and am quite sympathetic to the idea that gun ownership is a vital ingredient of political freedom. But what Sarah Palin is doing has nothing to do with this. By allowing herself to be seen with guns in her hands, she is letting her public image incorporate some of the girl with guns archetype, of which we have spoken at length in this section. Here are three such pictures set side by side with other girl-with-guns icons in similar poses.

The last image above and to the right is taken from a 2007 issue of “Victor”, the Hasselblad corporate magazine. The weapon featured in both pictures above is the same, an M-16 derived US military issue M-4 carbine.

Interestingly, the Hasselblad series of photograph to which the one above belongs also contains the following one:

It features, in addition to the girl-with-guns character, a motorbike. In modern culture, a bike is often compared to a wild roaring beast; a visual theme which features frequently on bikers jackets for example. Through this connection, I believe that we can also link the picture below with those where we see an Ishtar-like deity riding a wild beast:

One last element we can add to the “girl-with-gun” side of Sarah Palin’s public Image is to note that this aspect has not been lost on some of her supporters. The video below is a home-brew sequence of pictures put together by an admirer and uploaded on YouTube. The title is “Girl with Guns – a Tribute to Sarah Palin” and the musical background is a song also titled “Girls with Guns

YouTube Video:

Original video available here.

Cult following and Fans

Given the short time she has been known on the national level, it is astonishing to see how much fandom Sarah Palin has generated. Here are a few YouTube videos, all made by admirers. The fact that each must have taken at least one or two hours to make, gives us an idea to what extent an idolater is ready to serve his Idol in order to praise her.

1. Lay all your love

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2. Love Story

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3. Tribute to SP

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4. Tribute to SP II

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5. Tribute to SP III

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6. Sarah “the Barracuda” Palin.

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7. She is no just a pretty face

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8. Rifle training (I like Her)

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9. Tribute to SP IV

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10. Wonder Woman

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Sarah Palin as a “VPILF” sex-symbol

As of October 18 2008, a Google search for the keyword “VPILF” yielded 214,000 results. But what is a VPILF? A slang word coined immediately after the nomination of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate and used extensively thereafter by Palin’s many critics on the Web. The term is derived form “MILF”, itself made popular by the comedy film American Pie. A MILF or “Mother I would Like to Fuck” is used by the teenagers in the film to refer to some of their friend’s mothers which they find sexually attractive. The term has since taken a wider meaning, especially in the porn industry, to designate any middle aged but still attractive woman. MILF websites, in particular, is the subcategory of porn web outlets featuring pictures of such women. MILF porn seems to be a specifically American phenomenon without counterparts in Europe or in Asia. It also has managed to inch its way out of the porn segment and into the mainstream through TV series like Desperate Housewives or Sex and the City. Military themed TV series are now even starting to feature typical MILF characters, such as Tiffy Gerhardt in the Unit.

That such a phenomenon is confined to America does not come so much as a surprise when one remembers that this country was founded by people who were deeply devout protestants and were as such less tolerant of all forms of licentiousness than any other segment of European society at the time. This translated into a general climate in which women were expected to dress more modestly than in any other society of European origin. When this climate abruptly changed in the 1960s and 70s, the first segment of society to be affected was naturally the youngest. But the phenomenon then began to spread upwards inside the age pyramid as the baby boomer generation aged an its clout started to increase culturally. In the 1990s, the process was complete and it had become “normal” for women of all ages to try to remain as sexually attractive as possible and for as long as they can. What do you get when the women of a traditionally modest society brutally start to make frantic attempts at sexiness ? Lots of bad taste. And therefore lots of women who look much more slutty than they really are, just because they don’t know better. That is where MILFs (real and imagined) come from.

And this is how Sarah Palin looks like. The image below is a montage of photographs of Sarah Palin surrounded by MILF porn actresses (pictures taken before they start to take off their clothes). The pair of legs is Sarah Palin’s, taken as she was walking off stage after a campaign speech (picture taken as is from a site supporting her).

Of course (thank God), there is still a difference. Sarah Palin’s cleavage is less visible and her skirt is longer (but why are those heels so high ?). All in all, however, her outward appearance is not that different. Men find her, like all the other middle aged American women who look like her, sexually appealing in a slutty sort of way.

The VPILF moniker which has been created for her is nothing more than a verbal symbolization of the overall impression which the above image illustrates and that many have no doubt felt when they first saw her.

Of course, only Sarah Palin’s adversaries call her a VPILF. But it does not mean that her supporters are oblivious to this particular side of her image. Derivatives of the word “hot”, like “hottest Governor” or “hottest VP candidate” come back too frequently under their pen for it to be a coincidence.

Sarah Palin is Isthar to Ashurbanipal McCain

Let us compare the following two pairs of pictures:

What do we see in both cases? A military man standing besides a representation of the Ishtar-Like Deity which is prevalent in his cultural environment. In both cases also, the motivation is the same: to bolster the political power of the man standing on the right side of the picture. Ashurbanipal made abundant use of Ishtar for propaganda purposes as his many inscriptions dedicated to her show, as well as the time and resources he invested in rebuilding or embellishing her temples.

John McCain seems here to be attempting the same move and probably for the same psychological reasons. As we have seen, it pays for a military commander (at least in the short term) to be considered the “meanest, toughest, son of a bitch”. John McCain is proud of his military past and calls himself a “Maverick”, which is more or less the polite equivalent of the expression we just mentioned. We have seen Ashurbanipal declaring Ishtar to be his “mother” thus literally calling himself a “son of a bitch”. Of course, John McCain cannot do the same. He cannot call Sarah Palin his mother and neither can he call her a “bitch”. However, by nominating her as his vice presidential running mate, he comes as close as his culture allows to making such a declaration. After all, Sarah Palin is a “mother” (Hockey Mom) and her girl with guns/MILF persona leave few doubts about the signal she is sending.


  • Sarah Palin’ Image is a manufactured product like that of any media personality.
  • Her supporters even vociferously defend her right to do that.
  • The real Sarah Palin made experiments at an early age with image manufacturing. This is not her first attempt.
  • Her image incorporate unmistakable “girl with guns” Ishtar-like deity elements.
  • She has a large fan base which is ready to spend time to serve her by reproducing her image in order to praise her.
  • She has been identified as a sex symbol, at least by her opponents.
  • She is being used as power-enhancing political propaganda tool by a military man.

Sarah Palin is an Idol in the Biblical sense and, more precisely, the representation of an Ishtar-like Deity as it has come to be defined in our cultural vocabulary.

The real Sarah Palin is worse than an Idolater. She is an Idol-maker. All the while posing as a devout Christian. God help her.


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