Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Reel Tearjerker

Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?
Published: January 9, 2008

"You can cry from now until the time the jury comes in and it won't make you right and it won't win you that silly case." - Adam's Rib (1949)
A movie meant to evoke tears is called a tearjerker and Hillary Clinton’s comeback was enough to bring tears to your eyes whether you were for or against her. On Monday, Hillary got all misty at a campaign stop and many pundits are pointing it out as a pitstop in her freefall against Obama. Maureen Dowd recalls this scene:
When I walked into the office Monday, people were clustering around a computer to watch what they thought they would never see: Hillary Clinton with the unmistakable look of tears in her eyes.
With politicians it is always a question of how genuine the emotion is, after all, Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.
Another reporter joked: “That crying really seemed genuine. I’ll bet she spent hours thinking about it beforehand.” He added dryly: “Crying doesn’t usually work in campaigns. Only in relationships.”
All this histrionics always makes Maureen nostalgic for the old movies.
As Spencer Tracy said to Katharine Hepburn in “Adam’s Rib,” “Here we go again, the old juice. Guaranteed heart melter. A few female tears, stronger than any acid.”
In Adam's Rib, Tracy and Hepburn were lawyers on opposite sides of the case. The Clintons are both lawyers as well but they are nominally on the same side even if it doesn’t always seem that way. But there are a lot of old movies being played out.
Bill churlishly dismissed the Obama phenom as “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen,” but for the last few days, it was Hillary who seemed in danger of being Cinderella. She became emotional because she feared that she had reached her political midnight, when she would suddenly revert to the school girl with geeky glasses and frizzy hair, smart but not the favorite.
Cinderella has been filmed over 50 times in various ways and that is not counting fairy tale style sports stories like The Natural with Robert Redford. But who is the Natural in this telling:
All those years in the shadow of one Natural, only to face the prospect of being eclipsed by another Natural?
Barack is again portrayed as a prince, but not all that charming. Instead he is the evil Iceman while Hillary is the Top Gun not afraid to cry.
How humiliating to have a moderator of the New Hampshire debate ask her to explain why she was not as popular as the handsome young prince from Chicago. How demeaning to have Obama rather ungraciously chime in: “You’re likable enough.” And how exasperating to be pushed into an angry rebuttal when John Edwards played wingman, attacking her on Obama’s behalf.
Yet, in the end, she had to fend off calamity by playing the female victim, both of Obama and of the press.

At her victory party, Hillary was like the heroine of a Lifetime movie, a woman in peril who manages to triumph. Saying that her heart was full, she sounded the feminist anthem: “I found my own voice.”
On the woman-oriented Lifetime network, the heroines got brutally victimized for ninety minutes before triumphing at the last commercial break. It’s enough to make you cry.

1 comment:

Claude said...

This is definitely one of those cases where being female stacks the deck against you, Edmund Muskie's "Snowflakes" incident notwithstanding.

For how many weeks have we heard about her being a cold, emotionless automaton? And yet, every time she breaks that facade, she's accused of either A) being on the verge of a meltdown; of B) fabricating her emotions. Candidates in general are expected to have what might be considered almost too much gravitas, but when Huckabee cracks a joke it's acceptable. When Hillary Clinton does it, it's a carefully crafted, well-orchestrated action.