Photo courtesy TLC
Anita and I made the mistake of watching a few episodes of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” on TLC last weekend.
I think it was a mistake for a few reasons.
I found myself at times disliking Palin slightly less than I did before seeing the show (which was, I assume, someone’s goal). Anita and I agreed that she poses and postures and panders and probably isn’t quite the experienced wilderness woman that she pretends to be – and we cringed when she used famous Palinisms such as when she insisted while camping that Russia could be seen to her right or took Bristol to a shooting range and advised, “Don’t retreat, reload” – but there were moments when I found myself thinking, “She’s not so bad.” If doctors could surgically remove the Blackberry that’s apparently permanently attached to Mama Grizzly’s paw, I might even be able to spend a few minutes in the same room with her without losing my lunch.
I found myself respecting her husband, Todd. First, he’s apparently the real deal: a salmon fisherman, pilot, hockey coach and champion snowmobiler who’s won the 1,971-mile Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race – the longest race in the world – not once or twice but four times. (Temperatures are well below freezing; 50 degrees below zero is common.) And secondly, he endures his annoying wife and her annoying celebrity with quiet strength, occasionally revealing a slightly bemused expression but otherwise keeping his mouth shut and his attitude positive. What occurs behind the camera might be a different thing, of course, but on the show he comes off as the kind of guy with whom I’d like to have a beer or two.
The episode featuring guest appearances by Kate Gosselin and her kids made me want to cause bodily injury to another human being. I started out respecting Kate’s aversion to guns and blunt persona but was amused, then irritated, then really bothered by her refusal to even try to enjoy camping in the rain with her children and the Palins. Voicing one’s discomfort is one thing; being a major pain in the ass who neglects one’s own spawn and complains incessantly as if one is suffering in the trenches in Normandy is another.
Although I dislike her slightly less, Palin still seems like an insincere advocate for “special needs” children. In the episodes we watched, she spent more time on camera with her autistic nephew than with her own son, Trig, who was born with Down syndrome. When she decides to take a road trip to Homer, Alaska, Sarah is shown dropping Trig off at Todd’s parent’s house first, leading Anita and me to assume the trip is for adults only. But the next scene shows Sarah and Todd heading down the highway in a huge RV with daughters Bristol, Willow and Piper and grandson Tripp, Bristol’s baby. Either Trig has medical issues that prevent him from traveling with the family or Sarah chose to banish her most challenging child. As parents of four children, we found his exclusion from the family trip puzzling and the producers’ decision to allow us to view it surprising.
My desire to visit the largest state in the country sure skyrocketed to an uncomfortable degree. The show's aim, according to Palin, is to bring "the wonder and majesty of Alaska to all Americans." It succeeds. The picturesque scenery, rushing waters, breathtaking vistas, aerial views and mountains disappearing into clouds elevated our 49th state to the top of my list of Places I Really, Really Need to Visit Before I’m Too Old to Travel.
I once told Anita that if Sarah Palin ever knocked on my door at night during a thunderstorm and reported that a flat tire had stranded her in my neighborhood, I’d tell her to seek cover and slam the door in her face. But now, having seen this show (which was not renewed for a second season), I’d change her tire and send her on her way.
That would probably be a mistake.