Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Hail to the Chief Celebrity

The election of a president occasions a celebrity event called an Inauguration. In the case of the accession of a black person is an anomaly but does not mean that America is now free of racist tendencies.

The GOP got its knickers all in a twist as Obama gathered admirers here and all over the world, forgetting how they had adored their boy Reagan–who was what America had always wanted for prez: a movie star. In time, he morphed into a grandfather figure too, so it was a two-fer.

Reagan raised taxes four times in eight years, never gave the Religious Right what they wanted, stayed away from church, and still was considered the second coming of Christ. He was really their second coming of Roosevelt; FDR had a pedestal on Olympus for actually doing something, and eager for a Republican Roosevelt before the end of the 20th century, the GOP settled for a Cardboard Messiah. And all done with smoke and mirrors, just like on movie sets. After the financial crisis of his first term, when he was nowhere to be seen–thus creating the much stronger Federal Reserve that we know and love today–the Gipper’s State of the Union spiel credited himself for the recovery, while cameras faded on him as he invoked the faux declaration, “Not bad, not bad at all…”

The Reagan presidency was possible after George Murphy, another Hollywood refugee, got elected Senator from California. Arnold the Governator was to be next, but his state was suddenly a liability–from  Gold Rush to Gold Rust. It’s just as well; when he was a champ body-builder, I thought the crowd that cared about those muscle-heads was the thinnest slice of Americana. Imagine my surprise when he parlayed that, and his Terminator flicks, into Head Cheese of the Golden State. People say California is nuts anyway, but there really is no word for what goes on there; we haven’t made one up yet and should do so soon. Here’s a guy who calls political rivals “girlie-men,” forgetting when the state had a website for women to report if he had groped them.

So when Barack got cheers from Boston to Berlin for being an “attractive” leader, the Grand Old Party did protested too much. The idolization of celebrities is a free people’s way of re-creating royalty. When someone bragged that Obama’s Inauguration would show the Brits we don’t need royals–all we showed was we can have them while denying that we do. More smoke and mirrors but, hey, that’s Hollywood for ya.

Celebs go way back, not counting Adam and Eve, who had no one else around to ogle them. In time, you didn’t even have to be real to be a celebrity. Guinevere was one, but she was fictional; married to the greatest king, Arthur, she took to bed his mortal enemy, which now would land her book and movie deals, but in those days meant a one-way ticket to a convent to mull over her mistakes. Lady Godiva was both celebrity and a real person who rode nude through Coventry as a deal for her husband to lower the town’s taxes–not something Laura Bush would have done, but Sarkozy’s wife is clearly a prospect. In Guinevere there is a hint of Princess Diana, and in Godiva more than a touch of Madonna–and I don’t mean the one with the famous Baby.

Then there’s Robin Hood, another fiction, idolized for robbing the rich and giving much less than was imagined to the poor. Had he been an honest man, he would have gained no praise at all, so go figure. But he was “gallant” and one who showed “respect” for women–which is code for “ladies’ man,” and why not, given those cute little tights worn by him and his very merry men.
So here’s to all who fuel our dreams and are more highly regarded than deserved. In truth, every man is a heel to his valet, and as for women, well, who can forget Leona Helmsley. Truth is stranger than fiction, not to mention more painful. Replace the word “fiction” with “celebrity,” and the difference is negligible. Since Reagan, we’ve wanted them for presidents, too.

Except for George, who totally blew it.

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