Kids are off limits! Remember?
So, Bristol Palin, one of those Palin children we were all admonished never to talk about because the former VP candidate's family life was nobody's damn business, is now going to star in a TV show. Yes, an actual episode that the whole country can see by simply pressing a button. It's called "The Secret Life of the American Teenager." Secret? Presumably the creators of the show feel that the more people that watch and talk about this show the better. One button, and Poof! It's Bristol in our living room.
Are we allowed to talk about it yet?
"Why does anyone even care about this. Why is this news?" Bristol was purported to have cried to her mother over the phone when her pregnancy was discovered during the 2008 campaign and instantly became national news. The McCain campaign, in a desperate effort to "legitimize" the unplanned pregnancy, sent an airplane to pluck the baby daddy off a mountain where he was stalking sheep, hose him off and stick him in a new suit for the "we're getting married" tour on the campaign trail. He wasn't thrilled, but America was, and that's all that mattered.
During all of this, we were left with the distinct impression that these two young lovers simply wanted to be left alone to live their lives. Bristol, we were told, didn't like being the center of attention and would have preferred to just hole up in Wasilla on her very own self-imposed media blackout. Understandable.
But then, came "the abstinence tour." Bristol, sponsored by Candies (see below), traveled the length and breadth of the land talking about the consequences of having sex when one doesn't want a child.
Her former fiance and father of little Tripp, Levi Johnston, was disparagingly referred to as "Ricky Hollywood" by Sarah Palin for his various appearances on Entertainment Tonight, the Joy Behar Show, The Tyra Banks Show and Larry King Live. Clearly Levi was exploiting his accidental fame for even more fame, and fortune. Humph. And while he was at it, he talked about birth control and how abstinence doesn't work, and how Sarah Palin quit being the governor so she could make a lot of money.
But back to Bristol's TV show.
The episode will feature Bristol Palin as herself, friend to the show's protagonist who is struggling with teen pregnancy. This brings us back to the whole uncomfortable narrative that nobody really knows how to deal with. It goes something like this:
Nobody should have to go through what I went through. It's really hard, and I made a bad choice. But, I love my adorable baby and wouldn't trade him for anything in the world, except that I'd do things differently if I knew then what I know now, even though I know that I love my child and wouldn't trade him for anything except the chance to go back and do it again in which case I wouldn't ever even have had sex. Or a baby. Did you see my People Magazine cover with my sweet little Tripp? And have I mentioned that I'm never having sex again because I learned that terrible terrible lesson and that's the only way to make sure I don't have another baby I didn't plan for. Isn't Tripp just the cutest thing? Gosh I love him.
"I am thrilled to be on this show and to be part of a program that educates teens and young adults about the consequences of teen pregnancy," Bristol said in a statement.
And so, Bristol Palin will do her best to frame her child as something other than "a negative consequence."
Yes, this is the same child who was supposedly going to be traumatized by having his custody battle open for the world to see. The Palins, who fought to have the proceedings sealed, feared that media exposure might come back to haunt the young lad as he grew, they said. Clearly, he did nothing to deserve this scrutiny and attention. And clearly it couldn't do anything but make his life a little more challenging than it otherwise would be. How dare he be subjected to the magnifying glass, and all the potential psychological scarring it might bring!
After a judge's ruling, the custody battle goes on in the light of day with the Palins filing motions right and left, and asking Levi for $1700 a month in child support.
So, I'd like to present once again that question that the younger and more innocent Bristol Palin asked all those months ago. "Why is this news?" And the answer simply is that it is not news. The Palins have not only crossed the line from news to entertainment, they've leapt across it with abandon.
Sarah is a commentator for Fox News, and best-selling author. Todd continues his status as Iron Dog celebrity. Levi is a Playgirl centerfold and pistachio nut spokesmodel. Bristol is a TV star and abstinence cheerleader. Trig is a press release topic, stage prop, and a tool for bashing bloggers and Hollywood media. Tripp is a "consequence," a cautionary tale that has spawned a TV appearance by his mom, and a tool of irony to get back at his father for going on TV. The custody battle itslef is a reality show wrapped in Court TV wrapped in a soap opera.
The poor nation is doomed. Let's face it. We have no choice. It's like driving along the highway minding your own business and seeing something on the highway median - Look, it's dancing dogs, and prancing ponies in spangles with women in bikinis standing on top, and shirtless men lifting giant weights, and a ferris wheel, and exotic creatures with stripes and spots, and a woman juggling bowling balls and hack saws, and fireworks and clowns riding around in small cars, and banjos and balloons, and guys swallowing swords and fire, and having someone in the back seat saying "Don't look!"
The reality is that as long as the Palins continue to wear rainbow wigs and ride around in small cars, and take their shirts off, and juggle power tools, America will keep watching.
And after a couple seasons of "The Palins" when it's all starting to get a little predictable, fear not. Willow and Piper are waiting in the wings.