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Deborah King

Deborah King

Posted: May 8, 2009 06:28 PM

Elizabeth Edwards on Oprah: What Was the Point?

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What Elizabeth Edwards calls resilience, some of us would call denial. No matter how much she refuses to speak (or write) the name of the "other woman" or says that finding out whether or not her husband is the father of the baby would not impact her life, there was no hiding what her body language was saying.

First of all, there was the way she was dressed. Yikes, who picked that outfit! I think that if Oprah were coming to my house to interview me, I'd be as careful with my wardrobe as with my words. Unless, of course, she was really trying to convey "poor me."

At the start, Elizabeth mentions she can't wear her wedding ring having jammed that finger; how Freudian.

She held up fairly well during the interview, although the self-doubt she expressed as the wronged woman -- did I dress all wrong at home, what do I mean to my husband, the classic "what's wrong with me" -- was echoed in the way she held herself hunched inward. The issues of trust they are working on as a couple are equaled by the shaken trust in herself: she had failed to keep her husband faithful -- THE one thing that meant the most to her. (While tempted, I won't digress here and talk about how she "took on" her mother's issue of spousal infidelity)

It was at the end of the interview when she and Oprah went down the hall lined with family photos to find John that Elizabeth became clearly ill-at-ease. She stood nervously with her arms folded across her chest, trying to hide whatever might be revealed in the light of Oprah's cameras. Arms crossed over the chest signify feelings of vulnerability, but in this particular instance, it's signaling her fear for John's safety. She was terrified that Oprah would pin him to the wall with a question he wouldn't want to answer. And John looked like he had been gutted -- out in front of the public not to kiss babies and garner votes as the good guy, but for everyone to wonder if the "other woman's" baby is his and what kind of sleazeball is he cheating on his sick wife.

Their body language as a couple told its own story. It was obvious that Elizabeth is his protector (emotionally, not financially), not the other way around. He is the man-child she tries to protect from his own stupidity. But Oprah was pretty kind to him. And when it was clear that she had asked her last question, Elizabeth suddenly melted in relief. Her entire body language changed from being held tightly in fear to one of unabashed release. He looked pretty thankful it was over as well!

The irony, of course, is that Elizabeth's book and the massive media blitz are designed not as much to inspire others through times of hardship (Elizabeth's stated purpose) but to punish John for his transgressions, to put him in his place so it never happens again. And we watch this car wreck of a marriage dragged before the public because we can't turn away.

 

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