Who knew that the Gilmore Girls, those fast-talking dames of Amy Sherman-Palladino's pithy imagination, would turn out to be prescient political analysts.
I know, I know -- "Where is she going with this?", you're thinking.
Well, in light of Scott Spradling's obnoxious demand that Hillary Clinton defend her personality during last week's Democratic debate, it strikes me that a little compare and contrast between a little vintage moment from Gilmore's second season (circa 2002) might be called for:
Democratic Debate in New Hampshire, Jan. 5, 2008:
SCOTT SPRADLING ...New Hampshire voters seem to believe that of those of you on the stage, you are the most experienced and the most electable. In terms of change, they see Senators Obama and Edwards as the agents of change, in New Hampshire mindset. My question to you is simply this: What can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on this stage tonight, who see a resume and like it but are hesitating on the likability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, that hurts my feelings. (Laughter.)
MR. SPRADLING: I'm sorry, Senator. (Scattered applause.) I'm sorry.
SEN. CLINTON: But I'll try to go on. (Laughter.)He's very likable. I agree with that. I don't think I'm that bad.
SEN. OBAMA: You're likable enough, Hillary.
"Gilmore Girls," Season 2, first aired Tuesday May 21, 2002:
In this segment in question, high-strung, overbearing but highly intelligent Harvard-aspirant Paris Geller is running for student body president. Her two friends, Louise and Madeline, polled a cross-section of 150 of their fellow high school students to predict her chances.
Madeline: So we added the votes up... when asked which of the three candidates is the most qualified for the job of president, 90% said you.
Louise: And when asked who of the three candidates would be the most competent president, overwhelmingly the answer was once again you.
Paris: So that's it! I'm in!
Madeline: Not quite.
Paris: How is that not quite? Most competent, most qualified. What else is there?
Louise: Well, we also polled likability.
Madeline: And while people think you are smart --
Paris: And competent
Louise: And competent, they also find you, well, a tad --
Louise: Someone thought a Halloween mask of you would sell big.
Paris: Well, fine. They don't like me. Big deal, right? I'm still most competent.
Louise: Yes, but when asked if likability would affect their voting choice, almost 100% said yes.
Paris: That's crazy. People would rather vote for a moronic twink who they liked over someone who could actually do the job?
Louise: Sad, but true.
Madeline: Hope for a sex scandal?
So, it's not just me, right -- you see the comparison, too?
Now, here's the thing: I've been about as critical as any one person can be of Hillary Clinton, the Iraq-war-supporting, welfare-reform-excusing, DOMA-defending, corporate-money-grabbing Senator from my home state. And John Edwards and Barack Obama are also qualified competitors running savvy campaigns (hardly the affable "moronic twinks" besting Gilmore's fictional Paris Gellar).
Yet there is no denying that HRC is -- like Paris -- competent, experienced, intelligent and fiercely motivated, all qualities necessary in strong leaders... and all of which matter far more than whether she'd make a charming companion over cocktails. Doesn't it seem rather insane (and immensely misogynistic) that American media have been covering the first female front-runner with a real shot at the Oval Office as if she's campaigning for Prom Queen, rather than POTUS?
And as insulting as this coverage has been to Clinton herself, it's even more insulting to American women -- and to all American voters, actually -- that journalists, cable news wonks, pundits, op-ed writers and even some liberal bloggers have been so quick to insist that we will pull the lever for or against Clinton not based on our support of or opposition to her legislative record ad policy positions, but on whether or not she makes us feel all warm and fuzzy.
A little more to the point: isn't too much at stake for our media to be reporting on this election as if it's nothing more than a high school popularity contest?
NOTE: I've been doing a variety of TV and radio commentary on media coverage of Hillary Clinton this week, and from Al Jazeera TV (where an interpreter translated my responses into Arabic) to Tennessee talk radio (where a translator might have helped me understand a couple of the callers' thick, "King of the Hill"-esque Southern drawls), everyone has been obsessing over the meaning of Hillary's supposed emotional breakdown... even though she hardly shed a tear. My guess is that media will continue to call, so if you have anecdotes, news, opinions or tidbits about election coverage that you'd like me to bring to a wider audience, please share your thoughts by posting comments here or emailing me at info[at]wimnonline[dot]org, and I'll be able to write about your tips at WIMN's Voices, and possibly discuss them on TV and radio.
And, if you care about media coverage of women in politics -- and media coverage of elections in general -- and you're based at a college, high school or community organization that sponsors lectures, WIMN offers a multimedia presentation called, "Condoleezza Rice is a Size Six, and Other Useless Things I Learned from the News: Challenging Media Misrepresentations of Women." I can't imagine a better season for this talk...
This post originally appeared at WIMN's Voices: A Group Blog on Women and the Media , a project of Women In Media & News, the national women's media analysis, education and advocacy group. To bring Jennifer L. Pozner to speak to your campus or community group, or to send WIMN blog tips, email info [at] wimnonline [dot] org. To subscribe to WIMN's free media alert list, see the Action Center at http://www.wimnonline.org/action/.