Soap (Box) Opera

Blogging “Sex and the City” look-alikes and cute stage show props: The candidates need appropriate children for the election. Then a pregnant teenager goes and ruins it all.

The American election campaign is becoming more and more like a soap opera. Now we find out that 17-year old Bristol Palin is pregnant. The father is outed as 18-year old Levi Johnston, described by the media as “husky,” “angular” and “good looking.” Exactly. Johnston could easily fulfill a casting director’s requirements for “Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten.”*

The story of Bristol and Levi’s teenage love wouldn’t have our attention if the expectant mother wasn’t the daughter of Sarah Palin, the Republican party’s latest shooting star. Presidential hopeful John McCain has introduced her to the public as his running mate on Friday and we already have the first scandal.

Sarah Palin was supposed to embody the myth of the perfect family. The Alaska governor has five children. Her eldest son, Track, she proudly announced, would be deployed to Iraq shortly. Her youngest son, Trig, just four months old, was born despite physicians’ warnings that he would be impaired. The steadfastness of this abortion foe was supposed to impress conservative voters.

But as with every soap opera, a nasty rumor already threatens to expose the “ideal family” for what it really is. Allegedly, according to internet sources, Trig wasn’t the Governor’s son, but actually her grandson. Palin, it was claimed, had feigned pregnancy to hide the fact her daughter had engaged in pre-marital sex. Palin had already built up an image as a champion of abstinence before marriage.

For those who find this script too complicated already, it gets even better: in order to prove she was Trig’s mother, Governor Palin was forced to admit her daughter Bristol’s pregnancy. Now everyone knows that Sarah Palin will become a grandmother in December. Between now and then, of course, the expectant parents will get married.

The happy ending is already being frenetically written, but the final episode in the series is still a long way off. The children of the candidates will remain the stars of this election soap opera although Democrat Barack Obama has already suggested that “the candidates’ families are off limits, especially the children.” But it’s hardly imaginable that Obama can refrain from counting on campaign help from his little daughters, Malia Ann and Natasha. Especially since cute little girls are a necessity for his Kennedy-like image. And finally, Kennedy also once moved into the White House with two little kids, a fact that adorns every popular account of the young President’s life.

But, probably, nobody is lovably loopy enough to understand how dramaturgy functions in the internet age as John McCain’s daughter, Meghan. The 23-year old blonde has her own blog ( on which she boldly poses as a mixture of Paris Hilton and Sarah Jessica Parker. The borrowings from “Sex and the City” are clearly apparent: the blog logo is a young woman in a teddy holding a laptop, her long legs crossed, wearing stiletto heels-–soap star Carrie Bradshaw down to the last detail.

The only difference is that Meghan McCain doesn’t need to find Mr. Right. She has known him since birth. It’s her dad, John McCain. She posts pictures of him almost every day and always from a backstage perspective: “Dad joking in the airplane,” “Dad eating pizza in the campaign bus,” “Dad waving at the crowd.” “Dad loved it,” reads the deliberately naive commentary. The daughter turns herself into an infantile groupie so dad comes off looking younger.

In the ideal election campaign script, politicians all have kids they need, patriots to support the Iraq war, new little Kennedies or blonde groupies.

Hopefully, this sort of stage direction will be overtaken by reality someday.

* Translator’s Note: one of Germany’s most popular and longest-running soap operas

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