Hillbilly effigy: On Rick Perry’s descent from alpha to alfalfa male

 

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Good afternoon Austin:

OK America. You feel better now? You got that out of your system? You all had your big laugh at Rick Perry’s expense?

Hee haw, ladies and gentleman. Hee Haw.

Last week, his debut dance, began with the longest-serving governor in Texas history grabbing a corn dog from Rick’s Corn Dog stand and dancing a cha cha to God Blessed Texas on his way to garnering a last-place finish.

This week, it was Perry climbing off a tractor to do a quick step to the theme from Green Acres on the way to a second last-place finish.

Except, instead of playing Eddie Albert’s Oliver Wendell Douglas character as the urbane sophisticate seeking the simple pleasures of rural life, they had Rick Perry high-stepping like some hillbilly doofus, some rube, some rustic, some simple country simpleton.

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OK. So the theme of last night’s show was TV theme songs.

But did they have Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez dancing to the theme from the Bill Dana Show?

No, of course not.

So where was the Yokel Anti-Defamation League lighting up the phones after Perry’s demeaning playing-to-stupid-stereotype?

 

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Where was Donald Trump (who, incidentally, ala Oliver Wendell Douglas, knows what it’s like to have a beautiful, pampered wife who talks like a Gabor). Trump –  The Tribune of the Great Less Well-Educated White Masses – ought to have said,  “No. Stop. This is Rick Perry, who led the most successful red state in America longer than anyone, who commanded the 12th largest economy in the world (Greg Abbott recently upgraded it to 10th.).  Rick Perry, who with greater courage, precision and erudition than anyone else denounced me early on as throwback to the Know-Nothings? How dare you mock Rick Perry.”

But, not so much as a tweet from Trump on Perry’s humiliation.

Of course, Perry, and no doubt many of those who love Perry, saw it as no such thing.

Indeed,  Rick Perry appears to be having the time of his life on Dancing with the Stars.

 

You can watch the whole sorry mess here:

And here:

When it was announced that Perry would be on DWTS (that’s what we call it – we, now including me), I wrote:

Perry said he’s not a good dancer. He doesn’t particularly like dancing. During his 14 years as governor he danced in public four times “in some attempt to appear to be waltzing” with his wife and daughter at each of four inaugural balls.

So when the ABC reality TV show “Dancing With the Stars” called about six weeks ago asking him to join their show this fall, he turned them down.

But Jeff Miller, who ran his presidential campaign last year, persuaded him to reconsider, telling the longest serving governor in Texas history, “This is a completely different demographic than you’ve ever been around. People will get to see you the way we’ve gotten to see you. You’re not some stiff — well maybe on the dance floor.”

And, Miller told Perry, he could seize the opportunity to bring his advocacy for America’s soldiers, active duty and retired, to a vast audience largely detached from the lives and needs of America’s fighting men and women.

“I want Americans to know these young men and women the way I know them, the personal stories, the sacrifice,” Perry told the American-Statesman.

“Dancing With the Stars” has variously proved a way for a celebrity to build a brand, resuscitate a career or repair a reputation.

Perry is mindful that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, owes much of his success to his long, popular presence on reality TV. But Perry, who a recent Public Policy Polling poll found could beat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz among Texas Republicans in 2018, said he isn’t doing this with an eye to another campaign.

“I think that’s a bit far-fetched for me,” Perry said. “We don’t have to toy around here. People talk to me and ask me about going to the Senate, running for the Senate.”

On a visit to Austin last week, Trump complimented Perry at a taping at ACL Live of Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News and at a private fundraiser at the Headliners Club.

But Perry said, “I’m an executive. That’s how I spent my life as ag commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor.”

“I run big things,” he said, and the Senate holds little allure.

“I would never, ever say absolutely no way,” Perry said. “I would say it’s very far out of my interest and for that matter desire.”

But he described “Dancing With the Stars” and his publicity blitz for military men and women as “a campaign.”

“It’s a campaign to win votes. It’s a campaign to win public relations,” Perry said. “It’s entertainment and one of the things that I came to really respect this election cycle in particular is that this is show business, and if you don’t understand this is show business, you might be at a little bit of a disadvantage.”

True. But the problem here is that Trump’s reality TV series was built around Trump the All Knowing and All Powerful.

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Here is Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of the great new book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, explains in a piece in the Boston Globe how Trump’s reality TV life helped explain his appeal to evangelical Christians:

Trump has tapped into the fear and hope underlying the Rapture, I think, by standing as a powerful judge who decides who is saved and damned. In “The Apprentice,” his wildly popular reality TV show that ran for 16 years, contestants compete to win a $250,000-a-year management job — a secular heaven. Trump sits at a table in a corporate boardroom, in black suit and tie, lips pursed, the judge. Later, on judgment day, he tells one man who had been put in charge of two other contestants, “Sam, you’re no longer with us. You’re fired.” Then, addressing Sam’s two subordinates, Trump says, “You guys go up.” To Sam he says, “You go down.”

During his campaign, Trump promotes or condemns as well. If a news report displeases him, the reporter is banished from his campaign events; at one point, even The Washington Post was left behind. And what is building a wall on the Mexican border or banning all Muslims from entering the United States but drawing a line between the saved and left behind?

Like an Old Testament God, Trump judges. Most of all, he tacitly promises his faithful followers that he will restore their sense of being, visibility, and honor. Trump seeks it for personal reasons, they for circumstantial ones. This visibility comes, metaphorically, with the aura of that Trump Tower penthouse, with floor-to-ceiling marble, crystal chandeliers, pillars and statues of gold —not unlike the gold that abounds in many Rapture believers’ descriptions of heaven.

Although Trump is nobody’s model Christian, he has uncannily managed to appropriate the iconography of belief: images of a long-awaited judgment soon to come, when merciless vengeance will be wreaked on evildoers, wrongs will be righted, and untold blessings delivered to the deserving. This hidden source of his powerful appeal is nothing less than a secular version of the Rapture.

But, on his reality TV show, DWTS, Rick Perry is not the alpha male. He’s the alfalfa male, the rube, the bumpkin about to get bumped off the turnip truck.

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On his show, Donald Trump did the firing. On his show, Rick Perry is in very real danger of being the first fired.

From Houston Chronicle music critic Joey Guerra’s quick and brutal review of last night:

Rick Perry brought out the rhinestoned pitchfork for his second spin around the floor on “Dancing with the Stars.” And it still earned him the week’s lowest score.

The former Texas governor left no stereotype unturned with his quickstep to the theme song from classic TV show “Green Acres.” The only things missing were a few farm animals.

Perry skipped across the ballroom and planted a kiss on his wife, Anita, after the performance, which lacked any sort of musicality and drew mixed reactions from the judges.

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The season’s first couple will be eliminated Tuesday night on ABC. Expect Perry to be the first sent out to pasture.

Now, about Anita.

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I don’t think she is pleased about this. I suspect she would like to slap the judges silly, kick Tom Bergeron in the keister, hiss a “stay away from my man” into his dance partner Emma Slater’s ear, and grab her husband by his ear and haul him back to Round Top. Enough with this foolishness.

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But dammit, that’s not going to happen. So we – you and I and all those vets he’s doing this for and all those Texans he served lo those many years – need to come to Rick Perry’s rescue and vote for him.

Why?

Because it is his destiny. It is our destiny. And, of course, it has for years been Rick Perry’s ultimate dream to be on national television the night of the first presidential debate, only, of course, this wasn’t exactly how he envisioned it, as the lead-in to the debate on a shortened one-hour edition of Dancing with the Stars. (Shades of the presidential undercard debate to which Perry was consigned.)

 

It is reminiscent of the movie Bedazzled, in which the hapless protagonist is perpetually thwarted by a devil who takes the desires our hero is selling his soul for absolutely and maliciously literally.

From Wikipedia:

The Devil will always spoil his wishes by adding something he doesn’t want. Elliot wishes to be rich and powerful, with Alison as his wife. The Devil makes him a Colombian drug lord whose wife despises him and cheats on him with Raoul, his co-worker, who is secretly planning to get rid of Elliot and take his position and property. Soon after there is a firefight between his and Raoul’s people where Elliot “dies”. When he returns to the real world, the Devil points out that he never wished for Alison to love him.

Secondly, Elliot wishes to be emotionally sensitive so he will understand the needs and desires of women. The Devil makes him so sensitive that he spends most of his time crying over how beautiful the world is, and constantly asks Alison, his girlfriend of “three magical weeks,” whether he has hurt her or if she needs anything. Alison says she has had enough of it and wants to be with a man who is strong and shallow. She then leaves Elliot for a man who is strong, rude and completely different from the romantic and emotionally sensitive Elliot. Elliot then wishes to be a superstar athlete who would be a woman magnet. The Devil makes him a cliché-spewing NBA star, but also gives him a small penis and a low IQ, which causes Alison, a sports reporter, to lose interest in him shortly after they meet.

He then wishes to be intelligent, witty and well-endowed. The Devil grants this by making him a famous writer whom Alison falls in love with at a cocktail party. When they arrive at Elliot’s home to make love it is revealed that Elliot is gay and living with a flamboyant male partner. Lastly, Elliot wishes to be President of the United States to try to improve the world and get Alison to take him seriously. The Devil makes him Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the night of his assassination

 

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