Tuesday, September 4, 2012

retro politics and time warfare

Looking at bits of the RNC last week, I sometimes felt like I was watching a costume drama, with the participants -- particularly the women - dressed in period clothes, wearing period hair.  (Not sure which period exactly, just that there was a strong sense of not-now-ness,  non-contemporaraneity, about the proceedings).

Similar impressions have cropped up in much of the commentary on the convention:

"Paul Ryan gave a great attack speech. But it felt like a throwback to an earlier time. Everyone in the hall loved the iPod line last night from Paul Ryan. He listens to Led Zeppelin, and Mitt Romney doesn't. Modern. Current. Today. Led Zeppelin broke up 32 years ago. By that standard, Chris Christie is more contemporary with his love of Bruce Springsteen.. .but that wasn't the only way in which the Ryan speech seemed of a previous generation."  [John Dickerson, Slate]

"The GOP is now running on the fumes of its own nostalgia" [Leslie Savan, The Nation]

Although it doesn't explicitly reference the idea of anachronism and turning back time, I think you can read into the following analysis of the Clint Eastwood Performance a sense of competing realities, the desire to over-ride the present with a largely fictional past, to impose yesterday over today.

"Add Eastwood's little make-believe sketch to the mounting evidence... that the Republican Party has completely checked out of the "reality-based community," and intends never to look back..  No longer does the Republican Party feel even a perfunctory obligation to even appear to be tethered to the same reality that the rest of the country experiences... The rub in their dastardly plan to transport the electorate away from actual reality is, of course, the Fourth Estate. Recognizing this, candidates from Sarah Palin to Sharron Angle all the way up to Gov. Romney have scrupulously sequestered themselves away from being asked to reconcile their version of reality with the reality that others experience." [Scott Wooledge, DailyKos]

The Eastwood Show, or the Tea Party, as the ghost dance of a tribe on the edge of extinction, a defeated demographic left behind by History. And finding succour in what Svetlanya Boym calls "restorative nostalgia"

("Restore" is a key word in Tea Party/Glenn Beck discourse) 

(Hence the garbled attempt at retroptimism in Restore Our Future, the name/slogan of a pro-Romney super PAC, where the bright tomorrow is the return of the good old days)

The notion of this election, and the Red State versus Blue State divide, as not so much as a cultural war as a time war, has now emerged as a major leitmotif of the Obama Campaign

In his post-RNC speeches, the President has been mocking the Romney convention as "a re-run", something that should have been shown on Nick At Nite. Describing the Republican platform as "better suited for the last century", Obama told a crowd in Urbandale, Iowa, "we'd seen it all before, you might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV."

And then there's this Democratic campaign commercial, which pegs RyanRomney's vision as a relic of a "Bygone Era"  and is done in the style of a black-and-white movie era newsreel, complete with "retro spinning graphics and the action seemingly shot with a hand-cracked camera" and filtering on the narrator voice-over to give it that old-timey crackly quality. 

A hauntological ad imploring us not to join R&R in their Ghostworld

1 comment:

  1. Mitt Romney, born 1947, 21 in 1968. Formative music should have been Jefferson Airplane, Hendrix, Grateful Dead. Was probably Monkees. But grew up as one of the kids in Mad Men. His 10 year old self will remember his mother's certainties as stuck in 50s America. So inherent retromania is hardly surprising.

    It's Paul Ryan that is truly confusing. Born 1970, his mum should have had big hair and shoulder pads in 1980. But perhaps he was actually conceived at Woodstock. Formative influence at 21 might have been grunge. If he'd been in the UK he might have caught the energy flash. First sexual experience was probably watching Ron Jeremy.

    Th difference in ages does make you think Mitt might be the father Paul never had? So we get 50s certainties, grabbed and internalised by a 10 year old, re-inforced in the negative reaction to flower power, and then becoming a father figure. Finally these two messed up psyches want to be the stern parental figures for the whole world, wagging their fingers and telling us to sit on the naughty step.