A few weeks ago, I started to get this funny tingling feeling in my bones. And I knew right away what it meant: Either we were about to experience a rainy snap, or Bristol Palin was planning a comeback.
Sure enough, as the latest season of Dancing with the Stars was winding down, I noticed the promos for a forthcoming “all-star” edition (shades of Project Runway) that would bring together fan favorites from past competitions -- as well as, host Tom Bergeron twinkled, some particularly “controversial” alumni.
Somehow, I suspected, that meant more than a do-over sop to the “Katherine Jenkins wuz robbed” crowd. As the screen broke into a grid of little rectangles, each representing a past contestant, right there in the middle was the pre-surgery countenance of good old Bristol, whose fans had memorably exploited the weaknesses of the show’s voting system to thrust her two left feet into the finals. (This, of course, was right around the time her mother was castigating President Obama for having somehow fooled an entire generation of “entitled” nobodies into thinking they could be the next American Idol. Philosophical consistency is not this family’s strong suit, nor is intellectual coherence.)
Ever since then, I’ve been bracing myself for Bristol’s distinctive combination of truculence and incompetence to again ruin one of my guilty pleasures. But is she even going to have the time? Not if she manages to clear the legal hurdles necessary to launch her own reality series, Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp, due to bow next week on Lifetime. As the title indicates, the program is said to be a faux-verite exploration of the challenges this typical single mom has to endure -- including getting heckled in a West Hollywood country bar by one of her mother’s many passionate detractors, in a well-publicized incident of last fall.
The trouble is that, per E!, said heckler is suing Bristol in federal court, claiming that her people never had him sign a release form to appear on the program. Stephen Hanks also alleges that Bristol later defamed him by suggesting his verbal assault had spooked her into moving back to Alaska, when she had already bought property there.
As so often seems to be the case with these pseudo-political altercations, Hanks is hardly the kind of guy we want flying the flag for our side. Calling out “Your mother’s a whore” while a would-be Kardashian tries to ride a mechanical bull in peace isn’t exactly the sort of well-aimed social commentary that makes Bertrand Russell move over.
But what’s sad is that nobody -- Hanks included -- is making quite enough of Palin’s utterly jaw-dropping response, which was to accuse him of being a homosexual, with all the fascist zeal of Bob Geldof calling for the “queers” to be rounded up in Pink Floyd: The Wall.
“I can tell you are,” she pressed, displaying the unerring gaydar Larry Craig’s wife wishes she had. For good measure, E! notes, Palin indicated a friend of Hanks’ and remarked, “That’s a nice wife you’ve got there.”
The obvious question here -- why Palin would consider homosexuality a negative trait to charge someone with, or automatically associate it with antagonism toward her family -- is one that needs to be asked more loudly and more often. When the incident was brought up during an interview this week on ABC’s Good Morning America, Robin Roberts described it simply as a case of Bristol “standing her ground” against a verbal assailant. (Notice how often that phrase is now associated with reactionary assholes?) The fact that the latter had upped the ante of Hanks’ ugliness by engaging in even viler hate speech, apparently, didn’t warrant a moment’s pause.
Next week, we’ll learn if Hanks managed to stop Palin’s people from using his likeness in Life’s a Tripp -- and if not, if Lifetime has judiciously edited out her homophobia while leaving his sexism intact. I’m betting the answers will be, respectively, “no” and “you betcha.” You just can’t stop a Palin from injecting herself into the collapsing veins of public discourse, any more than you can prevent the lamestream media from giving their breathtaking bigotry a pass.
That’s why it’s so hysterical to think that, as Bristol recently told Sean Hannity, she’s thinking of following her mother’s example and running for public office. Make up your mind, a Palin-weary observer can’t help but chuckle. Do you want to be like your Mom, or do you want to run for something? Of course it’s the former. There are so many supermarket pages to fill with socially divisive venom, and so little time. A workin’ woman can’t bother with government service when secondary-network notoriety is a-calling. To think any other way would be, well, queer.