I chose to base my final assignment on Sarah Palin because I am fascinated that an unknown woman from Alaska was able to become a vice presidential pick: a woman who has no experience, and as a result of her political accomplishments, has been brought to life as an icon. I view her as a politician who was brought to life in a Frankensteinesque fashion- the public has given her life in both positive and negative contexts based on their perceptions of her.
We’ve seen how her icon image is portrayed in the mass media in book form. For example, Joe Hilley’s Sarah Palin- A New Kind of Leader: Hilley’s book provides society with a look at how she is portrayed as a savior in society through relying on her personal life. Through analyzing his exist via visual culture, his purpose in creating Palin as a savior is to provide a positive perspective on the Republican Party, post Bush era, and in some ways, to save the party from becoming a minority in American politics. It’s hard to ignore how the past eight years has affected the public perspective of the Republican Party.
However, the creation of Palin’s image as a savior is successful- until Palin proposes herself as an unintelligent individual, as demonstrated through the videos I posted. These given videos show how her icon image also proposes her as a danger in her influence on women because of her gender and thus, being an outsider in a man’s world. Palin becomes a promoter of a false ideology of feminism- know nothing and be pretty: be an ideal woman. As a result, her positive persona can be viewed as a negative. Due to the negative results of modernity, public figures, such as Palin are able to manifest themselves into society’s insecurities and propose false ideas of identity.
With that in mind, I turned to the Grammar of Visual Design, to help me decode Palin’s presence in politics, in both contexts. I discussed how her image can provide dual meaning: good (savior) and bad (danger) through the interpretation and manipulation of the image. Therefore, a signified meaning of Palin emerges, since she is a concept of her proposed meanings but also a signifier, as she is distant from these abstracted meanings.
I started to understand Palin separate from her media portrayals, which drew me to McCloud’s article on icons for further analysis in order to distinguish how Palin is viewed as a positive signifier, and to discuss her role as an icon and her general acceptance in the world. I turned to John Friske Interpellation to explore how Palin as an icon is accepted: through social norms, icons are viewed as normal. But how is her presence as an icon possible? According to John Althusser, ideology creates public figures.
To further my analysis on Palin, I looked at the structure that embraced her: the culture industry (as discussed by Horkheimer and Adorno), the main tool used to create a relationship between Palin and the media, is manipulation via the industries filters. This detailed post was the hardest to complete. To relate Horkheimer and Adorno’s theories to media, I choose Time Magazine and Joe Klein’s Sarah Palin’s Myth of America. This article’s pro-Republican perspective created Palin as a savior who can be perceived as a danger. To further discuss how and why, I looked at the modality within the article, and how it plays a role with Palin’s public persona as it works as a filter within the culture industry and its manipulation.
After all this work, I believe it’s safe to conclude that Sarah Palin is a floating signifier and signified, as her public persona can be viewed in both negative and positive contexts. Therefore, she is both a savior and danger to the Republican party: both signifier and signified.