Levi Johnston and the Middle-American Minstrel Show

Levi Johnston’s shameless exploitation by the liberal media is more than just a convenient cudgel for bashing Sarah Palin. It’s a modern minstrel show, with “Middle American” substituted for “African-American” as Levi capers for his condescending media “friends” wearing figurative blackface. And just as the minstrel shows of the past were tools to reinforce prejudice, the Levi Johnston show is meant to reinforce the prejudices and smug sense of superiority of its elitist liberal audience.

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Levi is the Kevin Federline of American politics, a good-looking, not-too-bright guy catching a break by impregnating a rising star, or at least one’s daughter, then basking in the reflected glow. When things went south with Bristol Palin, he found, in a mainstream media eager for anything that might derail the Sarah Palin express, an opportunity to go farther than he ever thought he could. Movies, modeling, memoirs – anything was possible, they assured him. Just tell us what we want to hear, Levi – the good stuff, the juicy stuff, the stuff too good to fact check. Oh, and hand over your dignity while you’re at it.

But Levi’s antics are about more than just manufacturing ammunition to fire at Governor Palin. The minstrel shows of the past were calculated to demonstrate white superiority through the employment of the most degrading stereotypes and the ritualized humiliation of the African-American performers. This shameful circus is no different. Levi’s mindless brand of masculinity, his dropping out of high school, his troubled home life – these are all the hyper-exaggerated cultural touchstones the bicoastal liberal elite imagines define the rest of our country.

Levi Johnston is what they want to see when they look at Middle America. They don’t want to see the young heroes like Track Palin, an Iraqi Freedom vet. They don’t want to see Americans whose commitment to a better world is manifested by their putting their lives on the line instead of pasting a “Hope & Change” bumpersticker to the back of their Prius. They want – and need – clowns, and Levi is only too happy to oblige them.

Most young people today, looking on the things they did in their youth, will have only an ill-considered tattoo to regret. But Levi’s kid needs him, yet Daddy is busy far away performing like a court jester for people who will slam the door on him the second he stops being useful.

Can he really be so dumb as to think they actually care about him? Does he really expect to get a call from Kathy Griffin to accompany her to next year’s Teen Choice Awards? He’s like the nerd in one of those high school movies who the bad kids make-over as part of a bet – except there’s no happy ending here unless Levi comes to realize that this is all a big joke to them and he’s the punch line.

Despite the fervent desire of some, like the bloggers at the circulation whirlpool called Newsweek, that “as long as there is Palin, there’ll be Levi Johnston,” they have to concede that “Levi’s 15 minutes are almost up.” Neither GQ nor Vanity Fair will be calling him back for another photo spread anytime soon. Larry King and Tyra Banks have wrung him dry of slime. He’s off CBS’s speed dial. The Celebrity Dysfunction Complex has moved on.

His big achievement is a 19-second TV spot selling some obscure brand of pistachio nuts. They don’t even let him talk. He’s also going to go nude in Playgirl – providing fantasy fodder for lonely cougars and randy gay men. Levi, pinch yourself cuz you’re living the dream.

But Levi is a symptom, not the disease. Levi’s being a fool, and it’s sad to see him put a discount price tag on his dignity and his family. Considering his background with a mother who is allegedly involved with drugs, one can see why he does these things, though a lot better folks came from a lot worse. His background is an explanation, not an excuse.

The ones exploiting him are the real villains. People, even dumb ones, aren’t to be used up then discarded like garbage when you’re done with them. Those pulling his strings ought to be ashamed of themselves, but they aren’t. This minstrel show is too delightful, too much fun, as it promulgates the most condescending stereotypes imaginable of those unworthy wretches living outside the bi-coastal elite bubble.

And what of Levi? He’s burned the one bridge that could lead him home to people who might actually still care about him when he finds himself on the wrong side of the velvet ropes again, when the only opportunities he has left are reality kickboxing matches with Vanilla Ice and bit parts in Skinemax epics about horny stewardesses. He’s a father who, if he ever sees his son again, is going to have to answer one of the most brutal, heart-rending questions a child could ask:

“Why did you choose them over me, Daddy?”

Levi Johnston’s weakness of character will lead him to sorrow after those who are using him today have moved on to other victims. It’s not too late to make amends – I suspect the Palins would forgive him if he sincerely asked them to – but he won’t do it. He can’t. He thinks the elite loves him. He thinks he will never wear out his welcome. So he will keep on dancing, playing the fool, the minstrel, for the transitory amusement of those who hold him in nothing but contempt.


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