Ed. Note: Please welcome Glen to the Big Hollywood family and encourage him to return — JN
Right Online 2011 in Minneapolis-St. Paul was the site of the first screening of filmmaker Stephen Bannon’s much anticipated new documentary on the life and career of Sarah Palin, The Undefeated. Bannon had warned the assembled attendees that we would be seeing what he styled as “the R-rated cut.” The pre-screening buzz indicated that this phrasing was in reference to the opening montage of the film where, presumably, a bit of rough language was in store. As promised, the initial three-minute sequence lived up to its billing.
It is difficult to dispute the premise that Sarah Palin is quite possibly the most viciously hated female, not only in the conservative movement, but in the United States. An assorted motley string of D-list Hollywood types/media complex sorts, from Rosie O’Donnell to Sharon Osbourne to Bill Maher, are captured on video, subjecting Palin to the most vile epithets imaginable…replete with the crudest of sexual references. We’re introduced to the “Kill Sarah Palin” Facebook group. (It seems to no longer exist. But this is still out there.) A new T-shirt makes its debut, emblazoned with the legend “Sarah Palin is a C@%T.”
On and on the bilious saga roils. One is forced to ponder the demonstrable truth that this represents a mere few moments in an endless sea of wretched acrimony. All directed at one attractive, slender, 5’5″ wife and mother of four five…who also happens to be a former Mayor of Wasilla, Governor of Alaska and Vice Presidential candidate.
We observe how Palin’s formative years in a middle-class, values-oriented family in an almost frontier-like Alaska town contributed to the convictions she embraces today. We see the indelible impression the devastation of the Exxon Valdez oil spill imprinted on a young Sarah’s perspective and how the aftermath subconsciously propelled her to public service.
We then gain entrance to the behind-the-scenes machinations of the corruption to which Alaskan politics had succumbed for decades. Sarah Palin’s determination to upend the status quo and introduce transparency to the mix brought her into the mayoral race in her hometown of Wasilla. The same commitment to open government led Palin to take on the Frank Murkowski machine in Alaska and emerge an upset winner. And then, of course, GOP Presidential nominee John McCain came calling in 2008…
Along the way, the single greatest liability of The Undefeated also constitutes its boldest stroke of effectiveness. I had heard Stephen Bannon address a social media gathering at the Heritage Foundation the previous week. He told the assembled activists at that time that the untold story of Sarah Palin is that she was a leader of substance and savvy. He also candidly advised that the section of the documentary that covers this phase of Palin’s career is slow in spots and runs a bit long.
Bannon was correct on both counts. The typical documentary is in the neighborhood of 90 minutes in length. The Undefeated runs for two hours. At times, perhaps partially due to the lateness of the hour, exertion was required to maintain focus.
But in the end, Bannon delivers the goods in a fashion that lingers. Learning about how Palin convinced the Alaska legislature to approve the Aegea AGIA gas pipeline and grant the license to TransCanada/Alaska may not constitute scintillating viewing. The meticulous planning that resulted in newly paved roads and renewed infrastructure across Alaska isn’t spellbinding cinematic fare. But the determination and grit that led Palin to success in these efforts garnered an 80% (I reiterate: EIGHTY percent) approval rating as governor across her native state.
My seatmate at the screening was a good friend who could hardly be described, for a variety of reasons, as a down-the-line traditional conservative. He is certainly the furthest thing from an ardent Palin supporter. But within the last ten minutes of the film, he leaned over and whispered, “Palin’s governorship wasn’t ideological in the least; it was practical!”
I realized in that moment what the powerful takeaway is from The Undefeated. Sarah Palin has had her identity as a problem-solving state leader completely stripped from her by a media machine that loathes her. This process has been aided and abetted at every juncture by a liberal political/Hollywood cabal who has caricatured her every feature. It is despicable. And it is revolting. But it is real.
Despite the above, in the face of all the rhetorical grenades that have been lobbed in her direction, Sarah Palin is resolute. She is indomitable in her adversarial stance towards the Left and specifically towards the initiatives of President Barack Obama. Palin isn’t afraid to call multiple charter members of the progressive Left out for what they are: socialists who seek to undermine what America has been. And for that, she is feared, reviled and scorned. Yet she marches on, head held high.
The mixture of emotion in the room was palpable, from muffled sobs to spirited chuckles to multiple instances of spontaneous applause. For while the pace wasn’t always brisk, the effect of Sarah Palin’s story lingers. Commentary throughout from Palin family members, friends such as Andrew Breitbart, Tammy Bruce and Sonnie Johnson, as well as fellow Alaskans underscored the central theme. Sarah Palin is a woman of steely courage who will not be cowed by the seething rage of a media machine bent on her destruction.
You may see this movie and decide that Sarah Palin will and should launch an Oval Office bid. That wasn’t my final conclusion. I did, however, wake up the morning after, possessed of a steely determination that conservatives must learn never to allow the media to redefine anyone for us again. The casualty of one good woman to this sordid scrum of mendacity is one too many. Sarah Palin deserves better. This film is a step in the process of broad-based restoration to which her image is entitled.