Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Today's Literary Analysis

This is from a new book about Glenn Beck and focuses on his crying shtick. The piece is called "The Crying Conservative: How Glenn Beck Taught His Feminine Side To Turn Tricks."

So clever! A snippet:

Beck likes to say that his tears are biologically determined, that he's "90 percent 'chick' in that category." It's a revealing statement, not just for himself but for his more macho peers as well. With his constant crying and effeminate hand gestures, "Glenda" Beck apotheosizes the gender blending that has always been at the heart of right-wing talk radio.

"On talk radio in the 1980s and 1990s, " writes Susan Douglas, a media historian at the University of Michigan, "masculinity was constructed as a fusion of traditionally 'male' and 'female' traits. Boys were supposed to be boys, meaning white, heterosexual boys, but they were also gender poachers, recuperating masculinity at the end of the century by infusing it with the need to chat, the need to confess insecurities, the need to be hysterical and overwrought about politics, the need to make the personal political."

But when it comes to public crying as vaudeville, Beck owes less to universal womanhood than to a very specific brotherhood. He's not stereotypically premenstrual as much as classically Mormon. Like so much else that baffles people about Beck, his approach to public tears has been shaped in the crucible of his adopted faith. It was the lachrymose Latter-Day Saints who turned an amateur crybaby pro.

Now analyze that!

It's really quite clever. We all agree on women being hysterical and overwrought about politics, especially when premenstrual. But then you add "stereotypically" and "traditional roles" and suddenly it's no longer so clear that Beck is being dissed with comparisons to those lachrymose ladies or even feminists. One eats the cake and saves it, too, and nobody's feelings get hurt. Get me a tissue, sniff!