“She’s known as a bimbo, Caribou Barbie, as an ideologue, as a far-right Christian whack job and dumb as a stone. And the reality is exactly the opposite.” –Stephen K. Bannon
The first few minutes of The Undefeated set up a rather potent political switcheroo.
The documentary, which officially premieres tonight in 10 cities, begins with a cavalcade of celebrity sound bites that hauntingly blend into a loud and clear eff you to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
Rosie O’Donnell, Howard Stern, Madonna, Matt Damon, Bill Maher, David Letterman, Louis C.K. and others all take turns offering some proud vitriolic disapproval of the Republican vice presidential candidate-turned-political celebrity in the film’s introductory montage.
But The Undefeated doesn’t follow the path you might expect given this choice for an opening gambit, this smörgåsbord of ridicule. It’s not about retribution on behalf of Sarah Palin against what Palinistas and Tea Party members might call the Hollywood elites and leftists.
No, the two hours that follow aren’t a strike back against Palin’s critics on the left. The Undefeated may screen like a two-hour handwritten love letter to and from Sarah Palin, but scratch beneath the surface and it becomes a two-hour snuff film starring the Republican establishment. Palin is the fawned-over subject, but the film itself is an attempted shot across the bow of the entrenched right.
“There’s very little beatdown of the progressive left in this film,” Stephen K. Bannon said in a sitdown with HyperVocal. The writer/director of the documentary added “The first act is a beatdown of the Murkowski Machine and the corruption in Alaska, Act II is all taking on corruption in Big Oil, and Act III she’s taking on the Republican establishment. And it ends in a coda where for 12 minutes Mark Levin, who I think is one of the biggest thinkers in the conservative movement, Andrew Breitbart, a firebrand, Tammy Bruce, a firebrand, really take on the Republican establishment. I think that’s what shocks people.”
The film starts with the Exxon Valdez oil spill, when Palin was just an outsider. Mixing in audio from her “Going Rogue: An American Life,” Bannon then chronicles Palin’s rise from city council member to Wasilla mayor to head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to governor of Alaska (with an 88 percent approval rating) to, finally, her selection as John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential race. And through it all she’s shown taking on corrupt politicians, standing up for people over party, “taking a stand,” which Bannon says was the original working title for the film.
Ultimately, that’s all Bannon wants you to see: the Us vs. Them Palin, not the Left vs. Right Palin. He portrays the Middle Class Palin taking on the Political Class Elites. There are no “warts and all” here — this is an unblemished, airbrushed look at someone who Bannon believes can lead the country based on her mostly overlooked record of good governance and accomplishments in Alaska.
In painting this perfect picture, however, The Undefeated leaves any realistic criticisms of Palin on the cutting room floor (if they even made it that far). There’s no dissenting voice, not one. Sure Bill Maher calls her a “dumb twat” at the top, but there’s no serious critique of her policies and positions, about whether she can make the leap to leading a nation from running a state “frozen in time,” as Bannon put it. There’s no mention of her increasing unfavorablility ratings, only the ages-old “88 percent of Alaskans” figure. There’s no allusion to her campaign trail gaffes, her divisive excitability over visits to “real America” and “pro-America areas,” her admittedly embarrassing interview with Katie Couric, her get-rich-quick reality TV paychecks, her initial support for the “Bridge to Nowhere.” And The Undefeated‘s portrayal of her decision to leave the governorship is a scene that would make Kim Jong-Il blush.
Still Bannon says this is film anything but Palin Propaganda. It’s just stating facts, getting her real record out there, he says: “You notice, the Gawkers and all the rags that say it’s propaganda, but no one has debated one fact in the film. The reason I feel very confident about the facts in the film? I have three pretty good markers: Scott Conroy at Real Clear Politics, Joshua Green and his story ‘The Tragedy of Sarah Palin‘ in The Atlantic Monthly, and Peter Boyer at Newsweek. Those three publications are not institutions that are house organs for the Palin movement, and those certainly are not ideologues who are Palinistas. All of their reports, plus the 24,000 emails, back up what I’ve got in the film. You can say it’s propaganda; unfortunately it happens to be the empirical evidence.”
Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs trader and Harvard graduate whose conservative Victory Film Group financed the project to the tune of $1 million, is a Tea Partier first and foremost, and he seemed almost too thrilled to help re-establish her in the 2012 conversation.
“I’m a conservative right populist. I believe in the Tea Party movement. I think the Republican Party as it exists today is the moral equivalent of the Whigs in 1848. It is a party that’s lost its roots. You do the math of how we got to here today. Both political parties got us here. President Obama is a Progressive, and he’s got a very progressive agenda, and he’s not shy about saying that. He’s had to compromise and become a moderate, and some guys on the left are crazy that he doesn’t have single-payer health care and stuff like that. But he’s accomplished, as a Progressive, a tremendous amount. Bush and the Republican Party are just a slow walk to the same end goal. President Bush came in, they had $1.9 trillion in spending. He left, they have $3.2 trillion in spending. All the federalization of these programs that we’re talking about, all the cuts they you’re going to have to talk about, are cuts out of President Bush’s terms. And that’s why the Republican Party goes out of their way to obfuscate reality…I’m a Tea Party guy, and that’s how I saw Governor Palin. I think Gov. Palin and Congresswoman Bachmann represent a true alternative governing philosophy to this country, and I think it’s time we had a throwdown.”
Click over to the next page below to find out who the film really should have been about…