Maureen Dowd’s Dramatic Commentary
If you peruse Maureen Dowd’s Op-Eds for the New York Times, you will find her frequently drawing attention to the dramatic nature of the lives of other people, particularly politicians. Take for example her most recent commentary on Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin respectively. In her June 27th article “Genius in a Bottle,” Dowd labels Sanford an “unselfconscious Lothario,” an appellation that has its source in Nicholas Rowe’s 1703 play, The Fair Penitent, and that has since been a code word in common usage for a suave ladies’ man. In her July 5th article “Now, Sarah’s Folly,” Dowd suggests that Palin is certainly crazy enough to qualify for presidential candidacy and that we may not have seen the final act of her makeshift political play: “Maybe there’s another red Naughty Monkey high heel to drop–there’s often a hidden twist in Sarah’s country-music melodramas.”
But, let’s face it, Maureen Dowd herself has a flair for the dramatic that extends beyond the literary allusions, pop culture references, and theatrical metaphors that pepper her writing. She is larger than life, a lion, a legend, a D.C. diva, and some might say, a misanthrope. In her writing, she allows us a glimpse only of what and whom she doesn’t like, which verges on everything and everyone. In May, she admitted purloining lines from the blog of Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo. Now that’s pretty dramatic for a pulitzer prize winning journalist.
As Dowd’s 2005 book Are Men Necessary: When Sexes Collide makes plain, she is fascinated, even obsessed, with gender politics. Her book prompted many pointed articles, such as the cheekily titled “Is Maureen Dowd Necessary?” Column after column, I am left to ponder a version of this question: where does Dowd stand on the actual topics about which she writes, such as politics, the gender of politicians, and the politics of gender? As I discuss in a previous post, her critiques of Hillary and Sarah are anything but feminist. When Hillary emoted, Dowd accused her of waxing feminine and pandering to women voters; when she appeared stern and serious, Dowd accused her being mannish. As for Palin, she will never be anything more to Dowd than a Mattel Barbie doll, pretty but vapid. Most recently Dowd wrote of Palin: “Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy.” By the same token, Dowd’s critiques of Al Gore, Mark Sanford, etc. are nothing if not sexist. Of Sanford’s emotional press conference she writes, “He got into trouble as a man and tried to get out as a woman.” In Dowd’s world, you’re damned if you conform to gender stereotypes and damned if you don’t.
Stay tuned for more on Dowd. I’m just starting the book I mention above…
*Image of Dowd from Mediabistro.com. Her book is available on amazon.com