By Marilyn Assenheim
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
Does anyone remember the movie Soapdish? It’s not surprising if you don’t; Soapdish is a 1991 comedy, well worth revisiting (it is available on DVD). The movie stars, among many others, Sally Field. Ms. Field portrays the reigning queen of a popular, long-running television soap opera, The Sun Also Sets.
Ms. Field’s character, Celeste Talbert, is entirely self-centered. She oozes affection for her fans … right up until the moment they are out of eye-shot. She does not deal well with adversity; she has tantrums. She has meltdowns. At the last gasp, Celeste Talbert has a unique way of dealing with disappointment.
If you are not familiar with the movie I am issuing a spoiler alert. Stick with me; the parallels between Celeste Talbert and the president are worth noting. First, the fiction: When it seems that people are turning against her, Celeste has her best friend and head writer on the show, Rose Schwartz, drive her to a New Jersey mall. Rose waits for a sizable crowd to gather, and then yells “Look, look! Isn’t that Celeste Talbert???” This causes the throng to cluster around Celeste, hanging on her every word and fighting for autographs. Celeste gets her ego recharged from the adoring public. Life is now worth living again. Art imitates life: Rose Schwartz is portrayed in the movie by Whoopi Goldberg. The movie is hilarious. So is the president’s likeness to Celeste Talbert.
The president, like Celeste Talbert, is a total narcissist. He cannot and will not tolerate contradiction or disagreement. When either does strike, he retreats to the safety of his “mall moments” where he is secure in the bosom of his non-judgmental followers. In real life, he even has Whoopi Goldberg flogging his “brand”. A recent example of this behavior was the president’s star turn at Bascom Hill, in Madison Wisconsin.
The president’s appearance took place the day after he got spanked in the first presidential debate. The president proceeded to regale the doting crowd with the kind of invective against Governor Romney that they are accustomed to. He demeaned Governor Romney, saying the man on the stage with him the day before (“who looked like Mitt Romney”) was “an imposter”. He accused Governor Romney of wanting to “crack down on Sesame Street instead of Wall Street”. The president persisted in trumpeting accusations of a fallacious “Romney tax cut of 5 trillion dollars favoring the rich”. This was an especially brazen lie given that Governor Romney had disproved the president’s fabrication, no fewer than three times, in front of a television audience in excess of 67 million people during their debate the night before.
The audience lapped it up. The adulation was just what the president required in order to erase the bitterness of having been exposed as a fraud on national television. The faithful, interviewed after the speechifying, were fairly unanimous in their verdict. They were of the opinion that the president should have kneecapped Governor Romney the night before. Comments sampled like this: “He should have done last night what he did today. He came out like his old self today.” “This was definitely the Obama we expect” and “I wish he would have called out Romney last night like he did today”. The Portage Daily Register, a local newspaper, concluded “Post-debate boost needed”. Ya think? Like the plot of Soapdish, this experience gave the president that boost. Unlike Soapdish, however, there is one problem: This is real life.
In the second debate, the president confused haranguing his acolytes with reality. He brought his show onstage. The press rewarded him, unaccountably declaring the president the winner “on points”. Never mind the incessant lying; the president was too self-centered even to remember a questioner’s name for the two minutes it took him to get to her. Clearly, for the press, telling lies and patronizing the constituency equals scoring points. This time, the president’s mall moments were intended to deflect negative press arising from the fact checking maelstrom his fictions had set off. So, on Wednesday, off he went to Iowa and Ohio, mocking Governor Romney about women and “binders”. The president’s flubs, such as referring to his period in office in the past tense (“when I was president”) during the debate, don’t exist here. Stay tuned to see what will happen next Monday night.
The president licks his wounds like Celeste Talbert. He retreats to self-serving demagoguery in front of his acolytes for a self-esteem fix. The only opportunity the president really has to demean Governor Romney, unchallenged, is when addressing a crowd that will offer no disagreement. But it doesn’t work that way when facing a live adversary. In a debate the guy at the other podium can’t be controlled by his opponent’s script. And there are legions ready to verify everything that has been said. That does not sit well with Celeste at all.
The Lyin’ King doesn’t absorb body blows as well as Celeste. Then again, Celeste Talbert is a fictional character in a scripted world. The president would do well to enjoy his “trips to the mall” while he can. But this is real life, not a soap opera. And, in the real world Mr. president, “The Sun Also Sets”.
Image: Soapdish poster; fair use: see Non-free film-related media rationale; Rationale for fair use in Soapdish
Marilyn was born and raised in New York City. She spent a career in healthcare management although she probably should have been a casting director. Or a cowboy. A serious devotee of history and politics, Marilyn currently lives in the NYC metropolitan area.