Oh, I know, the new show about a secretary of state who wanted to be president and whose husband once was president isn’t all about Hillary Clinton. But it’s fun to watch a strong smart woman, even fictional, stand up to her detractors, be it a Russian fanny pincher, cut-throat columnist or egocentric two-timing spouse.
The TV show Political Animals on USA stars Sigourney Weaver as Elaine Barrish Hammond. Her character is said to be only loosely based on a familiar feminist liberal powerhouse who holds the job of top diplomat in the world. But even make believe, it’s a pleasure to remind ourselves that some women make great world leaders.
And while a weekly dose of this may not be the perfect antidote to the current War on Women, I do like thinking that some Neanderthals might suffer a little heartburn watching the indomitable Sigourney.
I bet those radical feminist nuns are tuned in.
The creator of Political Animals is an unabashed Hillary fan. Producer Greg Berlanti told the New York Times he gave money to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential primary and had her in mind when he created the show. But then he mixed in some Hollywood style family drama. Which is probably why in the first segment the characters are so over the top. The former president a little too crude and lecherous. The secretary’s mother, a little too drunk. The columnist a little too mean and gorgeous. The gay son, a little too damaged.
But the secretary of state is not too soft, not too tough, even though some people call the fictional Elaine the same name that Newt’s mother once called the real Hillary. Elaine is both ambitious and charming, a confident professional and a push-over for her kids.
Like Hillary, she’s nicely complicated.
There is a cathartic moment as the show begins when the fictional Elaine tells the fictional Bud she wants a divorce. This dramatic turn, of course, did not happen with the real Hill and Bill. She stayed with the guy even after he committed the most stupid, humiliating act of his life and then lied about it and, in some people’s minds, caused irreparable damage to his presidency and his party.
While I personally worried about Hillary back then and wished she’d publicly call him a louse and punch him in the nose, I did recognize that they were not your ordinary couple. And, as it turned out, in staying, she kind of won.
There is a scene in Political Animals where the couple gives us an idea of their unusual bond. Even though he still keeps his hand in politics and down the front of the wrong dress and she now outranks him, they have a partnership that works. They use each other, but they comfort each other. The relationship between Madam Secretary and Mr. President, as perplexing on TV as in real life, may not make much sense to us mere everyday folks, but it seems to fuel both political animals.
The real Hillary has been too busy dealing with China and Pakistan, Egypt and Syria and all the other troubled part of the world to worry about her TV image, although I’m happy to read that, just like the Elaine character, she is known to relax and go dancing.
I’m in. I still have my brown T-shirt with the blue Hillary on the front. It never got enough wear the first time.