Hill and brimstone

parry-gilesSome would say Hillary Clinton makes news. But in the national mind it sometimes seems that Hillary Clinton is news, its very personification, an irresistible-to-media hybrid of politico, symbol, and celebrity sentenced to have every action scrutinized and elaborated upon to a degree virtually unheard-of for a sitting politician, let alone one who, like Clinton, currently lacks a job.

Has it always been thus? In Hillary Clinton in the News, Shawn J. Parry-Giles ventures into  the past to reveal that, oh yeah, it’s always been thus. Since Clinton first acquired a national profile in 1992, the media has cast her in roles with enough variety to challenge Meryl Streep: surrogate campaigner, legislative advocate, financial investor, international emissary, scorned wife, senator, political candidate, Secretary of State, and (at present) presumptive presidential candidate. Whatever your thoughts on what’s happening with this email business, the unbridled amount of coverage is nothing new. Nor is the fact that questions surrounding authenticity and gender unleash a certain kind of frenzy in those providing the coverage:

Members of the press could hardly stand the anticipation of getting Hillary Clinton into the political arena. The excitement ultimately produced some rather bizarre metaphors. Chris Bury from Nightline used “catnip” references to mark the buildup to a Clinton-Giuliani race: “a matchup between Mrs. Clinton and New York Mayor Giuliani is pure catnip for politicians and pundits desperate for a post-impeachment fix.” Resorting to salivation language, Chris Wallace of ABC’s Nightline noted that the New York press was “already salivating over the prospect” of a Clinton campaign. Also staying with a food motif, James Carville, appearing on NBC Nightly News, talked of how the New York press was “licking their chops” for such a dream campaign. The most hyperbolic reference came in the form of a sexualized (and masculine) metaphor used by Jack Newfield of the New York Post, when he suggested on Nightline that Clinton’s entrance into the Senate race “would be Viagra for the media.”

These linguistic references associated with an impending campaign of a political woman ranged from insatiable sensations of hunger and pharmaceutically induced sexual arousal to plant-induced stimulations in cats. These metaphors alone showed the confusion journalists faced in comprehending Clinton’s senatorial run. The reference to Viagra in particular reinforced the ongoing masculinization and sexualization of the political sphere for women.