I am doing my best to understand Rick Perry’s appeal, even to the point of asking facebook friends whether it’s his rugged good looks that’s causing hearts to beat a little faster than they’re beating for Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann .
The answer seems to be yes: to a point.
A 2006 article in The Economist discusses how the evolutionary advantage of looking a little (how shall we say) novo erectus seems to communicate to females the survival benefit of choosing men with conspicuously high testosterone levels. It’s what groups like when they feel a threat to their survival, and in these troublous times, when Washington teeters and the Rapture looms, Rick may just be the man with a plan:
“…Research has suggested that, regardless of their average preferences, women are most attracted to hyper-masculine features when they are most likely to conceive, and that the effect is particularly exaggerated in women who are in stable relationships. Evolution has thus arranged things so that if a woman does cuckold her man, she is likely to gain the maximum advantage in terms of children with good immune systems, and sons who will have similarly rakish good looks and behaviour.”
The downside is that men of this variety are also the most likely to love you and leave you. A good reason to wonder whether you want the relationship to begin with. Are you listening, America?
There are other tropes we can use. A handy website on the topic of Anti-Intellectualism as depicted in pop culture offers several, so I decided to compare the Rick Perry we know and are destined to know a whole lot better with the typology that TV, movies, anime/ manga, you name it–throws up. Here’s what I came up with:
1. The Idiot Hero. Basically an action figure (a common character in shounen action series) the idiot hero has a short attention span and is too stupid to be afraid of imminent peril. The trope also includes elements of This Loser Is You: His appeal comes from encouraging the audience to believe that “If this idiot can do this, so can I”– a huge incentive in American politics where the statement “Anyone can grow up to be president of the United States” is convertible with “Anyone is dumb enough to be president of the United States.”
Even in a nation of dummies, the idiot hero is so dumb that the dumbest onlooker feels superior. Think Homer Simpson, Family Guy, American Dad. Now, put them in the White House, boots on desk, and watch things explode.
2. The Fool. Not to be confused with the British trope (as for example Archibald in the P.G. Wodehouse story), the American Fool is distinguished by admirable imbecility that is not only forgivable but likable, and to be emulated by “real men.”
The trope is often associated with an unusual physical characteristics like craggy facial features or Christian hair.
Idiot Heroes and Fools enjoy fighting, seek out conflict (e.g., the bar room brawl, a quintessentially American fracas) and almost always end up hurting other people. They are usually shown smiling amiably as bombs explode around them and walk away from the devastation they have caused with hair intact [cf. George W. Bush, 2000-2008]
3. The Texas (aka I Ain’t No Pussy) Messiah. The Messiah trope in comic book terms is a naive figure who “loves everyone. Loves them with a deep, spiritual love that means they will shake heaven and earth, destroy gods and planets, bring nations to their knees, etc., for the person they just met yesterday. They will believe the best of everyone, and constantly give someone a second chance.”
The Texas Messiah thinks people should take care of themselves, and people who don’t ought to have the crap beaten out of them. If people are unemployed, it’s their fault because they’re lazy bystanders along the track of life. If people are ill, they are probably being punished by God for some sin they thought they got away with in Mexico. If people are old, they should consider the alternative and make sure their taxes are paid, unless they are billionaires–in which case they can live as long as they want tax free because God has proved that he loves them.
4. Texas Badass. The Badass, subspecies Texas Badass, is a man beyond the age of twenty five who still thinks he’s the meanest motherfucker in the universe. A Badass is successful if he can convince his followers that he has balls of steel, or in the case of women badass heroes, that she has boobs of steel like Action Girl. This means no mercy for those who disagree with you. No compromise with people who have insulted you or your grandma’s pie. No pat on the back for someone who called you a pinhead (See Fool) in public or said that you really didn’t know how to fly a fighter jet or use a grenade launcher in a cow pasture.
You look okay in a suit, though you’re tough to fit in the collar department and your throat sags, but you’re really only at home in jeans and look just fine in fatigues and lace-up army boots. When some Butterballs says “You’re not as big as you think you are” you’ve dropped your pants to around your knees in seconds, snarling “Grab your ankles, Little Joe.” Someday, you will morph into Badass Abnormal. That’s when an ordinary person can shoot lightning bolts out of their hands and punch deities in the balls. But for now you’ve got those pussy Democrats for practice.
5. Determinator: A determinator is a type of crouching moron (q.v.) who is also skilled at obfuscating stupidity. Tact and diplomacy are marks of weakness: there is no problem so small that F-16s and boots on the ground cannot solve it. Drones are a pussy’s way to settle scores because only real men can be idiot heroes and go on the quest…
The question of right and wrong is irrelevant to the Determinator because his real stupidity rather than his obfuscating stupidity determines the course of action. Facts cloud judgment. Science is useless, school is for losers, and plans are what gays make.
The Determinator is on a quest, which may be delusional, and driven by the conviction that he is the one chosen to fulfill the mission and that everyone who challenges him is a man-eating Demon like Vallejo, though possibly smokin’ hot. Demons only understand one thing: the Bible.
The Determinator is operating under the will of a higher power and unlike his followers he knows this higher power on a first-name, personal, suds-and-sausage basis.