Saturday, July 22, 2006

Save Your Gelt for Kinky

Kinky Friedman’s campaign for governor of Texas has set new standards of brilliance for low cost, candidate advertising on the web. The cartoons and video announcements at his site are easily the equal of JibJab’s riffs on the last presidential campaign and of the finalists in MoveOn’s Save Social Security contest. This will not surprise those who have followed Kinky’s genre-bending over more than thirty years. For the few who have not, Friedman is a song and mystery writer, who in the 1960s and 70s led the socially-conscious, country music band “Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys” (a name spoofing "Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys"). The band played mostly Friedman songs like An Asshole from El Paso, a take-off on Okie from Muskogee. Another song They Don’t Make Jews like Jesus Anymore is an up tempo ballad that recounts Friedman’s flattening a redneck who taunted him with racial epithets. A few bars from the song’s end, the band suddenly shifts to the close harmony of white gospel. Like this work, Friedman’s political messages blend good-humored parody, sly appropriation and sharp satire.

The messages superbly met three apparent goals. They presented Friedman as a serious, independent candidate (notwithstanding his quip that if elected, he would immediately ask for a recount). They explained what people needed to do to get him on the November ballot, and they overcome the apparent handicap of his being a smart-ass Jew running for the highest office in a heavily Christian fundamentalist state. The messages emphasized his Texas upbringing, recalled a Texas tradition of independent thinking and expressed his disgust that collusion among Republicans and Democrats, or politics as usual, had put Texas at the bottom in education and well being. Given the wusses who have run the state and are depicted in the cartoons as even stiffer than the other cardboard figures, the rationale for Kinky’s campaign “Why the Hell Not?” easily follows.

In his video announcement, Friedman more effectively expresses the seriousness of his candidacy and also dissolves the Jewish issue. After speaking about his Texas roots, he segues into a light-handed preaching style to invoke the conservative Christian image of the good governor. He mentions that he had just attended the funeral of an old Texas friend, where the Presbyterian minister talked about the Good Shepherd. He is the one who protects his sheep at all time and especially in times of need, when the hired hands run away. Friedman remarks that his Republican opponent in the race for governor already has hopes of leaving the state by being the vice-presidential candidate on a successful Republican ticket in 2008. He, on the other hand, is interested in being governor of Texas. Kinky then repeats the theme: The Good Shepherd looks to his flock, the Hired Hand runs away. It’s a masterful performance. One forgets that this aging guy in a black shirt and cowboy hat, who is waving a big cigar and looks a bit like my late uncle George, is a Yid. Or if someone remembers, she thinks he is one hell of a smart Yid; just what we need. Indeed, the second cartoon plays to the last idea by noting that Friedman accomplished the near impossible by founding in 1960s Texas a socially conscious, Jewish country band.

The third cartoon hilariously hijacks another conservative Christian theme. Made during the petition drive, its purpose was to tell people not to vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries, because they would then be registered to those parties and ineligible to sign a petition for an independent candidate. They need to abstain and “to save themselves for Kinky.” That becomes the recurrent line in a ditty sung by some Texas country music stars to the tune of The Yellow Rose of Texas. In case some one misses the allusion, the Dixie Chicks (an in-your-face move by the Kinkster here) sing in one verse “save yourself for Kinky and save our friggin’ state.”

Several of the bumper stickers spoof other conservative Christian pieties: My governor is a Jewish cowboy and He’s not Kinky, he’s my governor. The second slogan follows the saccharine he’s not heavy, he’s my brother, a line in the 1938 movie Boys’ Town, that some folks believe is in the Bible. These are not derisive lampoons, but good-natured, even respectful parodies, which show that the candidate knows whom he is speaking to.

2 Comments:

Blogger StopKinky said...

1. Who said we should punish criminals by sending them to prison and making them "listen to a Negro talking to himself"?

2. Who said "Negro ... is a charming word"?

3. Who said "Mexico is not a poor country"?

4. Who said "good fences make good neighbors, and, Mr. Fox, help us build that fence"?

5. Who said "I will divide the border into five jurisdictions, assigning one Mexican general to each and providing a trust fund for that general"?

6. Who said "all of these politicians are afraid of offending Hispanics ... I want the border off the evening news until we get something resolved"?

7. Who said the Tejano protesters marching in favor of immigration reform are "half playing hooky"?

8. Who said "every crazy redneck in Texas is already supporting me"?

9. Who said we should grant "amnesty for hard-working illegal immigrants already in this country"?

10. Who said "I'm not pro-life, and I'm not pro-choice. I'm pro-football"?

11. Who said "I have mixed feelings on parental notification" about abortions for girls under the age of 18 and "on the counseling requirement, I'm not sure, but I know the less I talk to social workers, the better. No issue with the public-funding restrictions, but I would want to investigate further."?

12. Who said "you uppity women I don’t understand why you gotta go and try to act like a man"?

13. Who said "I am not anti-death penalty"?

14. Who said "let's do away with the death penalty"?

15. Who said of Bush's Iraq War "I agree with most of his political positions overseas, his foreign policy"?

16. Who said what Bush has "been doing in the Near East and in the Middle East, he’s handling that well, I think"?

17. Who said my "voting record doesn't look strong, but my voting record is better than Dick Cheney's"?

18. Who said "I am going to see non-denominational prayer and the Ten Commandments put back in the schools"?

19. Who said we should turn over public school physical education classes to corporations and charge them whatever they will pay to "get their hooks into the athletes while they’re still young"?

20. Who said "I've been stoned a lot of times ... and I don't regret any of it ... I quit doing cocaine when Bob Marley fell out of my left nostril"?

12:24 PM  
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8:59 AM  

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