by Meg White
With the holidays coming up, you may be asking yourself, "What do I get for the mavericky, million-dollar mom who has everything?" And I'd like to submit that a coloring book would satisfy her need to scribble outside the lines.
A coloring book may sound like a strange way to approach telling the story of the Momma Bear of Alaska Sarah Palin, but once you hear the reasoning behind Going Rouge: The Sarah Palin Rogue Coloring & Activity Book, everything falls into place.
As a former editorial artist and political cartoonist at a number of newspapers across Arizona who has worked with Jerry Scott of "Zits" and "Baby Blues" fame, Julie Sigwart turned the jokes she was hearing about Palin's upcoming memoir coming with a free pack of crayons into a parody everyone can enjoy.
"It's an editorial statement about Palin's policies and approach to politics," she said. "We didn't want to tell a narrative like a comic book and instead put together a collection of editorial cartoons disguised as a kids' coloring book."
(In the interest of full disclosure, Sigwart is also a freelance IT consultant who does tech work for BuzzFlash.)
In a way, Sigwart and her collaborator (and husband) Michael Stinson are the perfect team for this project. Sigwart's cartooning background gives the visual boost the story calls for, and Stinson said that if he gets "too wicked in my humor, she tones me down, and adds her fun to the mix." Stinson's work as an activist, Web designer and writer melded nicely with his background as a gold miner and uranium prospector in Alaska for 12 years to lend passion and credibility to his storytelling.
The book is being published at the same time as Palin's memoir (titled Going Rogue: An American Dream) and a compendium of essays about Palin from the editors of the left-leaning publication The Nation (titled Going Rouge: An American Nightmare). But Sigwart sees their coloring book as a unique and more accessible way to tell the story.
"I think people are more receptive to opinions in humor rather than in essay form. I think both the Nation book and Palin's book will preach to their individual choirs, but people on both sides are buying our book," she said.
However, Stinson is quick to remind readers that this is no ordinary coloring book. Indeed, the project evokes mixed emotions: part art class, part poli-sci, with some study hall silliness thrown in for good measure.
"This isn't your momma's coloring book, folks. These are more like political cartoons with a lot of archetypal significance, symbols, et cetera, that make the person coloring or working the puzzles think more deeply about what's actually going on. Take the 'Trojan Moose' illustration: The Trojan Horse goes way back to the Grecian idealism, and everyone has heard that story. But the twist is that this rickety Trojan Moose is approaching the White House under the title 'Sarah and Her Friends Are Taking Back America' with teabags hanging off the antlers. Since it's a moose, right away you cue into Palin, a stealth campaign, powered by what many consider fools and radicals with no clear purpose or message. Yet what they are doing is so obvious, that the White House would be saying, 'Yeah, riiight,'" he explained.
While the book has its fair share of eye-rolling moments, these two really seem to want to see Palin as a force in the 2012 presidential race.
"Run, baby, run!" Sigwart quipped, counting on Palin's unique ability to torpedo her own party. Stinson added that Democrats haven't had to wait until the next presidential election to reap the benefits of the Palin effect. Palin's endorsement of Doug Hoffman in New York's 23rd Congressional District special election not only boosted the eventual Democratic victor, but lent another vote to the healthcare reform effort.
"Thank you for supplying the rouge kiss of death to that candidate in the NY-23 race! Bravo! More!" was Stinson's message to Palin. "She's either as dumb as a bag of rocks or the most brilliant Democratic operative in history."
While she does retain a measure of outside electoral influence today, Sigwart and Stinson don't really see Palin as a viable political entity, better suited as she is to being a media darling than an officeholder.
"Her political ambitions will ultimately fail -- or at least catch up to her," Sigwart said, making note of Palin's surrender of the Alaska governor's office earlier this year. "She has no worries, though. She'll always have plenty of money and some fan base."
And what about the rumor of a Palin talk show? Sigwart offered a working title: "Word Salad With Sarah."
But Stinson predicted that Palin would eventually give up on being a part of the media as well.
"How long is the 'golly gee, you betcha' stuff gonna last on the radio? She'll quit, like she always does. Reminds me of when I lived in Fairbanks, AK. They had a show on the radio there called 'Tradio,' where you call in and trade, say, a chainsaw for a moose-turd mosquito sculpture. Pretty surreal. I can see her doing that."
Indeed, Palin seems to have a knack for trade-offs and sales. As we've pointed out on BuzzFlash before, Palin's autobiography is selling at a 69 percent discount on Amazon and various other retailers, in all likelihood as a gimmick to punch up pre-sale numbers into the "bestseller" category.
However, indications are that it's working. The corporate media has been gushing for weeks about how Palin's memoir is miraculously "already the top bestselling book on the shopping sites of Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble" before the book even goes on sale.
While Going Rouge hasn't yet had the same success as Going Rogue, Stinson says they're taking marketing cues from the expert: "We want to be like her, so our slogan for this book is, 'Sell, baby, sell!'" He added that their coloring book is the perfect bridge to bring together the disparate political views that so often clash during the holidays.
"These will make great stocking stuffers. Buy two: one to play with, and one to save as a collectible. Buy two more to give to your right-wing pal at work, and you can both laugh about it. We don't have a problem with conservatives, just the ones who have hijacked the stupid. The rest I'd be more than happy to have a beer with," Stinson said.
Sigwart seconded the notion that their coloring book is not just for progressives.
"Many liberals are buying this as a present to give to their conservative relatives," she said. "Some of these pages I can see right-wing folks ripping out and hanging on their walls, because they're funny and hit the mark. You know, [Palin] doesn't own the right wing, just the 30 percent of the 30 percent left over that still think Bush was even human."
Post-partisanship and lightheartedness aside, there is a certain group of people suffering from Palin fatigue. I had to ask the duo about their response to those who are tired of hearing breathless reports on the soap opera cast that was, up until recently, Alaska's first family. Sigwart's tongue-in-cheek view is that if you can't stop the media from selling Palin, you may as well join 'em.
"The media is selling entertainment. If a story has the ability to sell papers, magazines, or attract viewers, they promote nearly any story. Palin is the Paris Hilton of the political world: beautiful, smiles a lot, and you can always count on her to put her foot in it -- one way or another. She's an entertainment cash cow. Give that up? No way!" she said.
"It's the corporate media's job. If they aren't being corrupt and pushing wars that should never have happened, they're just selling out," Stinson added. "But we can still pull an end run around them, and with something so simple as a coloring book, that's sweet."
While some may be tired of Palin, both Stinson and Sigwart are able to identify -- then promptly laugh off -- the unique draw of the former Alaskan governor.
"She's a hockey mom, an enigma wrapped in a Freudian slip, lightly rolled in a Gordian knot, finely minced by Occam's razor. Fruity, yet maintaining that fishy smell. And she kills stuff," Stinson said.
And what better way to enshrine such a character than with the indelible mark of the humble crayon?
Going Rouge: The Sarah Palin Rogue Coloring & Activity Book, written by Michael Stinson and illustrated by Julie Sigwart, is available at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.