Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Uncanny-date

Granted I haven't really been writing as much as I used to, but I still like to think that I'm relatively decent with words -- or at the very least at turning a clever phrase or two when the occasion calls for it. For the life of me, though, I haven't been able to express what it is about Mitt Romney that's so fucking odd. If you listen to me talk about him on the podcast, I'm constantly stammering, looking for the right way to describe the Uncanny Valley-esque revulsion I feel whenever I see and hear him speak and attempt to interact with the world around him -- his creepy and obviously phony facade that hides what truly appears to be a complete lack of human empathy. I'm not saying he's inherently evil or anything, or that there's any sort of willful malice behind his awkward and seemingly sociopathic demeanor; on the contrary, I think he's the least self-aware person who's run for the White House in modern history. Even George W. Bush understood full-well who and what he was; you could see his pathology written all over his face. Romney is a complete mystery, I think -- even to himself.

All of that being said, hats off to Andrew Sullivan, who's come closest to putting into words the undeniable weirdness that is Mitt Romney. I get that some will see his dragging the whole Mormon thing into the mix as a low blow, but I really don't think it is.

From the Daily Beast:

"One gets the sense that Mormons, perhaps because they remain deeply insecure about their religion, make an extra effort to seem utterly great, happy, nice, genial human beings. Hence what’s been called 'The Mormon Mask.' (More discussion of the concept here.)

Romney laughs that way; he also talks as if he’s learned the English language from some tribe of extremely cheerful, mainstream, extremely white Americans from around 1958...

How to overcome the huge gap between what one believes and how the general culture would react if the details of his faith were fully explained? One option: The construction of a personality designed to mimic the least offensive, nicest, all-American persona. So Romney sounds and looks like a focus-group tested model president from 1965. But the focus group doesn’t exist -- except in his own mind and manner every year of his life."

By the way, click the above "Mormon Mask" link and you'll see that I'm not the only person to liken the disconcerting nature of his personality to the Uncanny Valley.

I've never been a huge fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation or any of the movies based on it, but every time I see Romney in a supposedly off-the-cuff moment, this is the first thing I think of:

(via the Daily Banter)


Kelsy said...

Romney does strike me like some of the well off church leadership I interacted with as a Mormon. Modern Mormonism focuses a lot on the veneer of correctness: the right answers, the right appearance, the right way to interact with people. It makes sense that a global religion would want to correlate values and beliefs, but it becomes an echo chamber of sorts. Also, this correctness seems to be based on mid-century values that much of the higher-ups grew up/raised their kids with, unfortunately fetishizing a brief era in history.

It's not necessarily the worst, but it's not an interesting way to live or--probably more important for a Christian-based religion--fostering of compassion.

Anonymous said...

I think the word you are looking for is Simulacrum- having the form of something but lacking the content.