Sarah Louise Palin (née Heath, born February 11, 1964), the former Governor of Alaska, was abruptly thrust onto the pop culture radar by becoming Republican presidential nominee John McCain's running mate during the 2008 United States presidential election against Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden. She was the second female vice-presidential candidate from a major party in US history (the first being Geraldine Ferraro in 1984), and the first from the Republican Party. In July of 2009, Palin resigned her position as governor with 18 months remaining in her first term, one of the official reasons being saving the costs to the Alaskan budget of defending herself against detractors; said detractors have naturally offered a different explanation. Since then she has toured the country as a paid speaker and founded the conservative political action committee SarahPAC.
Unlike most politicians on the TV Tropes wiki, Sarah Palin isn't notable for her politics so much as her effect on pop culture. When she entered the public stage as John McCain's running mate, she was a virtual unknown, but she energized the base with a strong, well-received speech at the Republican convention. Her charisma gave the McCain campaign a much-needed bump in the polls. However, when she was interviewed by Katie Couric of CBS Evening News (this was only Palin's third interview since being selected as running mate), she confounded viewers with her incoherent answers. Entertainment and political humor programs like The Daily Show instantly took notice, presenting Palin as an earnest but somewhat incoherent hick swimming in a situation far over her head. Her comic persona was cemented with a Saturday Night Live sketch starring Tina Fey that parodied the interview... without even having to change very much of the dialogue.
From that point onward, Palin's public persona has largely been defined, rightly or wrongly, by her So Bad, It's Good absurd politispeak. Politicians in general are considered Acceptable Targets, and the Couric interview turned Palin into a lightning rod for it. When she appears or is referenced in most fictional media, she will take on these traits largely because it's funny. Incidentally, her popular culture portrayal reached an extent that lines Tina Fey would say while impersonating Sarah Palin would be taken out of context and attributed to Palin as though she herself said them. There are shows out there which try to treat Palin as a more serious, dignified individual, but these simply don't have the same Popcultural Osmosis value largely because they just aren't as entertaining to most of the kind of people who would read This Very Wiki. It's a matter of contention whether she was the youthful and energetic shot in the arm that McCain's campaign needed to Take a Level in Badass or McCain's Poisonous Friend whose popularity and fanbase came at the expense of his own.
Needless to say, anyone looking for a nuanced and balanced political discussion of Palin's influence in America is on the wrong wiki. Portrayals (or parodies) of Palin in modern media typically hit on at least one of these notes: being from small-town Alaska, with all of the provincialism this implies; a love of hunting, guns, and the outdoors; being the mother of a child with Down Syndrome; speaking with an energetic-if-idiosyncratic style with many neologisms (and in an accent that sounds exactly like Marge Gunderson in Fargo); and being more attractive than the average politician. Her actual political value, as far as we can tell, has very little to do with these things.
Note: Palin's much remarked-upon accent and speech style isn't actually an "Alaskan accent"; people from Alaska don't generally talk that way. Rather, Palin's parents were from Idaho, and her speech patterns are actually an Idaho accent/syntax - understandably, therefore, her speech sounds like what the actors were affecting for a movie set in Fargo, North Dakota simply because it is another Northern Great Plains state in the same general region of the country.
As just a few moments' worth of internet research can handily show, Palin has detractors white-hot enough to be seen from space, yet it seems just as many people love her — possibly because she can make left-wingers froth at the mouth without even trying. So please, for the love of God, when discussing her, think before you edit.
The Popcultural Osmosis does not seem to be slowing down either, as a reality show about Alaska starred Palin and was TLC's highest-rated premiere. Unfortunately, it was not renewed for a second season.
Sarah Palin has been portrayed in:
- In the comic book Barack the Barbarian, which casts all the major players of the '08 election in a Conan the Barbarian-type universe, she appears wearing a Stripperific outfit.
- Antarctic Press had a field day with her with a number of comics that made fun of her such as Sarah Palin Rouge Warrior, Steampunk Palin and Sarah Palin vs The World (yes a parody of Scott Pilgrim, go fig), among other parodies and Expies.
- The US President in Iron Sky is an Iron Lady expy of Palin.
- She's played by Julianne Moore the HBO film Game Change, (based on the book of the same title), which depicts the 2008 election. While the book documents the entire 2008 presidential campaign, the movie adaptation focuses specifically on Palin's selection as McCain's running mate. Albeit as drawn from sources inside the campaign that were antagonistic to her.
- The Alternate History novel, Christian Nation by Frederic C. Rich, has Palin being president after John McCain and America goes downhill from there.
- Strands of Sorrow features a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of her, transplanted from Alaska to Texas, as Vice President of the US, who was forced to bunker up at the FEMA command center by circumstances until being rescued by an unauthorized rescue mission lead by Faith Smith.
- Real American Stories is probably the best known appearance Palin has in media that doesn't involve her being used as the clear butt of a joke. Ironically, it's also fairly average, with Palin only providing opening narration for stories that FOX already had kicking around the video archives for the past two years. Once people watching the show realized Palin's presence as host didn't automatically make it So Bad, It's Good, most stopped paying attention.
- Palin's most popular appearance in media is the aforementioned Saturday Night Live sketch. It defined most of her character traits in media from the point it aired, and Popcultural Osmosis has taken it so thoroughly to heart that some of the scripted lines (spoken by Tina Fey) are assumed to be Palin's real responses in the Couric interview, particularly "I can see Russia from my house!"note
- She hosted a travelogue called Sarah Palin's Alaska, broadcast on TLC.
- In a Deleted Scene from the Parks and Recreation episode "The Camel", Tom gives Leslie a copy of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue. Leslie becomes excited when she finds out that she herself is mentioned in the book (the show explains that Palin briefly met Leslie while on the campaign trail) and described in glowing terms. However, when the page goes on to talk about Tom being incredibly sexy, Leslie realizes that it's a prank.
- In Supernatural's Bad Future, she is President, and apparently decided to bomb Houston.
- She appears in Iditarod: The Toughest Race on Earth, because at the time she was still the governor of Alaska and overseeing the ceremonial start of the 2008 Iditarod. Rather unusually, this was before she became famous across the country.
- Another pre-fame appearance: In June 2007, Craig Ferguson of The Late Late Show had an ongoing bit where he asked U.S. state governors to declare him an "honorary citizen" of their state. On June 22, he aired a pre-recorded video response from Governor Palin, who granted Craig's request while extolling everything her state had to offer. Craig's first thought?
Craig: Is it just me, or do you get a kind of naughty librarian vibe from the Governor?
- The Midnight Beast's parody of Kesha's "TiK ToK" uses Palin to play on the original's odd Mick Jagger line:
Stefan: Now the girls are lining up because we're pussy sailin' / But we punch them in the mouth if they're not Sarah Palin"
- Tom Chapin (Harry Chapin's brother) wrote a song about her, called "Go Away, Sarah Palin". As it can be guessed from the title, it's not positive.
- Palin appeared in bed with Eminem in the music video of his 2009 song "We Made You", again played by Lisa Ann from the porn spoof Nailin' Palin.
- TNA had at one point a Knockout who was a Sarah Palin impersonator, called The Governor. She was played by Shannon Claire Spruill aka Daffney Unger. She debuted in a story arc where Angelina Love and Velvet Sky tried to win her favor, believing she was the real Sarah Palin. Eventually, The Governor, Taylor Wilde, and Roxxi Laveaux ambushed the two and beat them up, mocking them for thinking she was actually Sarah Palin.
- Mercenaries 2 had DLC that enabled Palin as a playable character, along with Barack Obama.
- NBA Jam allows both her and Barack Obama as playable characters, keeping with tradition.
- Plague Inc.: If the American president has to stand down due to ill-health and if The Plague has the insanity symptom, Spalin will be elected to the take the office. Spalin with then threaten Russia or China with nuclear war depending on the symptoms that the disease has, claiming that it is a bio-weapon of their creation. If the military generals are paralyzed from the disease, Spalin will carry through on the threat and kill everyone in that country.
- An expy of her shows up in Saints Row: The Third as Senator Monica Hughes. She sets the army on street gangs, but is not prepared to go as far as they would like until The Dragon stages a terrorist attack, where she will either call them off or authorize the Daedalus which is used in a bid to destroy the entire city.
- In Dead Rising 3, Sonya Paddock, the President of the United States, resembles and is meant to be a parody of Palin.
- Sinfest included a long story arc involving Squigley wearing a beehive hairdo and running for Vice President, calling himself Sarah Piglin.
- Appears from time to time as The Rival to Robin DeSantos in Shortpacked!. Their rivalry came to a head when Robin shoved Faz up Palin's ass.
- In The Unspeakable Vault (of Doom) both presidential candidates of 2008 are the Great Old Ones in disguise (Obama is Nyarly (Nyarlathotep), while McCain is Cthulhoo (guess...)). Sarah Palin is a Shoggie (negative-IQ shoggoth Expy) in a wig.
- In Kickassia, when The Nostalgia Chick becomes the Vice President of the titular nation, she starts to dress and talk in a style parodying Palin.
- CollegeHumor has a video where her running for vice president is just a Disney movie of a hockey mom becoming president called "Head of Skate," ending with a hockey match between her and Vladimir Putin. This came from an interview where Matt Damon slammed her "hockey mom" persona, saying that her whole story (typical suburban wife and mother sliding up the political ladder to president) sounded like the plot of a bad Disney movie.
- Epic Rap Battles of History pits her against Lady Gaga. Her representation is more or less accurate to her real life self rather than any parody, though a lot of the points mentioned up above about her usual portrayal are referenced.
- The Nostalgia Critic opened his review of the film Alaska with "Sarah Palin is stupid. There, I got my Sarah Palin joke out of the way, let's talk about Alaska."
- In an episode of Family Guy, Chris dates a girl with Down Syndrome who briefly makes reference to her mother being the former governor of Alaska. Notable largely because when Palin herself found about this, she indignantly called it a "kick in the gut" to families with Down Syndrome in general, claiming it to be offensive material, and then tried to claim that she was defending the Down Syndromed actress who read the line. The actress who played the character, who is in her forties, was nonplussed about this criticism, telling Palin to "get a sense of humor," and claimed she didn't need anyone to stand up for her grown-ass self. In an open letter the actress later wrote, she accused Sarah Palin of using her Down Syndrome son as a political prop that she carried around "like a loaf of French bread."
- In an episode of South Park, it is revealed that her quirky image is actually all an act, and that she is actually a brilliant British catsuit-clad jewel thief taking part in an unspeakably elaborate heist, along with McCain and Obama.
- In a (non-canon) Christmas Episode of American Dad! Palin winds up adopting the Antichrist.
- And of course, the Porn Parody "Who's Nailin' Paylin?", using a look-alike actress (Lisa Ann) in the role. In a porn version of the Colbert Bump, this also heavily boosted Lisa Ann's career, and led to her appearing as a Sarah Palin lookalike at the 2012 Republican Party national convention in Tampa, Florida. (The real Palin wasn't invited to the 2012 RNC, incidentally.)
- And on the gay side, we have Getting Levi's Johnson, which, although primarily focusing Bristol Palin's ex-fiancee, also features Lisa Ann as "Serra Paylin," dispensing ridiculous advice and commentary to Levi (Chris Steele) between scenes.
- There is a lot of fan art of Peggy Hill from King of the Hill as Palin, due to their resemblance.