Activism > Politics | Lifeways

Summary. Sarah Palin’s Alaska is a documentary show on TLC presented in a reality television format. More information is available about the show on these pages:

Commentary. The commentary below is provided by Gregory Johnson.

Recently I was scanning through the available High Definition channels provided by our local cable television provider, and I came upon Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Many of the other HD channels had non-HD programming, or really poor quality HD video, so when I came upon Sarah Palin’s Alaska, it captured my attention. I didn’t even know what the show was, and definitely wasn’t expecting a reality-type show with Sarah Palin and her family.

Because of the quality of the video, I kept watching, and along the way, I found it really interesting to have an opportunity to see some glimpses of how the Palin family (and extended family) lives. While the general theme and structure of each episode is (by necessity) planned out, it seems that the show it fairly authentic and unscripted in how it is recorded, edited, and produced.

As a photographer, I primarily look for opportunities for crisp images — often regardless of what the subject is. As a videographer, I like to study high quality video productions to enhance my own abilities. Regardless of the content, this show offers a standard I would like to live up to. So, I opened up iTunes to see if the series was available and discovered it is available for purchase through the Apple iTunes store. The still photos on this page are similar to the clarity and high color saturation in the video.

I’m a non-hunting, vegetarian, liberal. So among those viewing the show, I’d be someone likely to complain about it. Yet, I really didn’t find anything wrong with it. Some of the things they do I wouldn’t feel comfortable with, but that’s just a difference of lifestyle and culture.

Curious to see what others had said about the show, I began looking at the comments for the show on iTunes. I was really embarrassed to see the comments of what were obviously Sarah Palin haters. The negative ratings and comments seemed to be criticizing things totally unrelated to the show. Those kind of comments really make non-conservative non-Republicans look like a bunch of complaining, disgruntled, and narrow minded people.

When conservative Republican Mike Huckabee was interviewed on the Jon Stewart show, Huckabee stated, “I’m a conservative, but I’m not angry about it.” What he was referring to are the fringe group of angry and hateful conservatives. Similarly, there are angry and hateful liberals. So, in the spirit of what Mike Huckabee said, I would state that “I’m a liberal, but I’m not angry about it.”

Reading the negative comments about Sarah Palin’s Alaska made me realize how clueless people are about the culture and lifestyle of many Americans who are conservative, meat eating, hunters, who drive pickup trucks and SUVs. I know a lot of families that are very much like the Palins. Most of them are good people.

I think Sarah Palin’s Alaska will really appeal to these people because Sarah Palin’s Alaska is really about Sarah Palin’s America — the huge segment of our society that she represents. Over five million people tuned in for the premiere episode of the series (a record for TLC). The show has held at 3 to 3.5 million viewers which makes it TLC’s No. 1 rated show.

One of the criticisms of the show has been that some people feel it is basically a political advertisement. However, the theme song choice of “Follow Me There” by the Christian contemporary music group Third Day, would suggest that the show is about spreading a Christian message and conservative values more than promoting a political agenda. This would be consistent with Sarah Palin’s evangelical beliefs.

Another criticism of the show is that it’s fake and insincere. From my perspective, I know of many people who are very similar to the Palins, so I find it hard to believe someone would make this stuff up.

In summary, I think the Palins have done a good job presenting their lifestyle, values, culture, and message. Apparently millions of Americans find a connection with the show. [Gregory Johnson, 3 January 2011]

Reflections – 19 January 2011. Below is an updated commentary by Gregory Johnson.

Today I downloaded the entire fall 2010 season of Sarah Palin’s Alaska from the iTunes store, and I just now figured out that the show I’d seen on television was the third episode, Salmon Run. I’m starting out by watching episode 7, Logging. There’s an humorous underlying tension, but a loving tension, between the parents and their children that occasionally comes through in this show that reminds me of the television series Parenthood. The video production style is similar to what I’d seen in Truth in 24 and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I notice that brand names and license plates are obscured — the first time I’d seen this was in the Jamie Oliver shows. At 37:14-37:17 there’s a “product placement” of some wind turbines (not for a particular manufacturer, but just a nod to wind power in general). I thought that was kind of cool. I like the music in the show. Much of it is acoustic guitar. I presume it’s stock audio. One thing I like about the video production is that there are numerous camera angles, and the footage is rich with landscape as well as other peripheral images that help create a context for the focus of the show. The logging episode concluded with some stock car racing and a visit to see some wild bears. I found these two segments interesting. I think one of the challenges that the video producers seemed to overcome well is that they were shooting in difficult circumstances, with what seemed to be cloudy and low light conditions. Yet, the video still has rich colors and clarity. I’m planning to watch each episode thoroughly and study the various techniques used by those who produced the show so I can implement those techniques into the work I do. I’ll report back here with observations about each show.

Reflections – 20 January 2011. Below is an updated commentary by Gregory Johnson.

This morning I was reflecting more on episode 7, Logging, and was reminded of the 30 Days series of reality shows by Morgan Spurlock. I feel that the 30 Days series was very signifiant for building bridges of understanding between very diverse people. It’s clear in the logging episode that this is a new experience for Sarah, and something she is apprehensive about, and admittedly inexperienced with. It wasn’t the same as committing 30 days to being a logging worker, but it does show the importance of getting out of one’s comfort zone to learn a bit about how other people work and live. The show also takes liberals out of their comfort zone by placing them (through video) in the midst of this conservative family. As with those featured in the Morgan Spurlock series, I think the uncomfortable viewer may eventually warm up to the Palins upon seeing that there are many commonalities shared. With Sarah Palin’s Alaska Something we don’t consider is that, very much like the Morgan Spurlock series, Sarah Palin’s Alaska is about how it feels to live 30-days (or probably more) with a film crew in your home and life. I’ve been in front of the camera before for national media, and I can stay engaged for a while and enjoy it, but I’m not sure if I could offer something of interest for more than an hour. So, I was impressed that this family could engage my attention, and offer something of interest over an extended period of time. Unlike a typical television series where you are a paid actor and it’s your job, I’m sure this show is draining on the entire family which may explain why they aren’t planning to continue with the show. It’s a huge commitment. In the Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution series, I was surprised that Jamie Oliver would allow his faults to show through. Things that could have been easily edited out to make him look better, were, seemingly, intentionally left in. I don’t know if it is part of the contract people sign with these film crews or what, but I noticed the same thing happening in Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Things they could have easily edited out, they left in. I suppose that’s what makes such shows appealing is that you get a more authentic and holistic look at people and their life.