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Jewish World Review August 17, 2000/16 Menachem-Av, 5760

Suzanne Fields

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Consumer Reports

Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton -- LOS ANGELES | Loretta Young died on the eve of the Democratic convention in Los Angeles with perfect timing, a reminder (as if the town needed a reminder) that the glamorous and elegant Hollywood of the last Democratic National Convention held here is dead, dead, dead.

Her designer dresses suggested sophistication and grace, and she almost seemed to float when she walked down the stairs to greet the audience (or at least the camera) as the "first lady of television.'' The stars today -- Hollywood rarely calls them that -- wear tight sexy designer dresses that wrap them in a raunchy reality.

Human nature hasn't changed, but our icons sure have. Fantasies, too. A quick glance at the podium demonstrates that. Loretta Young could play a tough cookie with a core of inner strength, but she wore it with a veneer of feminine vulnerability. Both women and men rooted for her because she played by the rules and was comfortable in the person she portrayed, a rare combination of both a "woman's woman,'' and a `man's woman.''

"My appeal wouldn't have been to the intellectuals or the neurotics'' she told her co-author for an unpublished autobiography. In her most famous role in "The Farmer's Daughter,'' Loretta Young plays a Swedish maid who runs for Congress. Everybody loves her.

She wouldn't have been a bad image model for Hillary Clinton, but Hillary, a star of the Clinton night at the convention, came of age after the sexual and cultural revolutions of the four decades since the Democrats nominated JFK in Los Angeles and she's burdened with very different images of female heroines.

Nowhere is the split personality of the female vision for the 21st century more confused than in Hillary Clinton. When she took center stage at Staples Center, eight years of public personas hung over her like a closet full of the fashions a woman can't bear to throw away even though she wouldn't dream of wearing again -- they're dated, tacky, too youthful or worst of all, no longer fit the figure.

Gone is the young woman in headbands with bad hair days who wears unflattering hats, dresses and suits. The first lady was pretty in blue. As she tell audiences on the campaign trail, she's older and blonder.

But her prime time speech (which put the president who followed her out of prime time in the crucial Eastern time zone) was canned and delivered in sing-song, suggesting that she was more concerned with not making a mistake than evoking warmth and spontaneity. That's too bad for her. The polls, including her own, suggest that New York voters simply don't trust her.

She's like a cubist portrait by Pablo Picasso; you see her from the front and from the side, but the angles don't morph into a coherent composite; they grate and irritate and the viewer can't put it all together. It's not all her fault, but it is largely her doing.

In her speech, for example, she alluded to her failed health care plan and said she'd learned a lot since then, but what is it exactly that she has learned? She didn't say. Did she learn that most people don't want the government spending their money on what Hillary Clinton thinks is good for them? Or did she learn that her secret meetings showed her to have a penchant for running things without public knowledge?

Greatest irony of all, Hillary got her best public approval poll ratings as the victimized wife rather than the aggressive co-president. Women who felt she abused power suddenly saw her abused by the powerful. Excruciatingly painful as it was to see Monica's dirty laundry washed in public, but there's no way she would have run for the U.S. Senate without the mortification that made her vulnerable.

But that vulnerability also cut into her natural constituency, the liberal career women in New York who you can see in the HBO sitcom "Sex and the City.''

The polls suggest that they see her as having forged a pact with the devil, not as unwitting victim of her husband's hedonism. True or not, that's the image that trumps all others.

"She is not just pretending to be a New Yorker and a New York Yankee fan,'' writes Katie Roiphe in The Guardian/Observer. "She is pretending to be a woman.''

These career women who had to claw their way to powerful careers without the `help'' of a philandering husband -- a president no less -- to make them look virtuous, are jealous. They see their personal ambitions and bitchiness writ large in Hillary and it drives them crazy.

"They accept her so completely,'' writes Ms. Roiphe, "that they resent her, they admire her, they secretly want to see her fail.''


08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate