If you drove to Grapevine last night, entered the mall on the corner of Grapevine Mills Boulevard and Stars and Stripes Way, hurried past the Legoland, the Foot Locker and, outside the aquarium, two children strapped into some kind of bungee-jumping ride, pogoing slowly over and over again from floor to ceiling, then walked down the long hall of the AMC 30 movie theater, you could find a special "leaders only" screening of the new documentary about Sarah Palin, The Undefeated. To RSVP online for the event, one had to check a box, which stated, "I testify that I'm a leader with significant influence in my community." There was also a blank field to describe "what you do as a leader."
"You missed the beginning where everybody's cussin' about her," the volunteer at the table outside the theater told me. A tall, muscular, sandy-haired kid with very wide blue eyes and a polo shirt tucked into crisp jeans, he shook his head in disbelief, "It's pretty harsh."
But that's about the only harshness you'll find in The Undefeated, which was made by director Stephen K. Bannon without Sarah Palin's direct participation but with her clear blessing. The film uses significant portions from the audio book of her memoir Going Rogue as voiceover, and when the film debuted in Pella, Iowa on June 28, Palin and husband Todd attended the festivities.
The movie, which charts her career as mayor of Wasilla and governor of Alaska, is less a documentary than a glowing two-hour infomercial for Sarah Palin, Presidential Candidate To-Be. It's pre-screening in select cities now and will be distributed in some AMC theaters on July 15, including in Dallas. So, what to expect? Jump to find out as we split a box of popcorn with some Tea Party-goers.
The purpose of the film, basically, is for people who currently work for her -- or have in the past, including her attorney, who looks a little depressed, and numerous people who were part of her mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns -- to talk about her achievements and bash her foes, who are part of what one talking head calls "an uprising of hatred" against Palin. Her arguments with detractors are described in the movie as "a spiritual battle." She's no longer just the folksy-aphorism-spoutin' hockey mom we were introduced to in 2008. The film elevates her to nothing less than a primary fighter in a holy war, a lone holdout against the encroaching forces of darkness.
"Are you ready to fight for your freedoms?" Palin asks a roaring crowd in one scene.
A man sitting behind me shouted, "OH, YEAH!" (The Tea Party's Rocky Horror Picture Show, perhaps?)
But the "mama grizzly" comparison we've heard from the Palin camp before makes its way into the movie: She also describes herself in a stump speech as an eagle defending her eaglets, and as a Nanook protecting her cub. At this point, someone in the theater started applauding softly and didn't stop for a long while. Soon after, Barack Obama appeared onscreen twice, prompting a bout of hissing and booing each time from several corners of the room.
After the film, the woman sitting next to me -- who turned out to be Lorie Medina, the head of the Dallas Tea Party -- talked a bit about about Sarah Palin haters. Many of them, she thinks, are motivated by bitterness.
"She's what the feminists have told us to be shooting for," she said. "She has a great marriage, a huge family and an incredible career."
Does Medina think Palin would run for president?
"Well, that's the $64,000 question," she said. "Some days I wake up and I think she will, some days I think she won't." I asked if Palin would be her first choice for president. "Of course," she said, looking faintly shocked.
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"The media tried to portray her as a raving theocrat," Thomas Chanteloup told me. He's a Tea Party activist from Iowa and has blogged at Conservatives4Palin.com.
"In fact, she's a devoted Christian woman," he said. "We're headed for the cliff financially and fiscally. There's only one person who will push to cut spending." Palin, he said, "will restore the country back to limited government. You can't create heaven on earth, which is what the liberals want."
"When they don't even believe in God!" added another Tea Party leader, who had come up from San Antonio for the screening. He asked me what I thought of the film. After a moment of silence, during which we looked at each other politely, he showed me his tie, which was part of Rush Limbaugh's No Boundaries Collection. It was a very nice tie.
"There's nothing wrong in America a good ol' fashioned election can't fix!" Palin exclaims brightly near the end of the film. The audience in Grapevine clapped, cheered and whistled at that. As the movie faded to black, the clapping was replaced with earnest chants of "Run, Sarah, run!"