TV SEPTEMBER 13, 2013
Meghan McCain has described her new talk show—which premieres tomorrow on Pivot TV, a new network targeting millennials—as a middle ground between the Kardashians and C-SPAN. This is apt: “Raising McCain” takes reality TV’s confessional spirit and partygirl vibe and gives it all the drama and edge of a congressional livestream. McCain is committed to making political issues, from privacy to feminism, as platitudinous as possible. In the first episode, she and Newsweek/Daily Beast reporter Michael Moynihan sift through each other’s digital trails in a contest to see whose is more incriminating. “Someone hacked into my Twitter account once and direct messaged Larry King from me,” McCain declares, as evidence of the worst breach of her privacy she has yet to encounter. “I’m here freely admitting that I’ve done things with ex boyfriends that I wouldn’t want on the internet,” she offers. “Are we just fucked as a culture?” she asks.
Unfortunately, in McCain’s hands, the answer appears to be yes. This is perhaps most clear in the second episode, a treatise on modern feminism. Here’s her brother Jimmy’s take: “Maybe you guys are just being a little whiny.” Meghan’s attitude toward the battle of the sexes is a cocktail of rah-rah female empowerment and wishful gender normativity. She interviews an adult film star named Sinnamon Love about being a feminist while getting paid to have sex on camera. She works out with a Navy Seal and discusses whether women in the military are distracting to men. “In a war situation, the most intense situation a human being can be put in, I still think a man would have some primal instinct to protect a woman,” she says. She is offended by Sheryl Sandberg’s claim that her husband “was the best choice she ever made.” “Not everyone meets great men,” McCain says, sorrowfully. She frets extensively over the prospect of giving a speech about feminism for an audience of high schoolers: “I don’t even know if I consider myself a feminist,” she says. “I like wearing makeup, I like wearing pushup bras, and sometimes I dress slutty on Halloween.”
Dan D’Addario points out in Salon that McCain is basically a caricature of what the media wants millennials to be: vapid, exhibitionist, self-involved, materialistic, infatuated with the internet, riding on the coattails of their parents’ success. But she is also, a bit more troublingly, a caricature of youth political engagement. She comes across as flip, uninformed, and chock-full of unhelpful generalizations about millennials and the political landscape. “Does our generation think differently about sex and objectification?” she wonders.
Being McCain’s daughter doesn't mean she has to be the voice of young conservatism forever. Her 2010 memoir, Dirty Sexy Politics, was an impassioned, voicey riff on life on the campaign trail and the current state of the Republican party. But at this point she doesn’t even seem much interested in politics. When New York council member Inez Dickens tells her in one episode that she is helping to change the Republican party, McCain says, dismissively: “Eh, I feel like I’m failing.” She is pretty charismatic as a mere TV personality, confident and shameless and funny. She'd make a good talk show host. Just not on a show about politics. “I’m gonna fuckin’ call myself a feminist in the same way I’m gonna call myself a Republican,” she says toward the end of the second episode. Which is to say: haphazardly, because it seems like a thing she should probably do.