For most armchair political observers, the monthly Hillary Clinton email dumps have become a chance to get a rare look at her unfiltered side. The latest batch, released Monday night, offers some irresistible insight into her pop cultural tastes: "Can you give me times for two TV shows. Parks and Recreation and The Good Wife?" she asked an aide in January 2010:
Considering the techno-ignorance this whole email fracas has revealed (another email showed Clinton asking Phillipe Reines how to use her new iPad), I shouldn't be so surprised that in 2010 Clinton didn't possess a DVR—or know how to use one—and still watched TV shows in their proper time slots.
More interesting are the two shows she plans to watch, both about strong female characters who are, at least in part, inspired by Hillary Clinton herself. The Good Wife follows a disgraced politician's wife who stood by her man. (Back in 2010, Alicia Florrick hadn't yet evolved into a calculating politician herself.) Leslie Knope—who proudly displayed a Clinton portrait on her office mantle—was an ambitious blonde-haired government worker, as abrasive as she was idealistic. In season two, when Clinton was trying to figure out how to watch Parks and Rec, Leslie was hard-working but not yet universally beloved. If Clinton saw a doppelgänger while watching, it wasn't an entirely flattering one.
"Hillary Clinton loves to watch television shows about Hillary Clinton," the Free Beacon gleefully pointed out yesterday, and they are not entirely wrong. She clearly likes shows about ambitious political women—that is to say, women in positions like her own. In interviews over the last year, Clinton has shared her love of The Good Wife, Madame Secretary—a show loosely based on her time at the State Department—and the Danish show Borgen, about a female Prime Minister.
Even in public interviews, the pop cultural tastes that Clinton cops to don’t seem designed to impress us. She has never been shy about her reality TV consumption. She watches Beachfront Bargain and her favorite show, she has repeatedly said, is HGTV's Love It or List It. That's not just a home-improvement reality show. It's a Canadian home-renovation reality show. "I find it relaxing and entertaining and informative, watching HGTV," she said on a recent campaign stop. And then there is Dancing with the Stars. “I did watch it faithfully this season," she told Barbara Walters last June, offering her detailed opinion on that season's finalists. "And I really like both Max and Derek, but I was very happy that Max finally won. I don't know what the man would have done with himself had he not. I was really worried."
While our current president appears on “WTF” and “Between Two Ferns,” there is something refreshing, even charming about Clinton's unpretentious pop-culture consumption. Compare Barack Obama, whose favorite shows include The Wire, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Boardwalk Empire. There is nothing wrong with these shows; they are all good television (the first two especially). Still, there is a blandly hip quality about this list of premium-cable “prestige” dramas, a snapshot of the creative-class herd mentality: cool but conformist.
"No politician has been able to spin personal taste into political zeal quite like President Barack Obama," Hua Hsu wrote last month at The New Yorker, shortly after the White House released Obama's summer Spotify playlists. (The playlists gained Slate’s approval, at least.) Clinton's tastes may be focus-grouped, but they are decidedly un-curated.