As a name for girls, “Julia” is sufficiently popular; the baby name ranking websites put this somewhere around #50 for the United States. So it will be interesting to see if the Life of Julia controversy of 2012 will crater that ranking for the year, or if the president’s sycophants will send its popularity soaring.
The name itself is pretty, pleasant, and unremarkable, which made it the perfect moniker for a character in the life story the Obama campaign wanted to tell about an unremarkable everywoman. That everywoman being the demographic Obama needs to court if he’s going to win the election — the woman who is educated, career-minded, and intentional about her child-bearing decisions. This woman probably doesn’t pay that much attention to politics, would consider herself moderate, and just wants to have a decent life. Oh, and she’s white.
Julia, like so many of the everywomen she represents, is a brunette Caucasian who dyes her hair red during college, only to go back to her natural hair color once she gets knocked up, ultimately chopping off the lot of it sometime after she gives birth. Unlike many of the everywomen she represents, Julia gains nary a pound for the duration of her comfortable government-subsidized life. Among the many other benefits re-election of Obama portends to offer in this campaign comic book is the promise of a static waistline for life. Deficit what?
If the title of this now infamous literary work had been “The Life of Shaniqua,” even staunch Democrats would have protested that it was patronizing drivel, talking down to women in general and minority women in particular. But aside from the conservative subculture’s outrage over Comrade Julia’s state-sustained existence, the broader cultural response to Julia is neutral and silent. Julia and her story are presented as benign — insidiously so — but unless you find the premise abhorrent, this illustrated storybook about presidential policies propping a woman up throughout her life is hardly noteworthy.
In the story of Julia, among the many things noticeably absent (not the least of which were any supporting characters aside from the government), the most glaring omission was a plot. You don’t have to be a writer to know this; even children intuitively understand what makes a good story — what drives any compelling narrative is some kind of conflict.
“The Life of Julia” was worse than condescending; it was boring. If the Obama campaign had hoped to draw us in with something resembling a story, it failed. It was a bad story because it wasn’t any story at all. Julia doesn’t struggle and she doesn’t overcome. As she drifts through her life, any potential bumps in the road are all smoothed over by Obama’s policies. In addition to having no husband and no cellulite, Julia also has no problems.
Julia’s life may be a seductive fantasy for women, but listening to siren songs always results in shipwrecks. The liberal narrative is utopian and short on sacrifice of self; it’s about laying back and hoping to enjoy the best life someone else can provide for you today, instead of working hard for the best life you can create for yourself tomorrow. I don’t need government to promise it can make my life easy. I need government to ensure that my life will be my own.