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Bristol Palin-Levi Johnston engagement -- reality? Or reality television?

By Alexandra Petri

When you fail at reality television, try marriage.

That's my takeaway from the Bristol Palin-Levi Johnston engagement.

I try hard not to be cynical about the activities of those in the public eye. For instance, I'm one of three people in America who doesn’t believe that Heidi Montag’s repeated plastic surgeries are some sort of publicity stunt. She’s just bringing out what she believes she looks like on the inside -- a frightening plastic cyborg.

But in today’s culture, attention is right up there after shelter and before flint and tinder as an essential survival need. So the fact that the Palin-Johnson story -- first the reunion, then the engagement -- is in People and Us Weekly, with a cute cover picture of the family, makes me worry: Have Levi and Bristol really seen the light beyond the flashbulbs and decided to make a go of it, together, in the real world? (As Jonathan Capehart believes.) Or were they frustrated about falling out of the headlines?

Just look at Google Trends. The graph of searches for Bristol Palin looks like a diagram of the U.S. economy, starting up high in 2008 and then spiraling downwards. This despite appearances on The View and The Secret Life of the American Teenager (which had her delivering a sarcastic remark about being Yo-Yo Ma as though she thought she was actually supposed to be playing Yo-Yo Ma). True, she has been getting $15,000 for speaking about her experiences, and she's an ambassador for Candie's Foundation to prevent teen pregnancy. But these are hardly the heights of reality stardom.

Now she’s on fire again.

Levi, similarly, hasn't been getting much attention since his Playgirl photo shoot. Sure, he was on "My Life on the D-List" with Kathy Griffin last month. But that’s a gesture of failure, the same way that purchasing three cats is a gesture of failure for people who claim to be "single and looking."

Which makes me wonder about why he sent Bristol that text about loving and missing her.

I think Bristol and Levi are real people with real emotions, not plastic-covered cyborgs. Still, I hope they realize that being successful in marriage is much harder than being a successful reality star. If it weren’t, all those Bachelor contestants would be approaching their tenth anniversaries right now. And they didn’t have Sarah Palin to deal with.

By Alexandra Petri  | July 14, 2010; 3:26 PM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
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Next: The guile of Sen. Jon Kyl

Comments

Who is Levi Johnston?

Posted by: slatt321 | July 14, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I hear it's going to be called "The Wasilla Hillbillies".

Posted by: blarsen1 | July 14, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

You are right on target. It is the publicity that gives the plot away.

Posted by: Thependulumswings | July 14, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't agree with you more. If these two were just trying to reunite, they didn't need a publicity stunt like a photo shoot in US weekly and People. But both want to continue to cash in on their 15 minutes of fame. I can't blame them for wanting the money. I do see a stint on the Bachelor for Levi when this engagement fails again.

Posted by: wmwilliams14 | July 14, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

The whole bunch of them (Palins) have already demonstrated their love of TV and money. This "relationship" will be done in 1 year and the by that time, they will cash in from TV reality shows, the morons in the media, and other freak show loving idiots.

Posted by: vintel7 | July 14, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Who gives a fly crap,,, just another young immature couple who screwed up by having a baby out of wedlock. Great example to leave your child.

Posted by: endinmaine | July 14, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

If she's pregnant again, and that's why they are marrying, then her mother is DEFINITELY behind this type of reveal. Can't have a presidential hopeful with a daughter having 2 kids out of wedlock and not even with the father of either one!

I don't think all is as it seems, as it wasn't before we found out about her first pregnancy. So there probably is more to this story already that we just don't know.

Posted by: Xlnt | July 14, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Do any of you know where I can buy USWeekly?

Posted by: slatt321 | July 14, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

cherfan thinks anywhere

Posted by: cherfan | July 14, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Bristol Palin isn't Yo-Yo Ma, she's Tripp's Yo Ma-Ma.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | July 14, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Hello!?!? Sarah's building up her war chest for another run. She can't show up in front of a bunch of right wing nuts with a dysfunctional family! C'mon people... wake up!

Posted by: lazlom | July 14, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

who cares? if you think they just want attention, why are you giving it to them?

sickos.

Posted by: fireball72 | July 14, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Just part of an orchestrated plan to make mo money, mo money, mo money.

Posted by: whocares666 | July 14, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Don't tell me Bristol's knocked up again already, or is she just that FAT??

I hope she took her own advice about pre-marital sex??

Posted by: Maerzie | July 15, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

This is a cheap " Mama Grizzly" publicity stunt that Sarah Palin is orchestrating in an attempt to legitimize her promiscuous daughter and her bastard grandchild for political purposes.
The public is not nearly as stupid as Palin thinks we are.

Posted by: ellislawoffice | July 15, 2010 12:50 AM | Report abuse


More than likely, Bristol Palin wishes to legitimize her baby's birth in that she was married, at some point, to the boy's father.

More than likely, Levi Johnston wishes to hitch his wagon to the "Palin" name to gain notoriety and to get his name out there for monetary reasons.

Posted by: prossers7 | July 15, 2010 2:15 AM | Report abuse

This is what u get for being horny and a christian fundie...u have to get married to get some. Hope thats not the case........

Posted by: Chops2 | July 15, 2010 2:44 AM | Report abuse

As I watched Howie Kurtz castigating the lib media for ignoring the Levi apology on CNN Sunday, I said to myself that they could see like Howie couldn't...that it was the 'apology' that was the lie, and that the 'apology' was just the price of admission to get back into the good graces of the Wasilla Hillbillies.

And now we know. Levi and unwed Mama Griz are engaged.

No wonder the 'apology' contained no specifics. Just what the hell was the media supposed to report on, Howie? There was no there there.

Posted by: secretaryofspite | July 15, 2010 2:56 AM | Report abuse

Two sad little children raised by two very dysfunctional families.

Posted by: meowomon | July 15, 2010 4:36 AM | Report abuse

Yes, yes, I get it. You aren't cynical about the doings of celebrities... Unless they are connected to Republican politicians. At least you admit it.

Posted by: shecallsmemoe | July 15, 2010 5:13 AM | Report abuse

If $arah had a grand (2012) scheme for Bristol & Levi to get married & paid them this sure turned into a PR disaster for her. Bristol said she didn't want to tell her Mom because she was scared & 'ol Grand Mama Grizzly finds out like the rest of us - a tabloid! Then Bristol says she doesn't care if $arah is at the wedding or not. Love those All-American family values Palin style.

The polls have been trending down for $arah & I wouldn't be surprised if they take a nose dive now. Me thinks all those Mama Grizzly’s out there are looking at this $arah train wreck with skepticism. $arah's gonna have to walk this one way back. Maybe over a cliff. $arah does have some media handlers now who are supposed to be good but if her behavior when she was running with McCain is any indication she's going to go rogue regardless of the advice she is given. I don't think she can help herself. The entire Palin family including Levi have learned very rapidly from $arah how to exploit & make $$$$$ whatever their agenda. That's capitalism at its best! Whether it's admirable is another story.

WOW.....Just think of what Chelsea could do in reaching out & mentoring the younger Palin girls. Go to college & graduate. Get a job. Live quietly & out of the media. Not produce a child out of wedlock.

Levi may stick around but what if he's not happy? Levi & Bristol both have very young telegenic faces & it's easy to read their emotions. Remember them with McCain on the tarmac & at the convention? An unhappily wed Levi or Bristol out on the Hastings could be $arah's worst nightmare. Both these young adults ($arah's words) have proven they don't mind sticking it to her. & she's paying to have it stuck to her! Pin the tail on the donkey!

I wonder how Grand Mama Grizzly slept last night. Wanna bet that $arah's grinding her teeth & developing TMJ? That's going to take a bite guard. With that in she can't talk!

Posted by: Parsley1 | July 15, 2010 6:17 AM | Report abuse

A train wreck waiting to happen... give it 6 months.

How much is Palin paying the kid to marry the dopey daughter? Anything for positive publicity, huh?

Posted by: EdSantaFe | July 15, 2010 7:10 AM | Report abuse

Come on folks you all got it wrong. As a parent of a nineteen year old young woman {in college and kicking ass on the varsity sailing team} I have a better perspective on the mind of Young American Womenhood.
Chrystal has her own job, her own condo, her own lecture gig and her own baby. She is out from under the influence of YO YO MA MA GRIZZLY. She is making her own choices for better or worse.
Levi on the other hand may be hearing the call of reality tv and sugar daddying.
Give him credit for bucking future MIL's attempted domination and the whole Repbulican Party to be his own man such as he is at nineteen.
Did anyone ever even see him on MY LIFE?
He doesn't have the capacity to think past immediate gratification to articulate such a grande scheme. Future MIL might want to be careful and take note that he really likes to hunt bear.

Posted by: captains2012 | July 15, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it? Sarah, the "GRIZZLY MOM" was pregnant when she married Todd. Only because she was "discovered" by McCain during the 2008 primaries, is she now a multi-millionaire! She lucked out, cashing in on her notoriety for being a bimbo!

Palin always found a way to stay in the news, creating her own daily news story on Facebook. I suspect she even started the rumor about breast implants! Staying "in the news" keeps the money rolling in.

Bristol and Levi know this, and have learned well from Palin the "Mom". Money is the driving force in their lives... not love, not family, not marriage. They are to be pitied, just like Todd. He hangs around just to cash in for being the "stay at home Dad and husband!"

The Wasilla Hillbillies will never stop being just hillbillies, despite their windfall!

Posted by: cashmere1 | July 15, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

No wonder Palin is on her "Drill Baby Drill" crusade! She has always been in BP's pocket, even when she was Governor (for two years). Todd has a job with BP!! I just learned this in Palin's biography!

Posted by: cashmere1 | July 15, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Next thing you know little Ribbitt (or whatever they named their kid) will be swept away by a hot air balloon. They certainly generate enough fuel for it.

Posted by: areyousaying | July 15, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Dear Fellow Readers,
articles like this is how The Washington Post Decides whether or not to give you more on the same subject in the future. Please, don't let them bait you. JUST SAY NO!

Posted by: bestowens | July 15, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Think back to when you were their age. Were you making sound decisions? These kids need some serious counseling, but that is not likely given their experience so far, and the quality of the advice and role modeling they've been getting from that dope Sarah.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | July 15, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I guess they weren't getting enough attention lately. The Palin clan MUST be in the news you know! The whole bunch are grifters. In my book, if they were really serious about their relationship they would not have put themselves on the cover of a magazine with a story. Do the American people really want to lower the standards for higher office to the likes of this family?!!

Posted by: sharronkm | July 15, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

1. Todd does not work for BP any longer
2. Sarah Palin was NOT pregnant before they were married. what a bold faced lie.
3. These are two kids that are finding themselves, one way or another.
4. Sarah did not have BP in her back-pocket and was rather a thorn in their side, forcing them and other oil companies to pay fees to the residents of Alaska.
5. Liberal posters on here are vile, arrogant, uppity, ill-informed, intolerant, and closed-minded.

To the liberals who spewed their hate in their post (and you call us conservatives haters and intolerant) is it really necessary to make reference to her weight, is it really necessary to bring her mother into this, is it really necessary to say this is all about money?

Perhaps Levi is getting back into the good graces of the family so he can try and dig up dirt, or create it on the Palin family, specifically Sarah. If I were a betting man, that is what I think may be going on. But, it is their life and their decisions and truthfully, none of my business or any of you posters.

Yet another reason the Post is dying like the Times, Newsweek, MSNBC, etc, etc. What you do print or show on your programs is crap, one-sided, anti-conservative and basically pitiful journalism. How about writing and printing things of substance and that really matter and when you do, how about being neutral?

Posted by: alwaysright1 | July 15, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Talk Gore, Clinton, Edwards. Forget two civilians in Alaska. And, WHERE IS THAT BIRTH CERTIFICATE ?

Posted by: craigslsst | July 15, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

From Wikianswers.com: When was Sarah Palin's first child born?
~~~

•Less than nine months after she was married! Track Palin was born on April 20, 1989. Sarah Palin was married on August 29, 1988.

•On the campaign trail, Sarah Palin has repeatedly claimed she and her husband Todd eloped to spare her family the expense of a wedding - a touching tale that does not appear to be true. At a campaign stop in Dayton, Ohio on August 29, Palin declared that she and her husband were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. Her first son Track was born on April 20, 1989, which is less than 8 months after their wedding. Given the particular circumstances of the marriage, the possibility that their first child was born prematurely seems remote. More likely than not, Sarah Palin was already pregnant for at least a month and must have known she was pregnant when she decided to get married. Palin would not be the first married woman to have conceived her first child out of wedlock, so there is nothing unusual in that respect. However, the story certainly undermines her 'family values' credentials and once again points to an aura of hypocrisy surrounding her political career. The real reason Palin opted out of a white wedding was not because it would have been a financial burden for her family but because she wanted to get married quickly. If Wasilla is a small town now, it was even smaller twenty years ago. Small town folks do not look favorably on unmarried women being pregnant or giving birth to children out of wedlock. Palin surely wanted to save herself some embarrassment.

Posted by: cashmere1 | July 15, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

From wikianswers.com: When was Sarah Palin's first child born?
~~~
"•Less than nine months after she was married! Track Palin was born on April 20, 1989. Sarah Palin was married on August 29, 1988.

•On the campaign trail, Sarah Palin has repeatedly claimed she and her husband Todd eloped to spare her family the expense of a wedding - a touching tale that does not appear to be true. At a campaign stop in Dayton, Ohio on August 29, Palin declared that she and her husband were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. Her first son Track was born on April 20, 1989, which is less than 8 months after their wedding. Given the particular circumstances of the marriage, the possibility that their first child was born prematurely seems remote. More likely than not, Sarah Palin was already pregnant for at least a month and must have known she was pregnant when she decided to get married. Palin would not be the first married woman to have conceived her first child out of wedlock, so there is nothing unusual in that respect. However, the story certainly undermines her 'family values' credentials and once again points to an aura of hypocrisy surrounding her political career. The real reason Palin opted out of a white wedding was not because it would have been a financial burden for her family but because she wanted to get married quickly. If Wasilla is a small town now, it was even smaller twenty years ago. Small town folks do not look favorably on unmarried women being pregnant or giving birth to children out of wedlock. Palin surely wanted to save herself some embarrassment."

~~~It has been WIDELY reported that Sarah Palin was pregnant when she married Todd. She should have been teaching her children abstinence!

Posted by: cashmere1 | July 15, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

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