In an election cycle where persona seems to have trumped all else, Hillary Clinton is struggling to keep up. Over the weekend, her opponent Bernie Sanders drew 20,000 people at a campaign event in Boston. The record-breaking crowd doubled Barack Obama’s previous record of 10,000 people for an event in Massachusetts. Sanders also reported raising $26 million in the past quarter, which nearly eclipsed Clinton’s $28 million that she raised during the same time. Sanders, who is known for being himself above all else, is ahead of Clinton by 11 points in New Hampshire.
Over the same weekend, Clinton made a very uncomfortable cameo appearance on the season premier of Saturday Night Live. Clinton played a bartender named Val who served drinks to Kate McKinnon, who played a discouraged Hillary Clinton. The two chatted back and forth about the campaign trail and poked fun at Clinton’s tendency to be slow at taking a policy stance before ending in a duet.
Whenever she was speaking, Clinton’s gaze was fixed on a single spot in the distance, presumably on her cue cards. She seemed to be reading her lines as she said them and forgot to make eye contact with her on-screen double while talking to her. It’s clearly difficult for Clinton to have a normal conversation that isn’t scripted. Her stiff demeanor and inability to take her gaze from her cue hards made it really hard to play along with Clinton and pretend that she is normal and capable of having fun.
McKinnon’s impersonation of Clinton is also telling. Her too-eager laugh and menacing smile are emblematic of the stiff Hillary she’s desperately trying to make us forget. Longtime aide and campaign vice-chairwoman Huma Abedin was even portrayed in the skit, reminding us of who was probably on set while the scene was shot. We can all picture it: Abedin is coaching Clinton backstage beforehand on how to appear more relatable, while Clinton curses her opponents’ believably genuine personas. Abedin has also likely been guiding Clinton throughout her metamorphosis to becoming less like a cyborg and more like a real woman.
Recently, Clinton’s campaign announced that she would be trying harder to seem more relatable and hip. Since then she’s sat for an interview with Lena Dunham and appeared on Ellen Degeneres’s show and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Yet she has been unable to shake the image of being cold, stiff, and unfunny. Even in her “candid” moments throughout these various interviews, Clinton appears to be quite scripted. Her best efforts at being candid and relaxed come across like a very rehearsed, flat joke told during an awards show, and her SNL appearance was no exception.
Perhaps her efforts at seeming less like a robot will eventually pay off. For now, though, she continues to try and pretend to be something she’s not: a normal person.