Sunday, December 2, 2018

Paper Tigers - sex, politics and journalism

Hello, commies!
It's tempting to think that opposites attract. There are many classic love stories involving partners from the opposite sides of the barricades. Lou Aguilar's Paper Tigers is not your typical Pride & Prejudice tale. Set in post 2016 election DC, it is a story of two ambitious journalism interns trying to reconcile their libidos with their ideological differences.

Two ambitious new interns at the Washington Post—a cowboy conservative and a patrician feminist beauty—match wits and sparks while vying for a reporter slot. But can chemistry trump ideology in the mad age of Donald Trump?

They came to the Washington Post from opposite sides—Nick Jarrett, the conservative son of a Wyoming rancher, and Laura London, an Ivy League feminist firebrand. They are young, bright, and attractive. Sure, they’re just copy aides, glorified gophers, relegated to delivering parcels and answering phones on different news desks. But someday, they'll be Post reporters who will save America—either from the Left or the Right…if only they can solve their "silly" romantic issues first. Chief among them are their radically opposed politics —sexual or otherwise.

My thoughts:
What does it take to make a career in journalism nowadays? The media is saturated with stories of dubious credibility, and the readership is jaded, overstimulated and polarized. There is very little place for idealism and personal expression. The young copy aides at Washington Post are up for the challenge. The author introduces us to an ensemble cast of twenty-somethings. The focus is on Nick, whose conservative views make him a bit of an oddity in the oasis of liberalism, and his colleague/love interest Laura, an entitled feminist. Laura thinks of herself as a free-thinker, but in reality all her "strong opinions" are just canned slogans. She comes with the whole bouquet of liberal beliefs: vehemently pro-abortion and self-proclaimed atheist (though on one occasion she calls herself an agnostic). We are talking about someone who champions other women's uteri and nipples yet tolerates abuse from her own boyfriend Phil, justifying his behavior. She praises the New Man archetype (metrosexual, submissive beta-male), yet she is drawn to Nick's cowboy demeanor. For a liberated woman, who is free to pick her own sexual partners, she puts too much stock into other women's approval of her relationships. Like most "empowered women", Laura is deeply insecure and conflicted underneath that veneer of girl power. The proverbial shoemaker without shoes. Personally, I found it a bit surprising that Nick, so blunt and genuine, would take serious romantic interest in Laura. Even though the author suggests otherwise, I personally see Nick's pursuit of Laura as a social experiment. He wants to see if flexing his Prince Charming muscle will break Laura's defenses. When the push comes to shove, he puts his journalism career first and makes rather bold moves to make a headline splash, knowing that it will not score him any points with Laura. It's pretty obvious that their relationship is doomed, despite the physical attraction. Opposites may attract short-term, but they don't form lifelong matches. "Paper Tigers" is an enjoyable read regardless of your own political beliefs. You will catch yourself nodding and smiling, whether you watch Fox News or CNN.

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