"What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick."—Sarah Palin
The former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin was abruptly thrust onto the pop culture radar by becoming Republican presidential nominee John McCain's running mate during the 2008 United States presidential election against Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden. She was the second female vice-presidential candidate from a major party in US history (the first being Geraldine Ferraro in 1984), and the first from the Republican Party. In July 2009, Palin resigned her position as governor with 18 months remaining in her first term, one of the official reasons being saving the costs to the Alaskan budget of defending herself against detractors; said detractors have naturally offered a different explanation. Since then she has toured the country as a paid speaker and founded the conservative political action committee SarahPAC.
Palin was widly mocked by pop culture. Early on she was an asset to the McCain campaign, despite the apparent last-minute choice and lack of thorough vetting. She made a strong, well-received speech at the Republican convention and gave the McCain campaign a much-needed bump in the polls. However, when she was interviewed by Katie Couric of CBS Evening News (only Palin's third interview since being selected as running mate), she confounded viewers with her incoherent answers. This ended up turning her into huge comedic fodder for programs like The Daily Show, and this was cemented with a Saturday Night Live sketch starring Tina Fey that parodied the interview... without even having to change very much of the dialogue.
From that point onwards, Palin's public persona has largely been defined, rightly or wrongly, by her So Bad It's Good absurd politispeak. Conservative politicians in general are considered Acceptable Targets, and the Couric interview turned Palin into a lightning rod for it. When she appears or is referenced in most fictional media, she will take on these traits largely because it's funny. There are shows out there which try to treat Palin as a more serious, dignified individual, but these simply don't have the same Popcultural Osmosis value. It's a matter of contention whether she caused McCain's campaign to Take a Level In Badass by adding needed enthusiasm to it, or if she was McCain's Poisonous Friend who hurt him with more people than helped. What isn't contested is that her post-Obama popularity far exceeds McCain among her party, becoming a major conservative organizer, with endorsements actively sought by candidates, while McCain is reviled for his increasingly liberal positions (most prominently being the deciding vote against repeal of Obamacare).
Incidentally, anyone looking for a nuanced and balanced political discussion of Palin's influence in America is on the wrong wiki. Your typical Palin reference in most media will either involve Alaska, that she has a child with Down Syndrome, parodying her style of political speech (including the fact that her accent sounds exactly like Marge Gunderson in Fargo), her being more attractive than the typical politician, or some combination of the four. Her actual political value, as far as we can tell, has very little to do with these things.
As just a few moments' worth of internet research can handily show (or just look a few inches up or down from this sentence), Palin has a Hatedom white-hot enough to be seen from space, yet it seems just as many people love her—possibly because she can unintentionally make left-wingers froth at the mouth even better than Ann Coulter can on purpose. So please, for the love of God, when discussing her, think before you edit.
The Popcultural Osmosis does not seem to be slowing down either, as a recent reality show about Alaska stars Palin and was TLC's highest-rated premiere. Unfortunately for Sarah, it was not renewed for a second season.
Some men who lean towards Meganekko have been pleased to see that since this woman who openly wears eyeglasses got so much coverage and so close to the vice presidency that the tendency of some western women to hide their need for eyeglasses behind contacts has abated just a little.
- Real American Stories is probably the best known appearance Palin has in media that doesn't involve her being used as the clear butt of a joke. Ironically, it's also fairly average, with Palin only providing opening narration for stories that FOX already had kicking around the video archives for the past two years. Once people watching the show realized Palin's presence as host didn't automatically make it So Bad It's Good, most stopped paying attention.
- Palin's most popular appearance in media is the aforementioned Saturday Night Live sketch (seen here). It defined most of her character traits in media from the point it aired, to the extent the Couric interview did not. "I can see Russia from my house!" is from the sketch, not the interview, though the interview had her applying more-or-less the same logic to the foreign policy question (Alaska is the only state to border Russia).
- In an episode of Family Guy, Chris dates a girl with Down Syndrome who briefly makes reference to her mother being the former governor of Alaska. Notable largely because when Palin herself found about this, she indignantly called it a "kick in the gut" to families with Down Syndrome in general, claiming it to be Dude, Not Funny material, and then tried to claim that she was defending the Down Syndromed actress who read the line. The actress who played the character, who is in her forties, was nonplussed about this criticism, telling Palin to "get a sense of humor," and claimed she didn't need anyone to stand up for her grown-ass self.
- In an open letter the actress later wrote, she accused Sarah Palin of using her Down Syndrome son as a political prop that she carried around "like a loaf of French bread."
- The Midnight Beast's parody of Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" uses Palin to play on the original's odd Mick Jagger line:
Stefan: Now the girls are lining up because we're pussy sailin' / But we punch them in the mouth if they're not Sarah Palin"
- And of course, the Porn Parody Who's Nailin' Paylin?, using a look-alike actress (Lisa Ann) in the role. In a porn version of the Colbert Bump, this also heavily boosted Lisa Ann's career.
- And on the gay side, we have Getting Levi's Johnson, which, although primarily focusing Bristol Palin's ex-fiancee, also features Lisa Ann as "Serra Paylin," dispensing ridiculous advice and commentary to Levi (Chris Steele) between scenes.
- In Kickassia, when The Nostalgia Chick becomes the Vice President of the titular nation, she starts to dress and talk in a style parodying Palin.
- In the comic book Barack the Barbarian, which casts all the major players of the '08 election in a Conan the Barbarian-type universe, she appears wearing a Stripperific outfit.
- In an episode of South Park, it is revealed that her quirky image is actually all an act, and that she is actually a brilliant British catsuit-clad jewel thief taking part in an unspeakably elaborate heist, along with McCain and Obama.
- Mercenaries 2 had DLC that enabled Palin as a playable character, along with Barack Obama.
- The new NBA Jam allows for the same.
- Sinfest included a long story arc involving Squigley wearing a beehive hairdo and running for Vice President.
- Appears from time to time as The Rival to Robin DeSantos in Shortpacked. Their rivalry came to a head when Robin shoved Faz up Palin's ass.
- College Humor has a video where her running for vice president is just a Disney movie of a hockey mom becoming president called Head of Skate.
- This likely came from an interview where Matt Damon slammed her "hockey mom" persona, saying that her whole story (typical suburban wife and mother sliding up the political ladder to President) sounded like the plot of a bad Disney movie.
- A Cardcaptor Sakura parody on YouTube.
- In this Unspeakable Vault of Doom, both presidential candidates of 2008 are the Great Old Ones in disguise: Obama is Nyarly (Nyarlathotep), while McCain is Cthulhoo (guess...). Sarah Palin is a Shoggie (negative-IQ shoggoth Expy) in a wig.
- She hosts a travelogue called Sarah Palin's Alaska.
- The US President in Iron Sky is an Iron Lady expy of Palin.
- She's played by Julianne Moore the HBO film Game Change, (based on the book of the same title), which depicts the 2008 election.