The Undefeated: a Southern, Exurban, and American State of Mind

This weekend, “The Undefeated,” a documentary about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, will open in ten cities across the United States. Tickets for some showings have already sold out in pre-sales purchases.

The film chronicles Palin’s rise as a citizen politician who neither had wealth nor an influential husband when she got involved in Alaska’s government at the local level.

It then details how Palin took on the corrupt Republican establishment in Alaska and won.

“The Undefeated” portrays Palin as a reform-minded governor whose record and accomplishments in two years in Alaska’s statehouse is more than comparable to those of other governors. It emphasizes that Alaska has a strong governorship unlike other states such as Texas that have a weak governorship.

The film shows Palin as someone who is an expert on energy issues and cares more about the citizens of Alaska than the various special interests that corrupt politics. This was evident in her e-mails that were released. It is why her approval ratings in Alaska once were at a near unprecedented ninety percent. It is why John McCain picked her to be his running mate.

The documentary shows how Palin got hammered by liberals and the mainstream media. How the only way she could move Alaska forward was to resign. How she did not get depressed or sulk after she resigned and, in a typically American way, defiantly began another chapter of her life.

During the 2010 midterm elections, Palin led the opposition against Obama’s leftist policies while being instrumental in electing like-minded politicians such as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Palin also was instrumental in getting Texas Gov. Rick Perry re-elected to a third term by endorsing him in the Republican primary when Perry was by no means assured of the nomination.

The film then chronicles Palin’s “Game On” speech she gave in the face of union opposition in Madison, Wisconsin in which she urged Republicans to “fight like a girl” and told President Obama that it was indeed, “game on.”

What was most perplexing to me about the film, though, was its title.

I wondered why the film was titled “The Undefeated” when Palin had lost two elections and was forced to resign from the governorship of a state she loved. These clearly were defeats.

So that was one of the first things I asked Stephen Bannon, who made the film independent of the Palins.

Bannon said the title represents “the values [Palin] stands for and represents — the American spirit that is found on the frontier — and those values cannot be defeated.”

On the influential Conservatives4Palin site, Nicole Coulter gave more clarity to the meaning of the film’s title:

The “Old Man and the Sea” himself wrote a short story in 1927 titled “The Undefeated,” about an aging bullfighter struggling to maintain pride and dignity in the violent world of bull fighting, facing much younger competitors. (Apparently, there is also a 1969 John Wayne movie with the same title about a Union officer teaming with Southern confederates in Mexico after the Civil War.)

Same title, different stories. In neither case, however, does “the undefeated” equate only with having a perfect record (which must be a huge disappointment to liberal literalists everywhere.)
Both tales instead revolve around a more general and poetic meaning of the term (when it is used as a noun not an adjective) to refer to stubborn, unyielding competitors who don’t accept defeat (or retirement) easily.

Coulter’s essay reminded me of a Roger Simon article about failed beauty pageant contestants that runs every year during Independence Day weekend. He first wrote the piece more than 30 years ago, but the piece is timeless. Simon, who has said that Palin could win the Republican nomination, wrote:

I wish I could have told them then what I feel now. That they had branded themselves as failures in a nation whose national religion is success. They were true dreamers of the American Dream, and now they were paying for it. And it is ironic, considering our nation’s history, that this should be true.
America was a country founded by failures who could not get along in the Old World and who came to a wilderness because there was simply no place else to go.

America was a country settled by failures — pioneers who could not adjust to the crowded life of the Eastern Seaboard and who went West because there was no place else for them.

America was a country built by failures — men and women who never attained the dream of owning their own business and being their own boss. Men and women whose lives were ruled by the alarm clock in the morning and the factory whistle in the evening.

Years and years of history books have taught us that America was shaped by the great deeds of great men and women. It was not. America was shaped by the great deeds of ordinary men and women.

Indeed what was true then is still true today.

America has been shaped by those who have defiantly stared down failure and tried again.

In a sense, that is what “The Undefeated” seeks to convey, and it is that state of mind that can potentially propel Palin to the nomination and beyond.

“The Undefeated” is Southern in the sense that it captures the essence of a proudly defiant spirit. And Palin can claim that mantle more than anyone in the race.

“The Undefeated” is also an exurban, frontier state of mind. Americans go to the exurbs and the frontier to start anew and to reinvent themselves, often after failing. In many cases, the failures have been exacerbated by liberal government policies.

In the end, the defiant optimism in the face of the failure, which “The Undefeated” is about, is really the story of America.

Since America’s founding, immigrants have flocked to her shores, often after failing in some way in their native lands. Today, immigrants mix with native-born Americans seeking a better life for themselves and their children in a country that encourages second and third attempts at success.

It is also a country where someone who did not come from wealth, go to elite schools, or spoke the King’s English can rise to the top of society. America’s aristocracy is found in her soil, as the Founding Fathers said.

America is a country where someone whose reputation has been battered gets to rehabilitate it and come back better than before and write the next chapters in their life and not have them be written for them.

America is a country where people get to try again, where it’s never too late to be what one could have been.

America has been built by people who have not shrunk from failures. By people who have not hidden from the world after a catastrophe. By people who have not kept their head down after failing. 

In a sense, America is the “do-over” country.

And that is the message that “The Undefeated” delivers, which non-Palinistas, liberals, independents, and conservatives can all embrace.

If Palin can convince Americans that she personifies the American “can do-over” spirit, she can not only win the nomination, she can defeat Barack Obama.

“The Undefeated” will open in these ten cities beginning today. Check times and ticket availability at these theaters as some showings have already sold out:

AMC Ahwatukee 24
4915 East Ray Rd. Phoenix, AZ

AMC 30 At The Block
20 City Blvd West Orange, CA

AMC Highlands Ranch 24
103 W Centennial Blvd. Highlands Ranch, CO

Universal Cineplex 20
6000 Universal Blvd. Orlando, FL

AMC Barrett Commons 24
2600 Cobb Place Ln. NW Kennesaw, GA

AMC Showplace Indianapolis 17
4325 South Meridian Street Indianapolis, IN

AMC Independence Commons 20
19200 E 39th St. South Independence, MO

AMC Quail Springs Mall 24
2501 West Memorial Oklahoma City, OK

AMC Grapevine Mills 30
3150 Grapevine Mills Parkway Grapevine, TX


AMC Gulf Pointe 30
11801 So. Sam Houston Pkwy E Houston, TX


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