Six Characters in Search of a Blogger

5.1 Bristol Palin’s Baby Daddy: Levi Johnston


Levi Johnston

Political roadkill: Levi Johnston

He’s the self-described “f***in’ redneck” who enjoys snowboarding and riding dirt bikes, hangin’ with the boys, fishin’, “shootin’ some sh**”, and “just f***in’ chillin’, I guess.”

He’s the boy that every pregnant teenage girl would like to bring home to her parents.  (Not.)

And he could quite possibly be the most prominent piece of political roadkill we have had in decades.

Levi first came into the spotlight after Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s surprise Vice Presidential nomination in August 2008, when reports surfaced that Palin’s eldest daughter, Bristol, was pregnant.  Soon outed as the “baby daddy,” Johnston’s MySpace page was overwhelmed with hits, and we lucky few who got to see it before it was taken down found out that the father-to-be was a very reluctant one, indeed.  He clearly stated “I don’t want kids” in his bio.  D’oh.

Fast forward to the campaign trail, when Johnston appeared with a new haircut, a clean-shaven jaw, and a suit in which he appeared immensely uncomfortable.  Just looking at his face revealed so much:  behind that expression of frightened and bewildered awe was the stunning fact that (holy crap!) a bit of messing around with Bristol in the cab of his Chevy Silverado and here he was on national television, being watched by tens of millions of people.  And it landed him on the fast track to teenage marriage.  Gulp.

What followed was a groundswell of public support for Levi’s plight.  “Free Levi” shirts began to fly off the shelves.  309350721v2_350x350_front_color-black2Bill Maher made an impassioned plea on Levi’s behalf on his popular HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher.  Levi even had songs written about him, including “The Ballad of Levi’s Johnson.”   And he became a YouTube star.

But why does this matter?  Why does Levi matter?  Put simply, his story magnifies a larger social issue that has been our national preoccupation for some years now: who is allowed to be married, and who is not.  The passage of Proposition 8–and subsequent revocation of marriage rights for gay couples in California–is one example of the egregious double-standards we have for different sets of people in this country.  The fact that Levi and Bristol’s wedding is not only encouraged–but celebrated!–by many people throughout the U.S. is another.  What both cases have in common is that a life commitment between two people is being made into a political decision rather than a personal one–and we are all the worse for it.   

This is a young man who should be allowed the time and space to grow up before undertaking anything as important as marriage.  And he should be told by his parents and other authority figures that he can still be true to himself–and his future child–by fulfilling his own potential before he becomes a husband (if that is ultimately what he wants to do.)  It’s already clear that a premature marriage might be ruinous–only weeks after their engagement announcement, he and Bristol looked quite uncomfortable together at some campaign events in Alaska (no hand holding, no eye contact.)  And we know that, even though he was 18 at the time of the election, he didn’t vote (he didn’t register in time)–which speaks a bit to his maturity and sense of purpose.  (Especially when his potential mother-in-law was on the ticket.)  We also know that he’s planning to drop out of high school to support his child, which would seriously impact his future earning potential; surely there is some adult in his life telling him he should wait until graduation to get a job.  (Wouldn’t it be nice if his magnanimous mother-in-law to be might loan him a teeny bit of that $7 million book advance she’s been offered, at least until he can get his diploma?)  

For now, we know the future is rapidly overtaking Levi Johnston–fatherhood is mere days away, as Palin/Johnston baby X is due on December 18.  Beyond the excitement of what the name might be (Sixpack Palin Johnston?  Joe Plumber Johnston?  Chevy Silverado Johnston?  Hockey Puck Palin Johnston?  The possibilities are endless), there remains the question of what Levi will do.  Will he bend to societal expectation and marry Bristol immediately?  Or will he give himself the chance to discover who he is before he ties his life to someone else’s?  It doesn’t mean he can’t be in the baby’s life.  It doesn’t mean he can’t be a good father.  

If only his MySpace message were actually true, and he could tell everyone to back off and leave him alone:  “Ya f*** with me I’ll kick [your] ass.”  But a more honest testament to his predicament would likely be this:  “I f***ed a Palin and got my ass kicked.”  

Let’s hope Levi can take a little page out of that fantastic 2007 sleeper hit, Juno, and realize that being a biological adult does not necessarily make him ready for adulthood.  And speaking of Juno, I have this funny little parody number called “Juneau” I discovered on YouTube recently, which describes Levi’s fascinating predicament quite well.  Enjoy.


1 Comment so far
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Are you a predictor of what?! See CNN for the news on Levi’s Mama!!!!

Comment by Rachel Connell

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