This Time Columnist Drops Metaphor, Just Calls Lisa Madigan “Princess”

What do 13th Century Mongol leaders
have to do with Illinois politics?

Once upon a time, we called out Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass for using an elaborate Game of Thrones metaphor to demean and discredit Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Consider this the sequel, because once again Kass has crowned Madigan a “princess,” this time without even the pretense of being clever.

Kass’ latest article – grossly titled “Don’t cry for Princess Lisa. She’ll be OK.” – is supposedly about Madigan’s announcement that she will seek reelection as attorney general rather than run for governor. I say supposedly because only 239 words of the 906-word article are even remotely related to her announcement, the rest are about her father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, and his recently leaked Metra scandal.

Everything wrong with the article can be summarized by the second paragraph:

Lisa Madigan says she can’t run for governor because her daddy is speaker of the state House. He’s also the Khan of Madiganistan, supreme ruler of the state once known as Illinois, but she didn’t mention the ruthless Khan part.

Is it inappropriate to call Lisa Madigan “Princess” for the sake of a metaphor, as well as constantly refer to Michael Madigan as her “daddy”? Yes, it is absolutely inappropriate and infantilizing. Lisa Madigan is an adult woman, mother of two, and serious political figure. Her decision not to run for governor should not be portrayed as a subservient 5-year-old little girl who is taking orders from her daddy. (Looking at you, Scott Stantis.)

However, what is particularly despicable about this article is that Kass doesn’t even try to pretend he’s calling her Princess as a part of an elaborate metaphor about political dynasties. In fact, he drops the Game of Thrones metaphor entirely, in favor of an equally long and muddled “Khan” metaphor.

At first I assumed he meant Genghis Khan, because, it’s the most famous “Khan” in history – and yes he was the model for Star Trek’s Khan. But if that was the case, it still makes almost no sense – either the Mongolian leader or the TV character – for the political dynasty metaphor he’s attempting, and where calling Lisa Madigan a “princess” fits into it. That’s just bad writing.

So my second theory is that maybe he actually meant Khal – as in Khal Drogo – which is a Game of Thrones title that would tie into the dynasty thing while also sticking to his first column where he called her a princess (because it’s not sexist if it’s a metaphor?). Khal would make only slightly more sense in this context, so we can’t rule out that it was just typo, or sloppy writing. But hey, who are we to tell him how to write a sexist column that also makes any kind of metaphorical sense. It’s good to know The Chicago Tribune, who employs him as a columnist, doesn’t mind paying for that quality writing.

Pop culture confusion aside, its obvious that Kass has given up trying to thinly veil his sexist treatment of Lisa Madigan with witty and excessive metaphors. Now that he’s stopped trying so hard to hide his sexist tendencies, it should be completely obvious to everyone what his game is here. And as our research has shown, sexist media commentary is a lot more damaging to women candidates than non-sexist criticism. But maybe Kass knows that, which is why he’s using it. 

*CC image courtesy of caribb on Flickr


Published by Allison Adams on 07/17/2013

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