Before the Sarah Palin bio-pic The Undefeated, conservative group Citizens United–yes, the same one–produced a film called Fire From the Heartland, a mixture of infomercial and documentary about a “new generation” of conservative women. When it was originally advertised in the fall of 2010, the movie was about a movement. Now its being touted online, in radio spots and on billboards as a film “starring” Michele Bachmann. That’s good news for her.
Palin and Bachmann are leading members in a class of celebrity politicians that benefit from their Q score arguably as much as their experience. At a recent event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., I watched a gaggle of attendees flock toward Bachmann with pictures and pens at the ready—the kind of swarm that is standard in any public place Palin sets a grizzly foot. In the lead up to the Iowa straw poll, Citizens United spent $75,000 to push the film, giving Bachmann plenty of free advertising and indicating how hot a product she’s become in the political market.
But the movie doesn’t exactly “star” Bachmann. The Minnesota Clipper is one of many women profiled, with co-stars stretching from Clare Booth Luce to Margaret Thatcher. The trailer makes clear that the movie, only being distributed via DVD, primarily seeks to defend the stature (and existence) of female conservatives. “It really is stunning how much of the passion of the conservative movement comes from the women,” says Ann Coulter in a voiceover. Though many of its leaders are women, the Tea Party is a movement that leans male; a recent Gallup poll from April showed that Tea Party supporters are 45% women.
Given the broader subject matter, the DVD sales of Fire From the Heartland can’t be couched as a direct reflection of Bachmann’s appeal, the way The Undefeated was of Palin’s. (A member of the production company wouldn’t give numbers sold so far when I called this morning.) In one memorable article—that has been cited by conservatives as proof that liberal journalists were conspiring against the film—The Atlantic‘s Connor Friedersdorf details his experience of going to see the Palin flick in Orange County, where he was apparently the single person willing to pay to see it. According to Box Office Mojo, The Undefeated‘s limited release took in a total of about $116,000.
In an Minnesota Post article about the Bachmann movie published yesterday, the movie’s director, Steve Bannon, says that she is a “Thomas Paine.” Comparing her to the man who was a “propagandist by inclination” is a flattering way to admit her lack of legislative experience while highlighting her fierce ability to rally troops. Regardless of how far that takes her in the 2012 race, one thing is clear: She’s quickly qualifying herself for a star on Poliwood’s Walk of Fame.