The “Mormon Mask”?

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 1 2012 @ 12:55pm


The Dish has used the "uncanny valley" to describe Mitt Romney. Brian Fung does the same:    

As with the robotic version of the uncanny valley, the closer Romney gets to becoming real to a voter, the more his likeability declines. On television and at a distance, the former governor radiates presidential qualities from every patrician pore. The effect is almost involuntary, considering the substantial advantages Romney enjoys from appearance alone. But in person, his polished persona gives way to what appears a surprisingly forced and inauthentic character. What's disturbing about episodes like those detailed in this story isn't that they happen — it's that they're inexplicably happening to a man who should, by the looks of him, navigate the political waters with ease.

The above Getty image via Dan Amira, who captions:

Mitt Romney came into the 2012 presidential race with a reputation as a stiff, humanoid robot. Consequently, he's been making a concerted effort to seem more warm and friendly when interacting with voters on the campaign trail. But there's a happy middle ground between "robotic" and "maniac on ecstasy" — a middle ground that seems to elude Romney on a regular basis.

More visual examples of Mitt "overdoing it" here. I was chatting with a Mormon friend the other day and asking him what Mormons make of Mitt on this uncanny valley question. The phrase he came up with is "the Mormon mask." It's the kind of public presentation that a Mormon with real church authority deploys when dealing with less elevated believers, talking to them, and advising them. The cheery aw-shucks fake niceness in person is a function in part, some believe, of the role he has long played in the church: always a leader.

Think of a pastor who has a game face, or after-Mass cheeriness, because it's impossible for a human being truly to relate to so many different needs and individuals all the time without some kind of defense mechanism; some set of phrases to get him through a confession or consultation when he may be having an off day; some way to remove himself from the emotionally draining responsibilities of so many pastoral duties.

I have no way to know whether this is true or not. But I'd love to hear from Mormon readers if this analysis of Mitt strikes them in any way as accurate. I mean: not all Mormons are like Mitt, in my experience. Far from it. But maybe a lot of LDS Bishops and leaders are.