It's a good thing that Polly Wyeth semi-retired before Facebook came along. Had the Republican matriarch presiding over the "Other Desert Cities" clan lived to see the social-media site take over the culture she would have had to retire fully poolside in a permanent, vodka-induced funk. This is a woman who explodes when her daughter, Brooke, presents her with a memoir exposing their lives: a woman who considers the book's publication to be a non-negotiable betrayal of the life of a family "that has so valued discretion and our good name."
There's something almost quaint about the defense of discretion, isn't there? I mean, each time I peruse my Facebook news feed it seems as if the withholding of information is as dead as the dodo bird. And yet there is Polly holding firm to her position, even as she mulls information that could undermine that position with its hypocrisy.
But perhaps I'm wrong that Polly would be aghast at Facebook-era permissiveness. Maybe there's a counter-narrative: were she fully engaged in 2012 Polly might retaliate against Brooke's exposure via Facebook, threatening to post information about her daughter if she does not cease and desist with the memoir.
Polly might decide to become a truly intrepid Internet warrior. When Brooke's memoir was published in part on The New Yorker's website, she might start barbing the article's comments section with stinging little salvos about Brooke's childhood, to counteract her daughter's version. She could wage a Wikipedia war, making sure that the articles about her husband and daughter, to say nothing about herself (don't forget: her "Hillary" movies would warrant her an entry), were scrubbed clean of falsehood. And what if Polly started tweeting? Each time Brooke made a public appearance to promote her memoir, Polly might channel Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman and emit: "About my knee-jerk daughter: everything out of her mouth is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'" Or, snatching a tidbit from her good friend Ronald Reagan, she might link to a Brooke appearance on CNN or MSNBC and hiss, "There she goes again."
I would not, of course, expect Brooke to stand by idly should her mother start parking herself in front of a laptop. Brooke could be fierce at firing back as Joan Rivers is at Chelsea Handler or Kanye West is at The World. Brooke could claim that the Hillary movies were entirely written by Polly's sister, Silda Grauman. She could share gossip about Polly's friends Nancy Reagan and Betsy Bloomingdale that Polly undoubtedly let slip somewhere along the way after the third cocktail some long-ago Christmas Eve. In short, she could ruin what's left of Polly's social life.
And maybe, just maybe, when Polly and Brooke tired of being online enemies they could become online friends. They could play out their rapprochement for the world to see. And all of this could be captured not just online but by video cameras manned by their TV producer brother/son, Trip Wyeth.
"Family Feud: Palm Springs" here we come.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com