January 15, 2007

Bigger Than A String Bean


Okay, let’s try this again.

Last week, I got a little carried away about a “gender assassination” piece in the NYT framing the new crop of Democratic Congressional males as  wanna-be muscle heads.

Then, not three days later, this WAPO piece popped up, titled: At Newsstands Everywhere, the Honorable Beach Babe From Illinois link.  Like the NYT piece just before, Dana Milbank drenched this photo (of Obama on vacation) in another swift boat-style argument to convert Aquaman, here, into a girlie man.

Pull me under twice, shame on me.  This time, I’m not wasting a word on the echo chamber’s amateur visio-sociopolitical punditry — not when the picture is sitting right there.

As those who go swimming here understand, the clever wordsmiths can drape all the words they want around iconic images, but in every case, these images contain their own narratives that wash right over the pre-canned notions of the talking heads.

Considering Obama’s public political profile, at least so far, I have a few thoughts about what’s happening here between the picture and the view (as the old BAGnewsNotes tag line used to read).  As always, of course, I encourage your qualification, refinement and/or expansion.

1. More than a little boy face atop an elegant suit (or remarkably unremarkable casual wear), Obama in the flesh — in what is obviously not a school kid’s body — suddenly (and thankfully) seems a lot less perfect or cute.

2.  Although the picture — in his forward advance and facial expression — still embodies Obama’s perpetual intensity, it’s a bit of a relief (and more rounding) to catch him so specifically off-duty.

3.  He’s exiting the water, not walking on it.  Obama knows he’s not going far stoking the fantasy he’s a mythic gift from some elemental place.  At the same time, the coming ashore perpetuates the guessing game around a beach head landing in Campaign ’08.

4.  Above all, this pic washes out the image of “Obama the string bean.”  Shallow or not, his frame always seems a factor in the argument that, either by resumé or ideology, he’s too lightweight.

(image: Fame Pictures.  January 9, 2007.  via washingtonpost.com)

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Michael Shaw
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