June 6, 2007

The Hillary Code – An Update


I was planning to revisit this angle after six months, but the publishing calendar, its seems, has interceded.

Exactly three months ago, I did a post called The Hillary Code.  My take was that, as the campaign grew more adversarial, a negative visual stereotype would begin to emerge involving Hillary Clinton’s profile.  I saw this pose as “coding” for a rather robust set of negative associations.

“The profile has the capacity to reinforce Hillary as two-dimensional, as more object than person.  It can convey that she’s more concerned with where she’s going than what she’s doing.  It can cue for detachment — that she isn’t that interested in face time with others, including you and me.  And it can float the suggestion that she’s got a hidden side and an inside, duplicitous agenda.

The previous photo I posted was a profile from the February 2007 issue of Vanity Fair.  At the time,  BAGreaders were right to point out that the portrait was elegant and flattering toward Mrs. Clinton.  In elaborating on the portrait, however, one reader caught an element I missed, which, on reflection, cuts two ways.

Writes PTate in FR:

“[W]hen I consider this Italian tradition of painting noble women (or more modern profiles such as the classic images of Virginia Woolf or Queen Victoria) I wonder if the profile offers something special, establishing a woman as powerful in her own right, not viewed through the male lens.”

As much as the first set of associations above have their resonance, the allusion to power seems a significant “loading factor” in the Hillary profile.

On a pragmatic level, having been a partner in the Presidency, and possessing such strong character, one might ask:  What’s the big deal about depicting Hillary as powerful?  With the coding in mind, the problem (if you’re part of Team Clinton) is the tendency to see power as a much faster springboard to “power trip” or “power hungry” than to something like “stately.”

(credit note:  Neither the bookseller nor publisher sites, as far as I could tell, offered photo credits on either of these cover images.  Shame!  If these are your images or you can identify them for me, please be in touch. )

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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