April 27, 2008

Obama The Alien




(three panel illustration of Newsweek.com’s lead story flash-animation headline)

If The BAG has been concentrating on Newsweek lately, it’s because that publication has taken the lead in visually contorting Obama.  Last week, the mission involved tying Obama to Kerry and branding him a wimp.  This week, the characterization is more odious. 

Overall, this layout goes to town (or, away from town, actually)  by applying the metaphor of being “from the other side of the tracks.” 

>> The fact that Obama has his back to us (an orientation I’ve seen more and more of in the last month or so) emphasizes an “otherness”; an anonymity; a sense of the stranger.  (And then, Obama’s positioning on the opposing platform also clues that he and small town America are moving in opposite directions.)

>> It’s hard not to see race as an element here also.  Maybe it’s not true that the people across the platform are mostly white.  And, maybe that white building has no effect in effecting a color chasm.  Even so, just the reference to black man “on the far side of town” (not to mention, the black man on the outside, looking in) is enough to make the point. 

>> The fact he’s carrying bottled water perhaps also adds an elitist touch? 

One more thing, by the way.

A couple days ago, I blogged about the day-after-Pennsylvania photos of Hillary and Obama on their respective campaign planes.  My thesis there involved the visual media beginning to frame Obama as asocial, a loner, or as someone who sets himself apart.  The problem, however, was that I was fitting the thesis to the image much more than the photo, or the article(s) it accompanied, projected it.

I do think this shot, however — combined with the headline, and also factoring the print cover of this issue — better reflects what I was getting at.  Greasing the tracks, Obama — beyond the ostracization evoked by the racial tropes — might as well be an alien, fundamentally disconnected from society, from the community, from people like “you and me.”

Last Minute Shadow Of Doubt (Shooting Obama — “the stranger” — from behind — TIME, via BNN) 

This issue’s
Arugula and Beer Print Cover with article summaries (BNN)

(image: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images for Newsweek. 2008. newsweek.com)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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