July 24, 2008

Vanity Fair's Obama Osama Envy

Vf Mccain Fist Bump

Sheesh, this just keeps getting worse.

In a thoroughly clueless act of so-called “solidarity” (or perhaps “molotov cocktail envy”), Vanity Fair has created its own, parallel version of the New Yorker Obama Osama cover.

Not only is this a disaster too, compounding the New Yorker’s original misfire by producing a corollary equally lacking in satire, I’m in complete agreement with Daniel Larison’s analysis at The American Conservative (“Someone Doesn’t “Get It””) that this copycat only serves to lend more credibility to the original hit on the Obama’s.  (You can find my take on the original cover here.)

Larison writes:

The more of these parodies people produce, the more literally audiences may take the New Yorker image.  For all of the people who dismiss the argument that there will be people who won’t “get” the satire of the original, there are an awful lot of supposedly clever sophisticates who seem not to understand how to reproduce what the image tried to do, which suggests that they didn’t really “get” it, either.


More than perpetuating falsehoods, the New Yorker cover will now be invoked as a defense for every image that depicts Obama unironically as a terrorist and enemy with some remark along these lines: “Hey, this is just like that New Yorker picture, so there’s no problem.”

At this point, the scariest thing to me is how — after all the discussion and rhetorical insight into the original cover — sophisticated publishing people continue to demonstrate they either don’t understand how satire works, or they do, but they would readily don blinders for the sake of fun, profit and/or competitive ego.

The Power Of Images (Larson’s previous take on the New Yorker cover)

(Illustration: Tim Bower for VF)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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