December 23, 2009

The Best of the BAG Decade: Heavies and Heroes, Pt. I

(The Best of the Bag Decade is our end of
the year, end of the decade look at some of the best BAGnews posts and

Politicians and newsworthy figures often find themselves analogized with favorable and unflattering figures. Sometimes they do it to themselves.  The BAG archive shows many examples of creative photoshopping, opportune posing, intentional and accidental associations.  As BAG readers have noted, sometimes the end result of photoshopping says more about the maker than the intended victim.  And the opportune pose can invite unfavorable comparison.  Below are some of the BAG posts of Heavies and Heroes seen as someone or thing other than how the subject wished to be portrayed.


First up, we note the BAG posts capturing the Jokerization of political and newsworthy figures, each portraying the essence of deception and betrayal.

BOB Joker
(click for larger size) 1.,
2., 3.

New York Magazine published the Madoff Joker with the stated aim of showing "Madoff as Monster." But the BAG and BAG readers noted that making Madoff so exceptional only fueled the denial that he was part of a rotting financial and regulatory system.  Marco Acevedo photoshopped Trickster McCain shortly after McCain suspended his campaign to "work" on the 2008 financial crisis.  The anonymous creator of  Obama as Joker borrowed from both Heath Ledger and Shepard Fairey in a poster that appeared during the August 2009 anti-health care reform town halls and protests.

Obama is a frequent photoshop target from the right and the left.  After the election, BAG posted (Newsweek's) Obama's Lincoln noting that "[a]fter fighting Obama's deification and glorification throughout the campaign, it seems there is little to temper that allusion now." And BAG was right, Obama was fixed with Blue Note coolness, silkscreened as Mao in a Chinese factorymorphed into Lincoln, and dropped into the middle of the Rat Pack. The  association of Obama with any number of historical and cultural figures often tells us more about the expectations surrounding the presidency and our collective relief at the end of the Bush Era.

BOB cool (click for larger size)

Clockwise from left, 4., 5., 6., 7.


A portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. is a favorite political backdrop.  Below is an image of George Bush at a ceremony honoring Dr. King in 2006. BAG posted this accompanying brief and to the point analysis:

"I love the audacity . . . I love the presence
of that third icon, the Stars and Stripes . . . I love the emotion in Bush's
eyes . . . I love the look toward (Martin in?) heaven . . . I love Bush's
choice of the blue tie . . . I love the contrast when it comes to engagement .
. . I love that — like an asterisk — the White House photographer couldn't
quite capture Bush and King alone."


(click for larger size)

8., 9.,10.

In John Has a Dream, BAG noted the desperate nature of the King photo-ops. It may only be due to subsequent events that one gets the feeling King is peering suspiciously at the candidate.  In  Obama's King Photo, taken in 2008, the candidate seems detached yet in sync in ascending order with the cultural icon, even if the match up is a "force fit."

Unwelcome Associations

No end of an era is complete without mug shots, be they real or imagined.  From the left is former Idaho Senator Larry Craig, photographed for an arrest which saw him make and withdraw guilty pleas and resignations from the U.S. Senate.  Next is the audacious mug shot of  former Texas Representative Tom Delay in his pre-Dancing with the Stars days.  The third mug shot, posted in 2007 from a collection of digital prints, allowed BAG to make the observation that Cheney possessed an ongoing ability to intimidate the press and defy close analysis.  

BOB Mugs

(click for larger size)

11., 12., 13. 

— Karen

Our first two installments of the Best of the Bag Decade can be found here
and here.

More links:

Dollar Bill McCain

Obama's Lincoln

as Spock


(Photo/Illustration Credits: 1. Darrow for NY
Magazine, 2. Marco Acevedo/
at Open.Salon, 3.  Newsbusters, 4. Marco
at Open.Salon, 5. David Gray/Reuters, 6. Unattributed,,
7. The Page by Mark Halperin, March 6, 2008.  Getty Images, 8. Eric
Draper/White House, January 16, 2006, 9. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, January 21,
2008, 10. Lee Celano for The New York Times,  July 15, 2007,  11.  Harris
County Sheriff's Office/Handout/Reuters. October 20, 2005,   12. Metropolitan Airports Commission Police
Department/Handout/Reuters, 13. Ligorano/Reese via
Jim Kempner Fine Art.

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


A curated collection of pieces related to our most-popular subject matter.


Comments Powered by Disqus