Obama on TV: wanting a media of change

Posted by garhodes on Sunday Nov 2, 2008 Under Media & Culture

wheat, when not moving, looks like dog hair.

For some reason I find myself fascinated with political media coverage. Perhaps it is my own spiritual yearning, misdirected to political ends (there was an excellent article in the New Yorker questioning why we seek messiahs in our presidents, and when searching for it online, I find a surprising wealth of snarky attacks on Obama as messiah, the most complete, here). I find myself now squinting over a youTube of the Obamamercial—the half-hour spot produced for CBS last Wednesday. I try to listen to the streams of propaganda, as if a radio program, but I keep being distracted by the production choices.
Clearly expensive, this piece is a cut above infomercial but definitely lacking any media innovation. And it is another reminder—this one political—about the disconnect between art and society… the ‘Change we can believe in’ has no ramifications in the aesthetic product which is still reactionary like Obamas coat and tie (the only historical exception to this political fashion reactionary ideology is what we still love about news footage of the late 60′s… side-burns on the news commentator—a real art aesthetic going hand in hand with political movement). Instead here we have the soft-focus fascism… fields of wheat, flags, white-innocent faces… Americana alla 1945 still alive and well in the heartland. And then cut to Obama in those peculiar symbolic dens—do politicians really live in these, or are they fabricated on sound stages in D.C.? Here the furniture is definitely before Obama’s time… instead of IKEA, his study is decorated by Norman Rockwell… a big flag clashing with everything in the room.

At home, circa 1968

At home, circa 1968


A few interesting production choices: it’s clear that Barack has been living in an un-broadcast reality television fishbowl the past year… choice bits of footage from his meetings across the country are used in slow motion… the video moves to black and white photography for the end, trying to evoke a little of the new deal, combined with JFK and Time magazine… instant history you can vote for… black and white photo-stills remain the marker of History.

But these last images are striking… because of his race. What history could these be pictures from? They are such images of integration… there is nothing from photo documents of Reverend King that shows such simple integration (though the fashion has not changed a bit)… there is no sign of race division in these Black and White photographs. Instead, race has become a simple beneficial histogram of the photo, filling in the zones of contrast in the political system (Ansel Adams would jump on the mountain tops to see these political snapshots finally complete zones black to white!)
I am struck by them, despite myself. …I suppose it is History. And it still expresses well in black and white.

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