Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Art of Politics as Usual

Today's Washington Post headline called the poster "Political" -- with the quotation marks, as if to suggest it was something else. How could it not be political? The writer has a problem with the depiction of Obama made up to (presumably) look like the Joker from Batman. The article goes on with a long discussion about the poster and its intent. It obviously struck a nerve.

It always fascinates me when an icon emerges in the public spotlight that gets the kind of attention with the speed that this piece has. The poster apparently started appearing in Los Angeles within the last week, and has quickly become another lighting rod in the debate about Obama, public policy and race.

After 9/11, heaven help anyone who spoke out against the war. The Bush administration had a "you're either with us or against us" agenda. Anyone who did was labelled anti-American. Think Dixie Chicks. Are we at a similar place now -- where every lampoon and criticism of the President is off limits, only this time scrutinized for racial overtones? Can we get past this please?

Poster artists have been combining metaphors forever. And presidents have been portrayed as everything from Hitler to one of the three stooges. Is the joker poster political? Of course it is. Is it racist? Depends on what lens you view it through. Couldn't it be as simple as one artist's opinion (like it or not) that Obama is a socialist clown? No more, no less?

The big loser here is the designer, who apparently anonymously released a piece destined to become another icon into the public domain without credit or copyright. My guess is that he's an Obama supporter who just happened on an image too compelling not to publish.

Copyright 2009, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

No comments: