Political Eye Candy

The WaPo had two interesting pieces over the weekend analyzing the production of some of the… let’s call them “visual effects” of the presidential campaigns.

First, there was this piece about Vogue magazine photo shoots of two aspiring First Ladies. (It’s written by Robin Givhan who won a Pulitzer for her fashion writing and brought us this highly controversial analysis Hillary Clinton’s cleavage — a story I would have liked better if I thought that Clinton had actually shown cleavage, but I digress.) The Vogue photos apparently demonstrate that John McCain’s wife, Cindy, simply can’t relax. That’s kind of kind of endearing, at least to those of us who, uhh, can’t relax. Writes Givhan: “McCain appears to be working to shatter a public image of the pretty — but starched — accessory.” Frankly, she has had a pretty smooth ride so far. Remember those stories in the 2000 primary about how she took prescription pain killers from her medical own charity to feed an addiction? Imagine if that had been Michelle Obama. The same people who send out emails arguing that Obama is a Muslim would have her down as some kind of crack addict by now.

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama has also had her own Vogue shoot last September, whose purpose is apparently the opposite of McCain’s. Write Givhan, “Obama’s photos seemed crafted specifically to help the viewer imagine her in the role of first lady. She is a study in little black dresses, conservative pearls, preppy hair and restraint. Again, the implied message is unmistakable: I am neither subversive nor threatening. I am not some scary “other.” I am Camelot with a tan.” (Here’s one.)

Hillary Clinton posed for the cover of Vogue in 1998. I’m not sure what the message was supposed to be there other than wow, don’t I look great in Oscar de la Renta gown. Actually, yeah, that was the point, according to Anna Wintour.

This time Clinton reportedly backed out of a planned shoot with Vogue. Maybe she thought it’s too First Lady-like and not presidential enough. Or maybe it was too glam and elitist. Too calculating? But then her campaign agreed to a spread in US Weekly, complete with a section entitled “My Worst Outfits Ever!” How very non-elitist, Every Gal, and approachable.

Of course, that metrosexual elitist Barack Obama had no problem doing a cover for Men’s Vogue.


Elsewhere on the visual theme, here is an interesting piece on the origins of that ubiquitous, iconic, and somewhat Soviet-esque Obama poster , and Shepard Fairey, the Heidegger-quoting graffiti artist who designed it.

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