Sunday, August 24, 2008

The NEW Time Magazine Cover

Thanks to Charles Harris for his good question about the September 1 cover of Time, which features, yet again, Barack Obama. We had a lot to say about the previous Time/Obama covers, and we're pretty intrigued by this one as well. As Harris correctly notes, this cover evokes the disembodied head and racially charged (and now notoriously altered) O. J. Simpson cover, which we also write about. It's an interesting choice here--the return to a genre and design that failed the first time--for yet another heavily racialized African American celebrity.

In this version, Obama comes off as almost godlike, looming over the middle-class readers of Time Magazine. Neither smiling nor frowning, neither arrogant nor obsequious, neither warm nor cold, Mr. Obama appears delicately bathed in angelic light as he pokes his head out from the darkness of eight years of the Bush administration. Halo or heaven's glow? It doesn't seem to matter. Either way, the effect lightens Obama's skin tone, making Harris' comparison to the O. J. version a sort of inverted mirror of the racialized past. If Time tried to make O. J. look more evil, are they now trying to make Sentator Obama look more holy?

The editors pretend to attempt to draw attention away from Obama and put it on the Democrats via the headline. But, when have 18 point letters trumped a big photo?

Ultimately, the question is, does the Obama on this cover look spooky or reassuring? Your reaction to that question may have less to do with the Time cover and more to do with the lens through which you are already looking.


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