Sunday, September 21, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Obama and the Semiotics of Christianity

For a candidate rumored to be Muslim, there sure are a lot of images of Obama and Christian iconography.

Perhaps we are unaccustomed to seeing black men in positions of power foreground religious symbolism, or perhaps we are uncomfortable with a Democratic politician advancing his own Christian faith, but either way, it seems no one really knows what to do with Obama's dogged insistence that he is 1) Christian and 2) allowed to be both Christian and liberal.

And yet, his faith is one of his more endearing qualities and one that not even his strongest detractors are able to affect. Even the parodies seem to work (as noted by the funky image on the right).

What's fascinating is how fascinated the media, the right wing, and the church going community are with Obama's belief system. Oddly enough, most regular American believers remain relatively quiet and unusually respectful, even when prominent figures, like the creepy James Dobson (with his creepier pray for rain video) set poor examples of Christian leadership. Americans don't always exhibit the most dignity when it comes to church and state, but despite the minority of folks who think he is the anti-christ, most have given Obama and his family a good deal of spiritual latitude.

What messages these images send largely depends on the reader's personal associations with crosses, churches, and African Americans. For decades, the image of a black man and a cross carried a truly horrific semiotic signification. Regardless of what you think about Obama's political (or spiritual) beliefs, you have to admit that it's absolutely redemptive the way he has reclaimed and recast that pairing.


Friday, September 5, 2008

The Obama Dolls (?)

Look, I don't even know what to make of the Obama doll to the right here. Sure, he's decked out in a cool black suit (two button, classy), and he looks ready either to karate chop John McCain or catch a bounce pass, but, I don't know . . .

There is no doubt the doll is intended to be a compliment (there are also Hillary and McCain dolls, but the Obama one looks the best). Neither caricature or a stereotype, the doll tries very hard to be cool. If you squeeze a little button on the doll's left wrist, he dances and sings. He's got a pretty good voice, but, for me, there is a little too much . . .well . . .Bojangles to it.

That said, the Obama Action Figure on the left is just a little too stiff. Where the dancing, singing Obama at least looks alive, this guy seems comatose. And, what's with that expression? Cranky? Quizzical? Stoned? I can't tell. The biggest irony of all, however, is that it's called an action figure. I'd love to see the inaction figure . . .

Will kids play with these dolls? Are kids even the audience? It's hard to tell. I suspect both are marketed to college students, replete with irony, or die hard Obama fans out to collect all things Barack.

For those of you who have suggested a SemiObama logo, I don't think either the action or the rock doll will fit the bill, but we'll still take suggestions. In the meantime, rock (or act) on!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Second American Revolution

We like this short YouTube video, in part because it works as a foil to a longer, more widely circulated piece by the right wing. Also advocating a second revolution, it features an actor portraying Thomas Paine, who argues why one language, one culture, no diversity, and no minority rights evince the kind of common sense approach Paine made famous. Of course, Paine was anti-uniformity, anti-slavery, and anti-capital punishment. Almost no one was more pro-Democracy.

What I like about this piece is its play on bullets vs. ballots. It aligns Obama's ability to galvanize a people with the staggering resolve it must have taken to convince early Americans to revolt against the tyrannical British rule. However, this new revolution arises out of the energy and will of the masses and the participation in Democracy's most cherished (if most recently underminded) right--the vote.

Plus, Obama looks good in the powered wig.