Thursday, March 5, 2009

Imagine If Barack Obama Was Losing His Hair

As New York's Vulture column snarkily notes, the story about Barack Obama turning grey is back. We'll let them talk about the coverage. We have a more basic question--what does it mean that our president is getting grey hair?

If you believe television's vanity commercials, greyness=oldness, the most visual example is here, as a dyed-up heroes Walt Frazier and Keith Hernandez "rescue" Emmitt Smith from the "Running Back Rest Home" by dye-ing his goatee. That's friendship!

But out of tv-land, the message grey sends is a little more subtle. 

*It signifies stress. The Times headlines its story:  "For Young President, Flecks of Grey," suggesting that young is a contrast to grey. It makes the stress comparison more specifically here:
For a guy who prides himself on projecting a stress-free demeanor, the changes above his temples are speckled evidence that perhaps the psychological and physical strains of the job — never mind the long process of winning it — are in fact taking something of a toll. (Experts say stress can contribute to whitening locks.)

*It signifies gravitas. As the Washington Post headline notes, "Obama's Wearing His Grays as Distinguished Look of the Presidency" 

*And it does so by tying those two things to age. Essentially, the message is that whatever is happening--stress or age--that Obama's image in no way suffers from this change. Either he's taking the job seriously or getting older, both of which compliment his efforts as president.

As always, this coverage reveals as much if not more about the coverage than it does about Obama. The interviews with his barber suggest the lengths reporters will go to read and interpret anything having to do with Obama. 

Just imagine if he was going bald!


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