Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Can we laugh at Obama jokes?

I’m changing my mind about the New Yorker magazine’s controversial Muslim cover. My first reaction was anger. How could the New Yorker, a liberal magazine, be so stupid! Visuals reinforce stereotypes.

But, if the goal really was to use satire to prick right wing myths being spread throughout the Web, it's beginning to work.

Consider the math. How many copies of the magazine were printed? A million? Now, how many millions more have seen the cover on TV, in the newspaper, on-line and in other magazines. Talk about a force multiplier. The country has been fixated on that cover for days.

And every one of those new viewers must have passing questions about the cover. Of course, some wingnuts will find concrete confirmation of their personal mythology. But millions more will at least be exposed to the Obama truths-and-lies. Time after time, political commentators will now add, “He’s not a Muslim” to their stylebook. It might even sink in.

Barack Obama is a tough target for comedy. I can’t think of a single laugh line to tag him with. It’s tough on everybody. In her NYTimes column today, Maureen Dowd reports the best Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert could come up with was, in unison: “His dad was a goat-herder.”

Where does Obama get his protection? Conservative whites say they don't want to be painted as a racist if they criticize Obama. Fair enough.

But I think Obama's shield comes from the audience, black and white. They just flat don’t want to hear cheap shots about this articulate, smart, savvy, handsome young man who can walk on political water. And white comics are afraid to risk the rejection. I wonder if black comedians are reluctant, too? Doubtful.

How do we get a “take” on Obama? I don’t know. But I agree with Ms. Dowd, he is in danger of becoming seen as an intellectual priss.

I hope Obama will loosen up. I hope America will loosen up. We need a laugh now and then. Especially after the last eight years of The Bumbling Cowboy and his faithful companion, Mr. Vader.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you and Ms. Dowd. The part of the cover that confirms its
intent and satire is the smirk on Michelle Obama's face. It is
mischievous and not like her. I like it and commend the New Yorker
(obviously, not a right-wing publication)for pushing the envelope.

Anonymous said...

At first, I was incensed. But I came around to thinking: Why not? It is
pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was funny, but I'm an elitist.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't care if I am stereotyped by visuals. Perhaps I am.
I don't like him and I'm not voting for him....period! The pic doesn't offend me one way or the other and I think it's funny.

So, there you have my warped perception of the world!

Anonymous said...

I heard a comment the other day about the cover -- this magazine is known for its satirical overtones and that the cover reflects what's been inside shouldn't be a surprise to those accustomed to its slant. My reaction is mixed -- the cover is offensive yet not any more than some of the covers I've seen on other political targets. But when I first saw it, I hated it. And like anonymous stated, I'm beginning to see the cover in a different light. Have we not come to the conclusion that politicians are fair game? There is something "sacred" about Obama, perhaps as you stated that he's the first person of color to be seriously considered for the highest office and he's, so far, accumulated a fairly clean political record. And there is that unspoken area where making jokes at his expense could come off as racist instead of political. But I give these comics time -- they'll come up with some way to poke fun at Obama, just as they have every single person of note who's come along in the last 50 years. As much as we laugh (remember Dan Akroyd as Jimmy Carter and the take offs on Clinton on Saturday Night Live), those jokes do tend to lessen the integrity of the person and the office. For example, I can't imagine seeing FDR lampooned on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. The editorial cartoons of yesteryear did target politicians, but usually not personally. That, unfortunately, is a hallmark of my baby boomer generation that honors very little these days. -- Denise

Nancy said...

What is all this brouhaha about, anyway? aren't political cartoons a no holds barred arena? caricatures are NOT supposed to be politically correct! And they are not to be confused with the Gospel. Their essence is attention to and exaggeration of fact and/or rumor DETAILS. They are designed to expose stupidity! I thought the artist did a magnificent all- inclusive job of highlighting the hubbub surrounding Obama... It wasn't intended to make a believer out of you.. it's supposed to make you THINK about current affairs. and Obama is a current affair, misunderstood or not. When you start imposing standards of taste and ethics and political correctness on satire, it isn't satire anymore.

The South Plainsman said...

I agree with Stewart's take: "It's just a $%^%$#$% cartoon!" I'm with George. We all need to take it easy and quit looking for insults where none are intended, and quit being bothered even if they are intended.

It's politics, for crying out loud. What we have are clowns on every side trying to pretend they are something they are not. Whichever candidate fools the most voters, wins.

Anonymous said...

It is funny, it is satire. I would have rather seen a cover featuring "W" with a drool cup, but that would not be satire would it?

The South Plainsman said...

I saw a cartoon yesterday that showed McCain in a wheelchair with his wife offering him medicine. A picture of Cheney was on the wall. In the background there was a reproduction of the New Yorker front page. The Magazine cover it was purported to be on was National Review. The caption was something like "Have someof your pills dear so you can be rested for your inaugural parade."

I thought it was amusing and sent it to all my pals, Republicans and Democrats. Nobody objected that it was ageist. LOL

Of course, it was lampooning both sides.

The New Yorker covers pales beside a lot of the stuff that goes around.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see or read any coverage about it because I was up north enjoying the singing of the loons, but someone told me about the cover, and I was puzzled. But now that I see it, I do think it's pretty funny. Everyone knows the bent of the New Yorker, so that makes it even funnier. I'm thinking the Obamas got a laugh out of it too... Joann

Anonymous said...

The art director should be tarred and feathered...and the editor fired.
There is a line between satire and bad taste...a thin line which they
crossed. It's another version of "are you still beating your wife?"

Anonymous said...

what ny cover? ... Sally

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