Tuesday, July 14, 2009

that's what i want

With infidelity - to spouses and to offices - so currently en vogue on the relatively crazier side of the political aisle, one would think the bumblers running the right-wing brain churn would refrain for a moment from the sanctimony they last rubbed raw in the 90s. Not so. When a G8 photo op appeared to show Obama leering at a young girl passing him on the steps, the slumbering grotesques down at Fam'ly Values PD jolted awake (having been alerted by their crack Schadenfreude detail, who have slept in shifts since January).

Perhaps the most embarrassing reaction was that of Ann Althouse, who strung together some pseudo deconstructobabble in a sad attempt to explain Obama's "moment of as-yet-unconstrained pursuit".

The foot closest to the woman, like Sarkozy's, is planted and aimed forward, but the other steps off in the direction of the woman, bending the knee upward into a bit of a crotch-squeeze and forming the base of a dramatic tilt of the entire body into a flexible S-shape that leans toward the woman. ... His neck is craned out and around so that the line of sight is directly at the ass. His mouth is open as if to say: That's what I want.

The video, naturally, absolves Obama in a way in which only Obama could be absolved: not only was he not ogling, he was waiting up to offer another woman a hand. No word from Althouse on what vertices of Obama's torso bent into "crotch squeezes" during this sequence of events. In fact, faced with the video, she sticks to her guns, standing by her "analysis" of the photograph. In a later post, she stubbornly refuses to accept the Zapruder film, preferring to stick to her analysis of the still photograph that shows Jackie killing JFK with a mental deathray.

In their expert dissection of a dossier of soldier's photography from Abu Ghraib, Errol Morris and Philip Gourevitch point up an essential truth about pictures serving in a political context: "The picture transfixes us because it looks like the truth, but, looking at it, we can only imagine what that truth is." Unsure of the truth, we fall back on the crutches of familiar narrative tropes. One blogger referred to the supposed gawking as Obama's first "Clinton moment", that spasm borne of some peculiarly Democratic tendency to womanize. (He failed to mention the incident in which GWBush, unbidden, placed his actual hands on a female head of state; perhaps it slipped his mind.) Sarkozy was in on the ogling too, naturally, for, as anyone who takes their cultural cues from decades-old cartoons knows, that's just the way the French are.

The irony in all this, in case it isn't obvious, is that in pretending to take up the burden of objectified women, all these scolds have truly done is focused the attention of millions on this underage girl's posterior. I could go on pontificating about how the anonymous, faceless female form has long been the blank slate on which the Western male gaze projects its desires, but....it seems that this photograph has already inspired far too much armchair analysis.