Thoughts and ramblings on tech, media, culture, and food. Plus some other stuff, I'm sure.

Image of the Week


Control your political feelings (hard to do these days, but this class is NOT about politics, it's MEDIA STUDIES!), and tell us how you think these posters compare in terms of their impact on the public (feelings they evoke, memorability, ability to motivate, power to incite rage/euphoria, all other).

Shep Fairey vs. Joker Obama

What I find interesting about both images is the timeliness of their references. The Fairey image immediately reminded me (upon first view) of soviet propaganda art (or the Che Guevara image we've all seen - which, during the Cold War makes a lot of sense with this art style). The vector silhouette with monochrome coloring and the large "HOPE" looked, to me, like "OBEY". But this style was popular in graphic and web circles at the time of its release and I doubt most non-design nerds (true of us, yes???) would pinpoint it as "propaganda," even if the head nod was there. It's an image of "¡Revolución!" that fit well into the "change" mantra of his campaign.

It has become iconic, known all over the world. But it is memorable in light of its execution while the "Socialism" image is memorable in light of its malice.

The second image referenced pop culture. At the time of the image's release, The Dark Knight was top in the box office and most people had seen the image of Heath Ledger as the Joker someplace, whether TV or movie posters or wherever. The character in the movie brought anarchy and destruction in his wake. Actually quite the contrast to the 'socialism' professed beneath the photo in the poster. Still, the connotations and baggage associated at the time with The Joker conveys a number of meanings:

  1. Obama is a joker, a farce, a sham.
  2. Obama will bring destruction with him.
  3. The USA will die because of Obama (because Ledger passed away prior to this image's release)
  4. You don't see the real Obama...

Without the movie reference the poster doesn't have as much impact or meaning. That depth gave it credibility beyond being a grotesque image.

I remember chuckling when the Socialism image was released and thinking it very clever. I also remember using Paste magazine's web app to convert a photo of me into a Fairey-style image.

It is almost surreal--how one individual can evoke such two contrary images--both in terms of the actual, physical design and in the set of ideas each each work hopes to portray... It is as if whoever created this design did so knowing that by using the popular 'Joker' character make-up, the desecration of Obama's image would be somewhat acceptable and palatable; nevertheless, the intent is subversive and racist--for the subconscious image we retain is that of a black man in white face, with a cut mouth and fear-inducing black-ringed eyes.

I'm not sure it's the individual who evoked each image, but the idealistic, marketed version of his person. If we look at each image objectively we see they are both idealized versions of a person. In some ways each image goes to an extreme - one extreme positivity (there's no way one person could make the kind of hope and change he promised happen, especially in the American political machine), the other to extreme negativity (there's no way one person could ruin everything and turn our country to socialism single-handedly, again, especially in the current American political machine).

I'd also posit that the Joker image was meant to shock and disgust, not be palatable. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was racist (we tend to forget that the President "crosses the aisle" by being "mixed race" or whatever), though I don't know the artist's motivations beyond the obvious.