Monday, January 07, 2008

Hillary Clinton as Political Icon

Bent's last post, with this image got me thinking a bit more about political iconography and this image from the NY Times "At Debate, Two Rivals Go After Defiant Clinton."

This image was taken after Saturday's New Hampshire Democratic debate. If you've totally missed the news, Obama won the Iowa caucus and Edwards defeated Clinton for second. The two men are running a populist/progressive campaign against Hillary's self described "experience platform."

While Hillary has tried to portray herself like the Angelina figure in the Kate Kretz image (see Hillary's "presents" video for example)it seems to come across as contrived and scripted. Jolie rises above materiality, whereas Clinton embraces it. Interesting, all the women in the Wallmart store resemble Clinton's cornerstone demographic, suburban 50+ women.

The Times, and other msm outlets have been all too willing to portray Hillary as the American Madona of politics. In this image, with Bill and Chelsea in the background, Hillary seems to almost float above and out of the image, suspended by light. I especially like this one, attributed to Kevin Sanders/AP.

But here above, we see the two men who beat her in Iowa almost conspiring against her. Richardson, who is rumored to support Clinton, looking confused and left out. Edwards' stance is confrontational, Obama looks like he's "up to something." Hillary is set apart from the fray, not rising above but certainly standing apart.

If we continue with the meme of Hillary as Madonna or savior then the image can also be read as Obama as Judas, committing a betrayal as he turns his back on Hillary. Compare to here, here, and here, where the two had been, up until Iowa, portrayed as the two friendly front runners.

On another level, the image plays into base sexism. The men are united against Hillary not on the issues but because of her anatomy.

Obama (as a progressive populist) and Edwards (economic populist) portray Clinton as a post-colonial liberal "master". Her "experience" is equated to power relations with special interests.

This user video by an Obama supporter turns the Madonna image into something horrific rather than benevolent. Ripped from the brilliant Apple commercial that was first published in 1984, this "re-mix" tells us not only something about Hillary but also about a whole new generation of political activism. That however is for another post. What are your thoughts?