Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Regarding a Certain Photograph

Oh, darlings, I know we are very nearly the most unproductive blog on dog's earth these days, but, well, my typist continues to be ridiculously busy with her day job and maniacally dedicated to her Lifestyle Adjustment Plan. (How well is that going? So well that Goose has taken to quipping, "My girlfriend is like the new iPad -- Look at her sideways and she disappears!" She exaggerates, slightly, though it's true someone in Roxie's world will be forced to go on a major-league shopping spree the moment her grades are turned in.)

Anyhoo, I know you are all dying to know what we think about a certain instantly iconic photograph taken in the White House Situation Room last Sunday night while Navy Seals were -- Is there a delicate way to say this? Nah! -- blowing Osama bin Laden's brains out.

(Photo Credit: Peter Souza, White House, via)

My typist has spent the better part of a week gazing at images and collecting links (thank you, Dog-Eared Book!) and trying frantically to find a photograph that she swears exists of LBJ with his hand over his mouth that she thought it would be fun to compare to Hillary "Oh, gosh, I think I was stifling a sneeze" Clinton's gesture captured for posterity and the amusement of the chattering classes. Moose never found the perhaps nonexistent photo of LBJ, though she thinks the one below, of the president listening intently to a tape sent from Vietnam by his son-in-law Captain Charles Robb, is similarly unusual to the one of Clinton in showing the emotional toll of what a leader is called upon to absorb on a daily basis. The difference, of course, is that we don't see LBJ's face in this photo. Oh, and, you know, that when male leaders show emotion it's proof of their humanity, whereas when women show emotion it's proof that their lady parts make them far too sensitive and unstable to rule the world.

(LBJ in the Cabinet Room of the White House, 7/31/68. Photo Credit: White House Photo Office, via, but you'll need this serial number to find it: B1274-16.)

Looking for some serious analysis of the Obama admin photo? Go read Caleb Crain, who finds the image of Clinton's "grandmotherly hand" covering her mouth to be "strangely beautiful" and deeply affecting. Go read Marco Bohr, who does a marvelous job of reading Obama's figure and the weird optics of the photo, which make the commander-in-chief seem remote and slightly out of focus during one of the most important moments of his presidency. Or, if you're tired of staring at that picture, go see what Nick Mirzoeff has to say about Osama bin Laden's TV-watching habits.

What's that you say? Your grades aren't done either? You're far too busy to geek out on optics and yet another one of Hillary Clinton's body parts? I hear ya, kids, and I feel your pain. For you, we've got two more images and a very simple question, which you may answer in comments:

Which of these two photoshopped images of the Sit Room photo made you laugh harder: Superheroes or We Are the World, We Are Poor Princess Beatrice in that Ridiculous Hat?

Discuss, my pretties. Those grades will be waiting for you after you've changed into a dry pair of pants. Peace out.




  1. GlassPen8:46 AM EDT

    can't believe you missed this one, where the women in the room are cut right out of history. see how easy it is with Photoshop?

  2. I know, I know -- We saw it and somehow managed not to fit it into this post. Just an oversight on the part of my distracted typist, not an attempt to airbrush an already airbrushed herstory, I swear.

  3. Candy Man9:12 AM EDT

    Clinton as Wonder Woman: I want a full-sized poster version for my office.

  4. I thought Clinton looked thoughtful holding her hand that way, not horrified. It doesn't look like her jaw's stretched (as it would if open in horror), but thoughtful.

    I love the superhero picture. :)

    I think it says a lot about the US that there's one (and only one) obvious person of color in the picture (except for the green guy in the superhero version), and that though there are only two women, one is craning from the very margins, and what it says is that white men still run pretty much everything. We need to have access to the best folks working in government, not just the best white males with occasional people of color or women.

  5. I fucken love Princess beatrice's wackadoodle hat!!!11111111!11!

  6. Me, too, CPP. That hat has been cracking me up for two weeks, though I'm with Candy Man in wanting a life-size blow-up of Hillary in the Wonder Woman outfit. That is just perfect.

    And, Bardiac, we agree that Clinton looks thoughtful rather than horrified in the picture and were surprised that she felt self-conscious enough about it to issue that ridiculous comment about spring allergies. We had also noted the preponderance of white guys in the photo. Moose went back and looked at pics of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations for purposes of comparison. There, the meetings are solid walls of white men in dark suits, so the Obama admin pic looks more diverse but not as diverse as one might expect. Moose was at a meeting on campus yesterday and thought about all of those pictures in part because the group gathered round the big honking conference table was so much more diverse than anything she'd seen. The meeting was chaired by a high-ranking female administrator, visited by a higher-ranking female administrator, and the group of unit heads at the table was very mixed in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity. Obviously not all meetings on campus are like that, but it was nice to see. Moose kept imagining everyone in superhero costumes. Actually, she kept imaging everyone in Wonder Woman costumes, but, you know, she has a limited imagination.

  7. I'm going to have to try the Wonder Woman outfit thinking in my next meetings! It's bound to help!

  8. I thought Clinton looked thoughtful, concerned, and a little horrified, all entirely appropriate.

    The hat picture! I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

  9. By the by, I just heard that Princess Beatrice's hat will be auctioned off on Ebay with the proceeds going to UNICEF.


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