From Father Hollywood, best Lutheran Pastor's Blog around :-) A Tale of Two Political Propagandas
Here is an amusing little photo essay contrasting Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin with the American president Barack Obama. Now, obviously, this is humor. The pictures are true enough, but individual photos do not tell the whole story. Certainly (at least hopefully!), someone can find equally virile pictures of a lantern-jawed Obama looking (as they say) "presidential" even as one can likely find illustrations of Putin being gentle or silly with his family or with a goofy look on his face as well. The choices are almost without limit as to what one could wish to portray about anyone in the public eye. I don't know either one of these guys - and to be honest, I'm not really interested in knowing anything about them. They are politicians. They are pampered and coddled. They are handled and treated by the public as demigods. In fact, to rise to such a level in the slash-and-burn world of political intrigue virtually requires that they be opportunistic bureaucrats and image-hawkers - and both have certainly risen to where they are today with OPM (other people's money). I don't find anything admirable or heroic in either one of them. But I do find the way they are "marketed" to the public to be interesting. Once more, we should not delude ourselves into believing that public photo-ops represent reality in any way. In spite of these pictures, the real Obama may be the manliest red-meat eating dude in all of dudedom. And while Putin is often photographed bare chested with things that make loud noises, it may well be that in real life he has no idea which end of a rifle to point at a target and may really love reading Harlequin romances and listening to Justin Bieber. [Now I know whether or not my sixth grade students are reading my blog. If so, I will hear wails of protest Monday morning]. And the point is, I don't care what the real Putin and Obama are like. What is important, rather, is what is important in Russian and American culture, that is, how these men are being "sold" to their constituencies. To market Putin as a Russian leader, his handlers and muckety-mucks have consistently gotten him to look, well, manly. There is apparently an unabashed value in masculinity in that culture. Putin is shown naked to the waist, engaged in martial activities, portrayed as virile, outdoorsy, and confident. He looks the part of the steely-eyed man in charge. By contrast, in order to sell the American public on Obama, his marketing hacks have crafted a different persona: an effete metrosexual. Obama is portrayed as just a snip of the sideburns to the man-side of androgyny. Why in the world would he appear cross-legged yenta-ing it up on "The View" instead of hanging out with a beer in the booth of Monday Night Football? And for all of the attempts to make bicycle helmets "cool" - they just look silly on a grown man. Sorry. Especially when your every move is watched by an army of secret service agents. Is there really a danger of a brain injury in a scripted and sterile ride around the block upon an immaculately manicured sidewalk bereft of any and all traffic? I think we all know that this is part of "setting an example." Kind of like carefully hiding pictures of the American president having a smoke. But once again, what is seen and not seen in Official Pictures of the American president is a mirror into the culture the politicians are trying to win over. There is something to the fact that Obama is not portrayed riding a motorcycle, a greasy, loud, manly 2-wheeled crotch rocket. It's not like he can't afford one. In the case of a bike like that, a helmet could actually be a plus in the masculinity department. Why? Because there is actual danger in riding a motorcycle. That would be something manly for a photo-op. You might actually see Putin riding that kind of a bike. Don't get me wrong: I'm not against bicycling. I ride one myself. But if I were a politician and actually cared about sending some kind of a testosterone-laced message of being the National Guy In Charge, I would not have my picture taken riding a Schwinn with a little plastic politically-correct kiddie brain-bucket on my head. It just looks pathetic. Maybe Obama needs a WWPD? bumper sticker. But then again, the point is that he doesn't even try to effect a Putinesque image. 21st century America doesn't value the same things as modern Russians. For these visuals are carefully crafted, posed, and sold. The reason Obama's pictures are not like Putin's is because America has a different image and expectation of its political class. Putin's Russia is not Obama's America - especially when it comes to the cultural landscape of the sexes. I think we are seeing the result of decades of a War On Masculinity - both an intentional denigration of all things male, as well as a subconscious shift based on demographic realities. This is laid out well in "A Generation of Men Raised by Women" from The Art of Manliness. A more detailed study of this trend within the Church can be found in The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity by Leon J. Podles. And as a bonus (and saving you the trouble of a Google Image Search) here is one more example of the contrast in American presidential photographic propaganda between the fairly-recent past and the present.
What more can one say?