Monday, July 14, 2008

If You Have Nothing Invested in Any of This, Of Course it's Funny to You

This is typical of many of the reactions to the Obama cover from the New Yorker--Ann Althouse spends a portion of her day mocking the outrage:
And Kevin Drum is all at first I thought it was kinda funny....

But at the risk of seeming humorless, that reaction didn't last too long. Maybe it's because this kind of satire just doesn't work, no matter how well it's done. But mostly it's because a few minutes thought convinced me it was gutless. If artist Barry Blitt had some real cojones...

What is this fascination with balls? Jesse Jackson wants to cut Obama's, which presumes their existence. Michelle Malkin thinks they don't exist. Kevin Drum thinks they don't exist on Blitt — they've been oblitterated — though they may somehow exist in fake — or un-Spanish — form. But if Blitt had had real cojones...

... he would have drawn the same cover but shown it as a gigantic word bubble coming out of John McCain's mouth — implying, you see, that this is how McCain wants the world to view Obama. But he didn't. Because that would have been unfair.

Uh... no... because it would have been absurdly cluttered, stupid looking, and hard to draw. Not to mention clunkily literal and no fun at all. Blitt lacks balls because he assumes we have brains?

There's no context provided in the illustration. It's just the Obamas, with stereotypes and smears, and no context is provided. That's why the reaction has been so visceral. Many people have claimed a kind of phony omniscience, as in, "oh, I got it, it was funny, I wasn't taken aback." No, sorry--it's a classic example of being too clever by half while forgetting to make a point. Shock without context is sensationalism. People are so scared of being portrayed as un-hip, they'll say anything after the fact, or just keep quiet about it.

Funny things appear every day, but when something is unfunny to people because they see it as a smear, a confirmation of stereotypes, or the repeating of lies told to win elections, they get a little edgy and upset about it.

Now, funny is the idea Althouse believes her own lost and wandering ideas. She thinks it's amusing to watch the outrage--that's because, despite whatever affiliation she tries to identify herself with to deflect criticism, she has nothing invested in the success of Barack Obama and everything invested in having things be amused with. She has nothing invested in fixing what the Bush Administration has been frantically breaking for the last seven and a half years. It's entertaining to her--she's practically in the last throes of withdrawal at the idea this might stop.


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