Obama Joker artist revealed

Discussion in 'Politics' started by countezero, Aug 18, 2009.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    It ain't so

    Randwolf, I'm not doubting you. I'll go through the explanation later today, when I get back to you with a long-overdue message.
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  3. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

    Thank you...

    Thank you...
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  5. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    The vast majority of the public is far more familiar with the Joker character-meme than whiteface from an obscure early 20th-century film. This recognition will vary from demographic group to group, but on average will be as above. I think it clear that the artist considered the aspect, then passed over it, considering his target audience.
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  7. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    I'm not sure if this has been covered or not, I'm still working through this thread.

    I'm not sure I see the racial overtones myself, however...

    The origin of the Joker meme lies in an obscure 2oth century film.

    The original template for the Joker is a silent film from 1928 called 'The Man Who Laughs'.

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    This can be seen when you look at the original portayal of the Joker in his 1940 apperance.

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    Note the playing card reference.

    Although, there is, it seems some dispute between Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson as to the relative importance of the role of Conrad Veidt and the depiction on the playing card contributed to his final portrayal.

    The connection between that and Heath Ledgers apperance isn't neccessarily obvious, but the plotline involves the son of a nobleman having their face disfigured into a permanent Rictus Grin, which, among other things, in this day and age has become known as the 'Glasglow Smile' which, apparently, has become popular among London street gangs.
  8. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    You owe me a new keyboard.

    Remind me, what was the point of the whole birth certificate thing again, if it wasn't about proving whether he was Nigerian or American?
  9. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    From whence this assumption: "...the presupposition that everyone should know Heath Ledger's "Joker" on sight..."

    Take a moment to think about it - you're asserting that as an artist, before I commission a satirical piece of work, I must first determine whether or not the satire is instantly recognizeable by every member of society? That it must neccessarily appeal to everybody?

    Isn't that contrary to what art is? A friend of mine who is an arts major, in one of many long alcohol fueled deep and meaningful discussions, once confided that the point of art, or rather her art, was to provoke thought and discussion about the every day world.

    Take a step back, and for a moment, put American politics, and American history out of your mind, and take a look at this thread. Has it not done precisely that? Has it not cast a light into the racism in American society, and american politics?

    Objective completed.

    Take a step back and look at the accusations that have been leveled at Obama, then take another look at what the artist remained silent on.

    Is the original picture neccessarily racist? No, it's a representation of an American politican as an element of American pop culture that has been around since 1940, but in a way that's meaningful, not neccessarily to everyone, but art seldom means the same thing to everybody anyway. I look at Jackson Pollocks work, and am reminded of the cleanup after filiming a home made B-grade bukaki themed porno movie. Does that make Jackson Pollocks work inherently pornographic?

    At the core of the Joker meme is the perception as a circus freak. Is this applicable to Obama? Sure, look at the way some quaters have treated him "He's not really black", "He's not really American", "He's a piece of cloth used for making cheese", "His last name sounds like Osama", and so on and so forth.

    Is the white face analogy valid? Consider what's at the core of the white face argument - it's a blackman looking white, or seeming white, or perhaps - if you invoke the fact that it's done through makeup, pretending to be white. There's another term that I have heard used in this context "Uncle Tom" it's a term that I have come across used as a derogatory term by blacks, for blacks, it's even been in recent pop-culture (I seem to recall I first came across it in "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" where it was used to refer to Carltons dad).

    Is the Joker meme inherently racist? No.
    Is applying the Joker meme, with or without face paint inherently racist? No.
    Is the image, treated in a vacuum neccessarily racist? No, in reality it doesn't neccessarily amount to anything more than calling Obama a pretender.

    However, can this image be interpreted in a racist light? Sure. That theme has been done in this thread, however, any racist over tones aren't nececssarily inherent in the image.

    The real question, I suggest, should then be, is this Image a racist comment, or a comment on racism?

    A thought occured to me as I was rushing hither and thither during my lunchbreak.
    Let us assume, for a moment that yes, the image is an allusion to Obama being an "Uncle Tom", by referencing the 'white face' thing using a pop-culture icon. That still leaves us with the question of "Is this neccessarily and inherently a racist statement?" And the answer I came to was "Well, no, not neccesarily." While the obvious inference is that the artist was, essentialy, accusing Obama of acting white, there is another potential aspect to it - acting right. Take a moment to look at it, under the assumption of the acceptance of Acting white/Uncle Tom - the later in the context of its modern usage as a slur. They're both, more or less, about betrayl of ones roots. What are Obama's politcal roots? They're ostensibly in the poltical left. What's he been doing? Bending over backwards to accomodate and compromise with his right wing political opponents, at the expense of his left wing roots. Replace political terms such as 'left' and 'right' with racialy loaded terms such as 'black' and 'white', and what have you got? An Uncle Tom, or someone acting white. So if you're from the far political left, and happen to be an artist, how many better ways can you think of to express your dissatisfaction what you might percieve as him becoming increasingly subservient to the right, than using a modern pop-culture icon to allude to a racial slur, by referencing an older cinematic technique?

    It's just a pity that a handfull of narrow minded morons have seen fit to corrupt and abuse the image in the way they have.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    You do know that this thread is 2 years old, don't you?
  11. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Meh. I'm tired, it's daylight savings.

    No, I didn't notice, I saw someone else looking at the thread, got curious, but then :Shrugs:.

    Would you rather I started a new thread to re-hash the same topic?
  12. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Thoughts on Resurrection

    Oh, hardly.

    That would simply proscribe your outlook.

    However, I would suggest that if one should exploit what turns out to be an overplayed trope within the audience culture, one is well advised to have something of a clue what that trope represents and implies.

    As it turns out, though, both the artist and the audience were clueless.

    To wit, nobody noticed in August when Taylor Jones published his "Simian Cowboy" cartoon about Rick Perry. In large part, this is because, as was pointed out at the time of the controversy about the Obama chimpanzee cartoon controversy in February, 2009, that there isn't a long white heritage of depicting white people as primates in order to denounce them as unevolved.

    Along those lines, I would point you to a couple of posts in this thread—

    —as well as reminding that earlier today, Rush Limbaugh went so far as to accuse Obama of whitefacing: the president "talks 'honky'", after all.

    It would seem that, two years later, the whiteface concern was justified.

    Honestly? See post #116, and perhaps step back and for a moment put the question of provoking thought and discussion in that context.

    Or go back to the introduction of the issue at Sciforums: "Hussein Joker Socialism Poster Denounced As Racist".

    It's one thing, as an artist, to twist the presentation of a well-established symbol; it's another to ignore it altogether.

    That time has shown the central theme of the whiteface concern to be legitimate only reinforces the point: Part of the question is what counts as thought and discussion. By the time we get down to the question of having to explain that thick lips and dark skin are not characteristic of chimpanzees, I would dare assert that the thought and discussion are a dubious—at best—venture.

    I would point out that bukkake, as a pornography fad, generally rose after Jackson Pollock.

    On this point, I would concede that a Blacula analogy—

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    —would probably have been decried equally as racist.

    Meanwhile, you'll notice that nobody is claiming racism about the Che Obama analogy:

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    "Uncle Tom" as an insult refers to a black person who has adopted white racist ideas against blacks.

    Meanwhile, the whiteface analogy is unavoidable in American culture; it is part of our heritage.

    I think the whole question of racism could have been put to rest by simply ignoring the original outcry. But as we see here at Sciforums, the issue grew legs thanks to those who wished to criticize the outcry.

    The question of Obama's betrayal of roots is complicated at present by the conservative insistence on holding him to them in the most negative ways possible. As Rush Limbaugh demonstrated today, the racial question is still easily exploited. Indeed, the mainstream press focused recently on Obama's speech before the Congressional Black Caucus. Apparently, Obama told the blacks to stop whining. Or, at least, that's what one might think if they attended only the media summary. But the actual speech was a version of the stump speech he'd pushed all weekend. He wasn't telling the CBC to suck up and stop whining. Rather, he was arguing that he's done what he can, and if people want more they're going to have to fight for it. But that's a complicated narrative for the American audience to follow, so the lede was Obama telling the Congressional Black Caucus to shut the fuck up.

    MADDOW: Sunday night, DNC fundraiser, San Francisco Bay area. Quote,

    "I'm going to need you to be out there talking to your friends, talking to your neighbors, talking to your co-workers. And I'm going to need you to be advocates for what we believe in. It's not enough just to support me. I need you to go out there and if other folks have been reading 'The Wall Street Journal' page or watching FOX News, and they're full of inadequate information, I need you to push back."

    Quote, "In some cases I may need you to have arguments with our progressive friends. Because let's face it, the fact of the matter is that over the last 2 1/2 years, even as we've gotten a huge amount done, there's a lot of folks on our side who get dispirited because we didn't get it all done in 2 1/2 years."

    Sunday night.

    Sunday afternoon, DNC fund-raiser, Seattle.

    "I know there are times, there are moments when folks feel discouraged. You may still have the old hope poster in the back somewhere but you're thinking, man, we're struggling and the unemployment rate is still high and the politics in Washington seem just as polarized as ever. So you feel frustrated. But I tell you what, if we had that attitude back in 2008, we never would have won. And more importantly, if we had that attitude throughout our history, then America wouldn't be what it is today."

    Quote, "I need you guys to shake off any doldrums. I need you to decide right here and right now. I need you to talk to your friends and your neighbors and your co-workers. You need to tell them, you know what, we're not finished yet, we've got more work to do."

    That was Sunday afternoon in Seattle.

    Sunday lunchtime at a DNC fundraiser in Medina, Washington, quote, "A lot of people are discouraged and a lot of people are disillusioned about the capacity of their leadership in government to make significant changes."

    Quote, "But I am determined because there's too much at stake. I'm going to need all of you to help mobilize people and push back against arguments that say that somehow if we're only -- if we've only gotten 80 percent of what we wanted to get done that that's a failure. No, that's a success. That should be an inspiration for us getting re-elected so I can do the other 20 percent."

    President Obama campaigning and fundraising triple time this weekend with a consistent message to his supporters that this is not the time for grumbling, it is the time to get to work. He put that same message in pound the podium terms and in on-camera address to the Congressional Black Caucus.


    BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Throughout our history, change has often come slowly, progress often takes time. We take a step forward, sometimes we take two steps back. Sometimes we get two steps forward and one step back. But it's never a straight line. It's never easy. And I never promised easy. Easy has never been promised to us.

    Even when folks are hitting you over the head, you can't stop marching. Even when they're turning the hoes hoses on you, you can't stop. Even when somebody fires you for speaking out, you can't stop. Even when it looks like there's no way, you find a way. You can't stop. Through the mud and the muck and the driving rain, we don't stop. Because we know the rightness of our cause. Widening the circle of opportunity. Standing up for everybody's opportunities. Increasing each other's prosperity.

    We know our cause is just. It's a righteous cause. It's on the face of troopers and tear gas. Folks stood unafraid. Let somebody like John Lewis to wake up after getting beat within an inch of his life on Sunday. He wakes up on Monday. We're going to go march.


    OBAMA: Dr. King once said, "Before we reach the majestic shores of the promise land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead. We must still face prodigious hill tops of opposition and gigantic mountains of resistance, but with patient and firm determination, we will press on."

    So I don't know about you, CBC, but the future rewards those who press on. With patient and firm determination, I'm going to press on for jobs. I'm going to press on for equality. I'm going to press on for the sake of our children. I'm going to press on for the sake of all those families who are struggling right now.

    I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on. I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do.

    CBC, God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.


    MADDOW: Now, with those parting words and this thundering applause in mind, you may be surprised at the way the president's speech was headlined for the consumption of the beltway.

    There's this from the "Associated Press." The headline, "Obama Tells Blacks to Stop Complain' and Fight." Or this from Mediaite. "Obama to Congressional Black Caucus, Stop Complaining, Stop Grumbling, Stop Whining."

    Reading those headlines you might think the president gave a chiding, lectury, finger-wagging speech to members of the Congressional Black Caucus of whom he very much disapproved. What he actually gave was what you just heard. A "let's get up and go" campaign style speech that brought on thunderous ovations from the crowd he was addressing. But that is not the way the beltway wants to see it.


    DAVE BRIGGS, FOX NEWS: If you listen to what he said to the Congressional Black Caucus on Saturday, stop whining.

    BOB SCHIEFFER, "FACE THE NATION": Last night, at a big dinner here in Washington sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, the president responded, did he ever.

    BRIGGS: The president clearly striking a different chord to the Congressional Black Caucus on Saturday. Listen to how he told them to stop whining.

    WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I think he's complaining about you among others, right?


    MADDOW: Did it sound like he was complaining? Over at Yahoo! News you have this, "Obama Pushes Back against the Congressional Black Caucus." I'm no expert, but pushing back is not exactly what this sounds like to me.


    And now, such as it is, at the very least, you can see the difference between when the president is whitefacing talking honky, and when he's not.

    Or something like that.

    Well, the story that has come down to us is that the artist was apparently clueless. In such a case, we look to the audience; not only those who complained, but those who kept the complaint alive, and those who apparently think black people look like chimpanzees.

    The rest of America had enough on its mind. Unfortunately, one side of our public discourse is hung up on the pretense that Obama is an angry black man looking to take it out on whitey.


    Jones, Taylor. "Rick Perry Simian Cowboy". Cagle Post. August 18, 2011. Blog.Cagle.com. August 18, 2011. http://blog.cagle.com/2011/08/rick-perry-simian-cowboy/

    Stein, Sam. "New York Post Chimp Cartoon Compares Stimulus Author To Dead Primate". The Huffington Post. February 18, 2009. HuffingtonPost.com. September 27, 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/18/new-york-post-chimp-carto_n_167841.html

    Maddow, Rachel. "'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, September 26, 2011". September 27, 2011. MSNBC.MSN.com. September 27, 2011. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44691124/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/
  13. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Brains om nom nom nom.

    Perhaps, my point was simply to question the relevance of proclaiming the Joker to be obscure, by suggesting that such a reference need not neccessarily be understood by everybody.

    Somehow I am unsurprised by this revelation In all honesty, especially in light of some of the monotonous one dimensional vapid commentary presented in this thread - I'm debating the merits of perusing the other thread in question versus the detrimental effects I expect it to have on my bloodpressure, for example.

    I've often wondered about the origin of that, I've always assumed that it had something to do with some bastardised misrepresentation of Evolution, but that may simply have been my first encounter of it.

    The kind of monotonous one dimensional vapid commentary I was referencing in the statement to which you are replying.

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    Not many things seem to provoke actual vocalized laughter for me these days, but the response did because of its aptness and succinctness.

    I don' know how to respond to that - other than to suggest that it strikes me as overwhelmingly stupid.

    I'm entirely amiable to the suggestion that I may have been overthinking this.

    Suggesting that it was being ignored, or should be ignored is something of an antithesis to my assertions, indeed in some respects one might suggest that it is somewhat central to my thesis - to whit, what I was suggesting is that it is, I suppose, a post modernist reference to a 19th lampoon of a literary figure, framed in the context of 21st century politics, using a pop-culture icon (or something).

    But, as I said, I'm open to the suggestion that I have over thought this.

    Therin lies, though, part of what I was criticising. It's a valid political statement (at least in the context I have previously framed), the shame of it is not in the statement in and of itself, but in what it has become, and how it has been used by some individuals. It's kind of like pornography, it's in the eye of the beholder. The name escapes me, but I remember being told of an artist that challenged people with a picture of a photograph of an 8 year old girl sitting on a park bench. What was challenging about it was the fact that she was wearing a dress, and sitting with her legs splayed, meaning that her underwear was visible. Is the image intrinsically pornographic? Some people found it offensive enough that they complained, and there was much media interest generated. But, was it pornographic? Or was it just a picture of an 8 year old girl sitting on a park bench?

    I'm inclined to agree with yor assertion, and agree that yes, it is somewhat unfortunate that the opportunity for thought and discussion was so studiously and predictably avoided and we find instead the predictable falling overoneself to accept carte blanche that this is a racist statement, that was presented as a statement of racism, and to be used as such.

    I know, the order of presentation was representative of nothing more than perhaps the order I encountered them, indeed the comparison only really sprang to mind after a particular episode of Two and a Half men that was a cross over/parody of Miami CSI.


    I know Che Guevera as a communist revolutionary who went the way, it seems that communist revolutionaries all to often go (or revolutionaries in general) - seduced by the trappings of power. Is there an aspect to his actions I'm familiar with? Or is it a rather one dimensional and simplistic reference to the comments made by the Black Panther Party, even though they've been irrelevant to politics save through the various 'spin off' parties?

    I know, and what I was suggesting is that if you consider the path I have outlined, that it could be being used, I suppose, in essence as an allegory, or an analogy for a left wing politician that has adopted right wing ideas against left wingers - at least in the perceptions of someone who leans to the far left of the political spectrum.

    Yeah, one of my observations of american culture, whether it's entirely valid or not, is that in general you have to be one thing or the other, you can't be both, you can't simply be a hybrid, for example.

    Quite, never pass up an opportunity to have a go at 'They' or 'them'.

    Doesn't it leave you feeling Ill, seeing it presented and distorted so grossly out of context?

    So then the artist was as clueless as the audience that embraced it.

    To reference Obelix "These Americans are Crazy".

    Or to put it another way, remember, these are the same people that think that Obama is a piece of cloth used in cheese making.

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    I think I would rather be a cheese cloth, or even an Italian Seismologist then I would be... Inbreeding, it's the only viable explanation. Isn't it?

    Having said all of that, and with 'Tomorrow' being ten minutes away, I'm largely inclined to agree with this assessment.

    Art that is edgy, different, confrontational or carries a minority perspective or narrative, is by its very nature challenging. And when thus challenged, many people simply resort to abuse - partly because as a culture we are not particularly good at having mature conversations about art.


    Or maybe it really just is an ill guided, and ill informed attempt at a stupid pun.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011

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