‘Queen’ Michelle, The Google Images Photo, and the Party Crashers for Sale
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This fantastic dress has wiped away the memory of the Inaugural “prom girl” Gown. The girl may have looked lovely, but Michelle has a pouchy tummy that needs the strict training of Spanx. It’s not her fault; she has had two children. But wearing white makes even the thinnest woman look a size or two larger, and even her feet if she is wearing white shoes. She’s not a young girl anymore, regardless of how whip-tight and strong she is.
This gown, though, has turned The First Lady of the land into a queen. Queen Michelle.
Girl, if you dressed something like this all the time–got rid of some of those awful sweaters and those fat belts–you’ll have every man and woman in the country seeing visions and dreaming dreams about how to get some of that.
Both Michelle and Barack fairly towered over the diminutive Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Madame Gursharan Kaur, which made them look overwhelming–and more than just human. I mean, super-human. Like gods, or how Hollywood stars are supposed to dress in black tie and evening gown. Take note, people.
The ravings about The Dress, or The Stunner or whatever you’d like to call it, have stretched from here to the Indian subcontinent, where the Indian media are busily patting the Indian fashion industry or Naeem Khan, the Indian American dress designer, or both, on the back, and as a side issue, congratulating each other on Michelle Obama’s great taste. That dress, however, would have been nothing had it not filled and fitted Michelle’s impressive body to a tee. Remember, her arms were called Thunder and Lightning. She didn’t need diamonds dripping from her neck either. That would have been overkill. Her hair and her earrings were just what was needed. Sometimes, less is definitely more.
Over here, the responses from the wingnuts have been brow-raising. They are impressed and are saying so on the pages of blogs and of online newspapers alike. Of course, they are prefacing their remarks by identifying themselves as Republicans and that they don’t like Obama’s policies, but damn, even they have to admit the Obamas certainly are representing. Particularly, Michelle Obama is a First Lady that is setting a standard for all future First Ladies to emulate. No more the dowdy-looking outfits by American designers who were out of favor even by the time the Reagans came to power, or those who have merely recycled or varied older fashions. Michelle is sweating the major American houses by continuing to choose what she likes from little known designers or designers of color.
(By the way, the work that Indians rendered on the First Lady’s gown was not sweatshop labor. That’s that first thing people scream after years of Nancy Reagan’s trespasses. This kind of sewing is highly valued in Indian culture, and is not done by machine or by children. It takes someone who has been well trained by family members or family friends–not strangers. It is like wearing art. It was manufactured in Naeem Khan’s family workshop, and it took forty people to complete. Yeah, that is real silver. When Indian women are wearing saris, some of them are indeed wearing their valuables (and signaling their individual value or ranking) in their clothing.)
From all the plaudits Michelle and Barack are receiving overall about how well the state dinner went with Dr. and Mrs. Singh, one would think that somehow, this dinner would have blown up in their faces. How did these observers and critics suppose the Obamas were going to act as the representatives of this country to the world? They’ve already been–individually and singly–to nearly all of the continents. Why is this such a surprise (or in some cases, a relief), that they are not an embarrassment and are the best our country has to offer. The social staff is not going to try to make the Obamas look bad, because whenever there is a boob up, it reflects not only on the First Couple, but on them.
Some of these expectations of disaster has to do with the demonization of the Obamas in certain quarters. There’s pure invective, both political and personal, and then there are the altered posters and signs and caricatures and cartoons making Barack Obama out as Heath Ledger’s version of The Joker from Batman or with a target on his face or as an al Qaeda terrorist or Marxist–you know the drill. Michelle Obama isn’t exempt from this kind of disrespect either. I’ve seen that Photoshopped picture of her as a chimp in a purple dress and pearls, and its been copied from Stormfront to a soft porn site in Britain. In fact, this is allegedly how the soft porn site, hosted by Blogger, with the ‘monkey’ photo of Michelle Obama became the number one image of all of those taken of the First Lady on Google. It was the first image seen by someone using Google or Google Photo. Naturally, a ruckus developed. Apologies were written in broken English and in Chinese for the offensive photo, and it was finally taken down. (Makes me wonder how the Chinese really feel about the Obamas and the United States. But there are also neo-Nazi types in Britain, too.) Google, initially, refused to censor the source. The photo still exists, though.
Some people think that they are being funny when they publish this sh*t. They aren’t. They know they aren’t. There is a method to their madness. The amount of rage and hatred directed at the Obamas is unprecedented and very palpable, and it’s washed over everyone and everything. At the same time, people inside as well as outside the Beltway are more than just jittery. They are fearful of everything and everybody. Obama has been president less than a year, and so far the change hasn’t occurred overnight, as he said that it wouldn’t, but they have forgotten. Impressions have become the sine qua non of communication. Any small omission tends to put to high boil already simmering pots on the burner. Because what they are really worried about is, can these Negroes ever do anything right by us? Can black people really run the country well, or will they run it into the ground like the wingers and racists say? It is almost as if when black people do and perform their best, we are still found wanting. We cannot win for trying.
The First Lady managed to complete the unease by not tipping her hand to reveal everything about the preparations. It was a perfectly rational move. She gave the media and other observers a preview of the importance of the custom of formal state dinners, the menu (vegetarian, for the devout Hindu Singhs), the chargers and place settings to be used (Eisenhower, Clinton and Bush II), and the wine to be poured (2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Modus Operandi, among others). That some of the fresh vegetables came from the Obamas’ now-famous garden outside, and that Jennifer Hudson, Kurt Elling, A. R. Rahman and Marvin Hamlisch with the National Symphony Orchestra, would be providing entertainment for the 220 guests. However, she refused to say anything else, like any speeches that would be made, and especially about The Dress, so speculation ran rampant.
The more that these people wish them to fail, the higher the Obamas’ star seems to rise. Remember when Chicago lost to Rio for the site of a 2016 Olympics? Self-congratulation among wingnuts fairly overflowed. My mouth flew open. Didn’t they realize that a win would mean jobs, even in cities and towns like Mount Horeb and Madison in neighboring Wisconsin? Of course, it would not have made much of a dent in Recession-strapped Dane County, but some people definitely would have benefited, including the very same wingnuts who have Faux Noise on at their houses 24/7 and listen to Beck as if mainlining gospel.
And then the next week, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize–the big enchilada, the one even George W. Bush coveted for his “work” in Iraq. The chortling and backslapping ebbed and ceased. These people can’t win for losing.
If anything, the Secret Service is absorbing the massive fail that everyone was waiting for from the Obamas. It’s overtaken the sweetness of the First Lady’s and her staff’s achievement–their plans and their work in making the State Dinner a blazing success. Not just because of the antics of those two trespassers–the Virginia gate crashers Michaele and Tareq Salahi. It was because letting these clowns in seriously undercut security for the first black president of the United States, for whom death threats have gone up some 400%. It let would-be domestic or international terrorists know exactly how it could be done–how to wipe out President Obama, the First Lady, and the entire Democratic line of succession to the presidency (with the exception of the increasingly infirm Senator Byrd) from Vice President Biden on down. Just fake your way in and look rich without a gilt-edged invitation.
If the Salahis were invited, even by verbal invitation by someone in the White House, then whoever it was needs firing. And who wants to risk not going through channels, holdover or not? The Salahis aren’t naming names as to who gave them the okey doke within the White House. And why would the Obamas–especially the strictly no-nonsense, “don’t rain on my parade” Michelle Obama–even consider such an idea on the First Couple’s special night when they wanted to shine and to reassure?
All because an agent didn’t see their names on the list. Instead of stopping them, s/he was awed by their trappings instead of doing his/her job, and waved the Salahis in anyway. The story went that the agent was thinking that if the Salahis weren’t kosher they would be caught in the second and third layers of security. That didn’t happen. (The unnamed agent must be packing his/her bags or is already gone, along with their retirement.) The couple went on to pose and profile all night long with the bigwigs of the country, including the President and his wife, and then splashed all this grinning suck-up onto their Facebook page so as to gain even more brownie points towards Michaele starring on a projected reality show, The Real Housewives of D.C.
I’m more than just sick of reality shows at this point. I truly am. Murders, hoaxes, and now this. I am so sick of these low-class attention junkies who want their fifteen minutes at any price, even to endangering the life of the president. And then people were saying that they probably wouldn’t be prosecuted. What? Excuse me? You must be joking? Throw the book at them! They were not invited.
Everyone is whispering under their breaths how lucky it was that the worst did not happen. But what if the Salahis were really mercenaries? What if this was a run-through? What if they put something onto a wall, or in a lamp, or under a sofa to go off later? What if they found out where the Obama daughters were sleeping?
After being so public about their achievement, the Salahis have disappeared–gone into hiding as the full implications of their little caper has unfolded. It was just as well, because of the discovery that their pockets aren’t that deep and have holes in them. The Salahis have a myriad of legal and financial woes. Desperate times mean that people take desperate measures, and the less than rich and connected Salahis are no exception. But when you are dealing with the Feds, they don’t take half-measures once they are roused.
Larry King canceled his interview with the Salahis, and CNN said that it was because the Salahis had decided to postpone their Monday appearance. (Perhaps the Salahis are hoping for bigger gain doing the daytime talk shows.) Over the weekend, representatives of the couple have been buttonholing the media to “get their bids in” for interviews, says an unidentified television executive. The executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that “the Virginia couple was looking for a payment in the mid-six figures range.” Number one, I hope that they don’t get it. News divisions don’t normally pay for interviews–it’s called checkbook journalism. It means that the person(s) could say just about anything, and it wouldn’t necessarily be factual. If the couple does manage to land one or two interviews somewhere, like I hope the clowns incriminate themselves. The Secret Service is still considering charges against them, even if it means to save face.
So you think the Obamas are having it easy? Not really. Like I said before, I have nothing personal against them, it’s the neo-Clintonesque political, economic, and military morass that Obama is presiding over that I have problems with. Afghanistan is a cesspool that we are being drawn into, like the Russians and the British in their Great Game before us. Geithner and Summers’s policies have been calamitous; it’s business as usual. People are still losing their homes and losing jobs. I’m still wondering what it is going to take for Obama to clean house and really get going to helping people.
But these tiny, cultural incidents loom large because they say a lot about how Americans view their new president and his family. They have an impact just as much as a presidential press conference, a pardon, or a summit because it influences how we support or withdraw that support from him. The news media has long ago given up reporting real news for commentary and cultural skirmishes, yet it still manufactures consent, as Chomsky famously put it, about the big issues. The undermining of the State Dinner with Prime Minister Singh made big news because of the culture of Reality TV, but what does it do for the efforts of the First Lady and the President to make things as grand for our nation’s important guests as during previous administrations? It relegates them to the side. It makes them nonentities, robs them of even the possibility of excellence when they actually represent us. And when they are made small, they are made to be as nothing. And believe it or not, we become nothing.
That is not what President and Mrs. Obama are. And that is not who we are either.