Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Face Just Does That (But You Still Shouldn't Vote For Me)

Right, so this:
Sorry if that made you spill your coffee.
People are in a big snit about this cover, and the criticisms range from "why did you make her look so crazy?" to "it's sexist!"  The sexism charge bears some examination, and a lot of people have suggested applying the "what would people say if this happened to a man" standard.  I think they're probably right to say that people would freak if Newsweek posted a picture of a male Presidential candidate looking this...bad.  I mean, that's the reality of it, this is a bad picture of a pretty woman.  Some people are trying to argue that there are plenty of pictures bouncing around the internet of McCain or Bush looking whacked out, and that's true, but we're not talking about pictures bandied around on the internet, we're talking about a horrible picture on the cover of a major news publication ( comment on whether or not that's good), captioned "The Queen of Rage," which doesn't even make sense.  I do think the media is comfortable with savaging female candidates in a way that they simply aren't with male candidates, and we've seen it from Clinton to Palin to Bachmann.  That in and of itself reeks of "oh, look at this little girl, trying to play White House."  And to the editors and reporters who perpetuate that crap, I have nothing but hearty Fuck Yous, always and forever.

That said.

I'm not entirely sure this photo is AS non-representative as everyone would like it to be.  Michele Bachmann HAS crazy Manson-lamp eyes.  They're very pale against her dark hair, and she often wears dark suits.  Here's her Congressional photo, to the left.  Those eyes are still unsettling.  She also tends to do a thing where she's not quite looking at the camera but a little bit above it (and I'm speaking generally, not about that snafu with the response to the State of the Union where she just wasn't looking at the right camera).  What I think is going on is an attempt to counteract eyes that squint a bit.  When I smile widely, my eyes all but disappear.  This happens to my whole family.  Sometimes, when it's an important photo or I'm just conscious of it, I try to hold my eyes open.  The result is usually much like both Rep. Bachmann's Congressional portrait and the Newsweek cover.  I look a little too intense, like I'm trying to steal someone's soul through the camera.  When you try to compensate for stuff your face does naturally, you're inevitably going to produce some weird looking alternatives.  As someone who is in the public eye frequently, I'm guessing that this is always at the front of Rep. Bachmann's mind, and it should be.

Much better.
When I work with speechwriting clients on delivery, one of the things we talk about is being aware of what our bodies get up to while we're not paying attention and counteracting it.  I, for instance, touch my face ALL the time, and I also tap podiums when I use them.  When I am speaking in public, I adjust for those things so I give a more polished performance.  I'm sure someone has talked to Rep. Bachmann about this and that it's something she focuses on.  I suspect this because the further she gets from a purely photo-op-centric environment, the more natural she looks.

Now, all of this aside, I vehemently dislike Bachmann and think she'd be a disaster of a President.  She's way too interested in producing a theocracy, she's aggressively anti-LGBTQ, she's simply wrong about a bunch of important facts, and she's way too willing to shift her stories to fit the moment, up to and including her own personal history.  I believe that she is a dangerous person.  I highly recommend reading Matt Taibbi's excellent profile of Bachmann in Rolling Stone for a more in depth analysis of why she needs to be kept as far away as possible from the White House.  But not because of a bad Newsweek cover.

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