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October 27, 2004

Reading the Subliminals

In an election season in which the White House has tried to feminize John Kerry, what is a danger of the press playing — at least, unconsciously –into the stereotype?

In looking at all the shots of Kerry and Clinton at Monday’s huge rally in Philadelphia, I didn’t see one other shot–like this one on the cover of the NYTimes– where it seemed like Clinton and Kerry were holding hands. (If you look at the photo up close — as you should be able to do in the on-line article– Kerry also has a sort of sheepish/embarrassed look on his face.)

At first, I decided not to make much of this — until I read the article. One paragraph, in particular, seemed to reinforce my impression. It had to do with a man, interviewed for the piece, who couldn’t help fawning over Clinton:

“I had quadruple surgery in 1989, I know what it’s like what he’s doing,” said Jim Mangine, 59, a telephone technician who took three hours off work to attend the lunchtime rally. “He looks fantastic. I didn’t think he was that handsome – he’s a good-looking guy, and I’m a man. It’ll definitely get people off the fence.”

In analyzing the photo with the quote, I began to think the “pull” (if there actually is one) might be coming more from the sexualizing of Clinton than (just) the feminization of Kerry. If you look at the Yahoo shot I featured yesterday of Clinton (at the same rally) with a female admirer, it could be that even a “high brow” paper like the Times can’t help from “layering in” sexual allusions when it comes to the former President.

Afterall, if Clinton can have such a passionate effect on some random guy attending a rally, why wouldn’t writing about and photographing Clinton get people off ( the proverbial fence), as well.

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