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March 26, 2006

(Oops, Sorry. I Must Be In The Wrong Place. I Thought This Was The Trailer For The New “Miami Vice” Movie.)



Okay, now I’m convinced the NYT bleeds elephant red.

Even if today’s NYT Mag profile of Maryland’s GOP Senatorial candidate isn’t completely flattering, why does it feel like we are somehow supposed to be fascinated with this guy? Why, especially given these shots, should it seem like the coolest, most obvious choice for the job is Maryland’s Michael Steele?

So Steele’s friend warns him not to become an “outreach” pawn (which the author of the article, Michael Sokolove, explains is an African-American used by Republicans to expand their voting pool). Steele claims he’s not, but the Lieutenant Governor (whose job is largely ceremonial) can barely explain what it is he stands for. Also lacking in political instinct, Steele essentially confirms that he got roped into running by Rove, Bush and Cheney.

But where the article really gets strange is with these visuals.

The shots look more like promo pics for a fast-paced, high contrast, high attitude action thriller.  (As if Quentin Tarantino did the remake of Miami Vice.) Look, there’s Detective Michael (“Man Of”) Steele now! He’s tall. He’s bad. He’s on the move. He’s always smack in the middle. He can crack a case just by crossing his arms.

If the top shot would be great for an opening sequence, the next one would be a great set-up scene. I mean, this has plot written all over it.  And atmosphere? Just check out that saturated blue sky; those leopard spots; the walrus-like mustache, white suit and sun glasses; and the local Mayor with the shimmery tie and that stoic been a regular on this show since before you were born look to him.

But I’m not just being fanciful here. It’s one thing to visually pitch this charming, yet inexperienced and out-of-touch guy in cinematic terms. It’s completely another to instill his rudimentary campaign with a hint of the inevitable.

(image 1 — full size. Image 2 — full size)

(image: Justin Steele (any relation???) for The New York Times. March 21, 2006. Caption for image 2: With J. Michael Downes, New Carrollton’s city administrative officer, Mayor Hanko and Audrey Scott, Maryland’s secretary of planning.)

  • Carl Manaster

    “‘Outreach’ pawn?” Other terms come to my mind (although there’s nothing in the visuals to suggest them): Token, Tool, Tom.

  • readytoblowagasket

    The bizarre characters and extreme lighting in the second image make it look like a still from a David Lynch version of Miami Vice.
    But why?

  • Rafael

    Another blacksplotation pic! Great, we heading back to the 1970s!

  • black dog barking

    Exactly right RTBAG. Twin Peaks was Miami Vice in a temperate climate, a place where sunny blue skies are a cruel hoax on a cold day, the bare branches telling the truer tale. The Log Lady could be standing just off camera.

  • marysz

    The Times seems to be using its photographers to counteract perceptions that it’s too liberal. By enlisting black politicians like Steele to serve as fronts for right-wing interests, the Rove-Bush cabal is calculating that African-American voters are as gullible as white voters. They’ve tried it before. In the 2002 Congressional race here in NJ, the Republicans ran a black minister, Buster Soaries, against the Democratic incumbent Rush Holt. Holt won easily. In the Maryland race, black voters will (rightly) smell a rat and not vote for Steele and the inherent racism of the white Republican base will dampen any in-party enthusiasm for his candidacy.

  • Cactus

    Photo #1: It appears photographer is using a lens with a wider angle than normally used, giving a sort of ballooning effect to Steele as he bounces out of the door (starting gate?). He’s almost caught in mid-air. And with two ‘white’ (?) guys following behind.
    Photo #2: Wow! Three angry old white people forced to pose with a tall black man. Nobody looks happy to be there. The gorgeous blue sky with just a hint of clouds and bare tree branches make it look like a very chilly day all around. It looks more like a domestic dispute between the two in the foreground with Steele and the mayor acting as judge or referee. And was that low camera angle to make Steele look shorter?
    I only skimmed part of the accompanying article, but I did detect, IMHO, a slightly snarky racism tucked into the corners. It’s as if they set out to do a puff piece but just couldn’t help themselves; and that attitude is more noticeable in the photos.
    RTBAG, I agree with your David Lynch connection….just bizarre enough.

  • ummabdulla

    New Carrollton isn’t exactly Baltimore, but that second photo could be out of a John Waters movie, too.
    As for the first picture, it’s just so blatantly making him look like a take-charge kind of guy. He burst out of that door so powerfully and quickly that even his tie is flapping.

  • Esoth

    Compare and contrast: Sunday’s Man of Steele with Mark Warner: Rodeo Clown, earlier in the month.
    It’s a Gallant and Goofus story!

  • ummabdulla

    The British newspaper The Independent has a profile of Mark Warner today.
    Mark Warner: One of the only Democrats who could take on Hillary Clinton and pull off a win

  • momly

    He’s tall.  He’s bad.
    Man, I need to get my eyes checked; I thought you wrote bald.
    Which is true, but still.
    The first picture looks like a still from an advertisement for men’s clothing. I can hear the music as Steele breaks through the door with a determined stride. And he looks so connected and [Bill] Clintonian in his attachment in the second picture, only the colors are all reversed.

  • sravana

    I particularly like the disembodied hand at upper left in the first photo. Wha?

  • paul

    When I saw these photos the very first thing that popped into my mind was the movie trailer cliche: “IN A WORLD WHERE (fill in the blank) Michael steele is one mean mother… (shut yo mouth!).” Quincy where are you?
    OK I’m flashing back. But then again looking at these photos I’m not alone. Me, the NYT, and Karl are like THIS. Dyn-o-mite.
    Actually didn’t they have a word for films like that? Something ’sploitation? Let’s all welcome the GOP to the 1970’s. It’s some where between 5 decades and two centuries more recent then they are otherwise.

  • hauksdottir

    I think that disembodied hand belongs to the mayor, but there are enough feet and shadowed impressions for about 3 more people behind this trio. The second image shows one more man that the photographer had to work to obscure… that is a SHORT woman!
    The lens-work is fantastic. The leader of the pack looks to be twice as tall as anybody else, and certainly more dynamic and confident. His wide shoulder movement isn’t just twisty, it has a lot of energy combined with the springy step. The other men are framed within the doorway, but Steele is bursting out of bounds.
    The guy to the right pushing open what should be an automatic door simply looks off-balance and not quite up to the job. The mayor appears dogged, but tired. They reinforce this man-of-the-moment… every superhero needs a barely competant sidekick or deputy to make him look smarter and faster than average. Without the comparison, how could we see his greatness?
    All of these folks look like packaged-to-market TV characters. There are people who believe that soap opera characters are real people with real problems rther than actors following their scripts. Will the voters think Steele is a real man or will they see the actor reading his lines on cue?

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