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November 13, 2008

Your Turn: Welcome to My World, Barack

This coming weekend, the NYT Mag is publishing a major article about “where this government has taken the United States and what sort of world it will leave for the next president.” It is based on interviews with Condi Rice, as well as Christopher Hill and Daniel Fried of the State Department and Gen. James L. Jones, former supreme allied commander.
I’m interest in your take on these prominent, and rather strange accompanying illustrations (sequenced in this order). I’m wondering what you think of the use of cartoons, specifically the shading and shadowing. I’m also curious how you read this as a vertical narrative or cartoon strip. Finally, I’m interested in what you make of the characterizations of Rice and Obama.
(illustrations: Nathan Fox)
  • ST

    wow–she looks like a femme fatale “doll” from an early 20th century detective story. His body looks relaxed and friendly–like he is waving to someone in the audience. He eems like a protagonist in the cartoon–not the bad guy. The complete shading of their heads is weird.

  • Valkyrie607

    Whoa. Condaleeza seems overly sexualized and vulnerable at the same time. The only skin you can see in the first panel is her cleavage. In the next panel, it’s her legs, set against a dark, mysterious doorway with dark, mysterious, male legs surrounding hers. The shading seems to erase her individuality as well as Barack’s: it makes me think of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.”

  • Valkyrie607

    “Welcome to my world, Barack”? In light of my observations above, the interpretation of the title could be pretty sinister: watch out, Barack, because my world is dangerous and full of people who will take advantage of you.

  • Annie

    It looks to me like Condi Rice and Barack Obama are touching each other’s hands in the second and third illustrations – she, from off the stage while he,on the stage. She’s waving good-bye while he, hello.
    Their shaded heads represent to me aloneness, even loneliness. Welcome to her world

  • iamcoyote

    The shoe panel – a reference to Katrina and Condi’s shoe-shopping escapade?
    Otherwise, it looks like any other graphic novelization of a crime drama done in noir: the femme fatale and the earnest politician. I’d read it.

  • snark

    The first panel of Condi is certainly overtly graphic novel sexualized. The string of pearls and emphasis on her cleavage. Yet her head is down. Defeated. Vulnerable. Second panel has her turning from, presumably, the stage. Obama’s hand on her shoulder. She with a paper, a speech, in her hand. But it’s low. Down at her waist. It’s over. I don’t find the legs and shoes sexualized. They read as tired. She’s half turned but both feet are flat on the floor. Stationary. Third panel is all about “the new”. The torch has been passed. Albeit, Obama is graphic novelized. More muscular and bulky than reality.

  • mommybrain

    The juxtaposition of the top Condi where she looks like a real person with the bottom half of her – she’s a shadow of her former self. She is cut off from herself and reaching out for Obama.

  • Karen

    And now for something totally different….Condi as double agent, sad and conflicted and in the shadows in the first frame (has she betrayed the Administration?), then uncertain but real as opposed to the cardboard cutout shadow she stands atop saying goodbye (yet she stands in an inward perspective and is apart from her colleagues), Barack appears as facing the light and opening government to his audience. I think this is fascinating.

  • Sergei Andropov

    What I see is more of a transformation, Condi becoming Barack. The three figures form a line; the top of which is clearly Condi, and the bottom of which is clearly Barack, but the middle image is more ambiguous. The figure, in the top part of the image, is wearing high heels, which ties it to Condi; its shadow, on the other hand, while still her shadow, mirrors Obama’s posture so perfectly that it is much more closely tied to him. The end result is a transition, made smoother by the similarities in color and the shadowing of their most distinguishing features, their faces. I am reminded of how elated Rice appeared on being asked about Obama’s election, an elation that is reflected in the first quote of the article.

  •[email protected]/ DennisQ

    I’m waiting for her tell-all book in which she explains how a nice girl from Montgomery, Alabama got mixed up with a bunch of thugs. It’s difficult for her to plead Stockholm syndrome because she wasn’t exactly a prisoner. But surely she knew better than to sign on for some of the wretched excesses for which she’ll face the judgement of history.
    She is a scholar, with an earned Ph.D. Why did she agree to endorse such aggressively anti-humanitarian policies? And as a Black woman, surely she saw the underlying racism as clearly as did Colin Powell … and he got out. Finally, I’d like to know if she thinks it was worth it. Maybe it’s that I don’t want to believe she’s as big a sell-out as she looks to be. I mean, she plays the piano ‘n shit . . .

  • KansasKowboy

    I feel a difference in personalities from these graphics. Probably not what the artist intended at all but I read it like this;
    Condi sets off the appearance of someone who is not happy with herself. Looking back on her term and not being happy with the accomplishment. She sold her soul to fit in with the “in” crowd and it didn’t pay off in the way she had hoped. Now she is waving bye, her story over. It’s Obama’s turn on the political stage. He greets the U.S. or the World now. Successful in his bid to lead. He won his bid to lead by not selling his soul but by being true to himself. He will succeed because he didn’t play a game for alternative reasons, He played the game by the rules, and laid his squarely dealt hand on the table.

  • NoContest

    Good representation. Condi does have that continually disgusted look on her face. Disgusted and disgusting.

  • timolo

    The bottom frame first. The body is too thick, the suit rumpled, if the hand was a shade or two lighter and given its positioning with Condi, I would guess it was bush.
    How does a highly intelligent, black, female, Russian cold war expert and bush cabinet member survive the entire 8 years? Hiding your true self in the shadows.

  • Stan B.

    One can only hope and pray he never takes the path to entry in her world.

  • Kris T

    First panel: head down, 45-degree stance, looking to her left–sees what is coming. The question not have I betrayed the Administration (surely she’s been their primary cheerleader), but have I betrayed my people? The shadows in this panel seem to emphasize her blackness, but in a way that seems almost sinister.
    Second panel: Another 45-degree stance, proximity to the door, half-way out, but waving to those inside with her left hand, the right hand holding something…a handbag? Papers? The secrets? I like how Mommybrain put it…cut off from herself.
    Third panel: Relaxed, waving with the right hand. Waving to the bright white, wide open frontier. Is it through a door, or simply a frame?
    I agree, Bag, I find the use of illustrations like this strange. I don’t quite get it.

  • Doctor Jay

    I’ll sign on to Sergei Andropov’s narrative of a transformation, a shape shift. The second frame doesn’t work for me in any other narrative. That shadow doesn’t really seem to fit with the posture we see from the legs.

  • Mister Dott

    Condi is a war criminal and this is an invitation to the “dark side” as Cheney called it.

  • donna

    “I saw the news last night
    All illustrated with cartoons
    So when they come with that opinion poll
    They better not use words like
    Ideology . . .
    Or try to tell me ’bout the issues
    Ideology . . . ”
    – Right and Wrong, Joe Jackson

  • Babs

    I think the artist is getting way too much cerebral credit. The second one is strange, but maybe not in context. The brown skin fills are distracting, completely unnecessary, and for me they really detract from a pretty interesting illustrative style. That bit of color grabs my eye first thing, and screams brown people. Would the artist have felt compelled to add a sallow pink fill to a Christopher Hill pic?

  • Spencer

    The pitch black on the heads deprives them of their individual identities, but the little patches of brown skin identify them as African American. There’s a film-noir-esque solitude to the images. All that, in combination with the, “welcome to my world” caption makes me think she’s saying: welcome to the world of being objectified as the rare black person, here in the upper echelons of (traditionally white-dominated) power.

  • JayDenver

    A cartoon Rohrsach test! I see a necklace, strapless heels, a podium. And a puppy.

  • nicholas

    My immediate thought on the first image of Rice was Kara Walker’s cut-paper works. The harshness of the silhouette reminds me of the brutality and ugliness of Walker’s mobilization of racial stereotyping (“profiling” of a different sort); Rice has a similar caricatured, wicked, absurd, fairy-tale ugliness.

  • jean

    I like the Kansas Kowboy take. She sold her soul, Obama is intact (as of now).

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