Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
October 2, 2009

Your Turn: This American Life

BAGnewsNotes readers assess the cover of

Was anybody ever accused of being "disingenuous" for the use of serifs?   Addressing what's there and what isn't, how do you assess the cover strategy as Sarah relaunches "the brand?"

( Here also, by the way, is how AFP countered the portrait.)

(image: John Keatley  for Harper Collins)

  • Julie L

    All I can say is that you should have posted a warning for this image.
    I saw it and felt like I was kicked in the gut!
    Red = red state gal
    OMG. Flag pin. in a weird place.
    Lipstick doesn’t match, shows that red really *isn’t* her color.
    Where’s the gun?

  • CandyceG

    Still playing to her sexuality, which was what really attracted all those plumbing Joes to her in the first place.
    Definite suggestion of cleavage, in fact it looks like it was photoshopped to highlight it. Suggestion that she’s wearing nothing beneath that jacket. Can almost see her tugging on that zipper to lower it just a tad.
    Flag pin looks like an afterthought, poorly placed.

  • Mountainviewer

    We knew that fascism would come to the US wrapped in a flag–here both the pin and cover-as-flag. I suppose we could have also guessed it would come with photoshopped pseudo-cleavage. But the pure intensity of the recent Orwellian transformation of totalitarian thought/mind/body control into pseudo-anti-social nonconformity really is breathtaking. After all, “rogue” ups the ante on McCain’s “maverick”, mocks the frustrations of McCain’s advisers (who accused her of “going rogue”) and flaunts the neo-con foreign policy in which the US embraces its status as a rogue state (i.e. sponsor of terrorism and war crimes) as just the newest phase of American exceptionalism.
    So it’s an amazingly overdetermined visual message, all around.
    But between the low color saturation, the failure to make eye contact, the sky that looks like it came from a department store/family photo studio’s supply of backdrops, and the font that’s always threatening to disappear, I suspect that most will take it for what it is: fake.

  • mjfgates

    Today’s fun game: compare’n'contrast with the cover from “Dreams From My Father“. Which one looks like a history book, and which one looks like half the cover off a cheap romance novel?

  • gulati

    Ominous sky, teeth at dead-center – what’s not to love!

  • http://www.woodka.com/ donna

    I dunno, red? Looks like a commie to me. ;^)
    And I think she meant. “going rouge”, cause she’s wearing way too much of it.

  • http://curtspang.blogspot.com crabby

    she is hotter in her bizness suits. The cleavage I don’t see, nor a hint of clevage. I think she is looking for the return in the clouds. The hands in the pockets seems wrong, sorta idle and useless.

  • EnchantedSwordfish

    There really needs to be a moose in the background. If necessary, the moose can be looking dreamily and somewhat manically into the distance as well.

  • bystander

    Ah, yes. America’s gal next door. Healthy looking, relaxed, casual, understated makeup, long, shiny tresses, open expression, big smile. Posed under a big, open sky… to fit our image of ourselves. Imagine this photo probably holds its own with those from the Runner’s World shoot. Seems she’s sporting the specs she made popular during the campaign. To my unpracticed/untutored eye, the framing of the title/jacket text fades to the background. Sarah is the center of her jacket cover and there’s not much there to compete with her. I’m sure that’s by design.
    I’m gonna loathe watching this lady try to stage a comeback.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/victoriat Victoria Trostle

    Good Heavens, it’s Gidget. Plus flag pin.
    I don’t see the sex and cleavage. I see fresh-faced (not the lipstick line or upswept do that was her guv look), I see non-fashion sweats, I see big outdoors, I see anti-politician – I see “I am the fresh breeze you’ve been longing for.” With that creepy overkill of the flag pin, the too-much of the sales job.

  • http://thenewsguysletters.blogspot.com/ Russ

    NY Post says she got a $7 million advance for the book, which she wrote in four months. Post also says she is poison on the lecture circuit despite the big paycheck she got from the Hong Kong gig, six figures. And she’s being represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau which reps big names like George W. Bush, Laura Bush and Condoleezza Rice. They’re reportedly asking $100 K per speech, no takers. Why? Lecture series bookers don’t want her, afraid subscribers will cancel. Colleges don’t want her, they want progressives and corporations don’t want her, too controversial.
    But then that $7 million can ease an awful lot of pain.

  • Progressive Mom

    I got exactly the same gobsmack from this cover as bystander. It’s a soccer-mom shot, with underdone hair, the not-high-end eyeglass frames (compare these to the squared-off frames she used during much of the campaign), and the just-shy of beauty queen pose. That she’s looking off in the distance and UPWARD is the homage to the future; contrast it with the cover of the Kennedy book, where his body is shifted away from the camera toward the horizon and his eyes are straight ahead. That upward look is part religious response, part beauty pageant tilt.

  • JayDenver

    Rogue:
    1. An unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person; a scoundrel or rascal.
    2. One who is playfully mischievous; a scamp.
    3. A wandering beggar; a vagrant.
    4. A vicious and solitary animal, especially an elephant that has separated itself from its herd.
    5. An organism, especially a plant, that shows an undesirable variation from a standard.
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/rogue
    So many choices, so little time…

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0115724f02ff970b Serr8d

    Sarah Palin freely admits to a ghostwriter. Barack Obama is now exposed as having had a hidden ghostwriter for his ‘masterwork’ Dreams From My Fathers, Bill Ayers. Exposed by Chris Andersen in his newest book…

    The revelation that Chris Andersen had two separate sources means that this fact meets the journalistic standard of reliability, provided by a respected, established bestselling author. Obama’s dismissal of Ayers as “just a guy in the neighborhood” has been shown to be an outright lie.

    So, when this finally hits the fan, are you guys going to dig in and sand bag and procrastinate and hate everyone else because your hero lied, or are you going to do the right thing and denounce a liar as a liar?
    Let’s see if you have any character about you.

  • http://uoti.blogspot.com shpx.ohfu

    Rouge, gun, I go. I fear inane clam.

  • DanM

    You believe Palin’s problem is a ghostwriter?

  • http://doran.pacifist.net doranb

    It looks like stooping under the weight of her name. In fact, the text layout overall is horrid. There’s shadow on her name, but not on the title. I didn’t eve see the subtitle on my first glance.
    But greater than all that, I can’t get over the incongruity between the image and the title. There is nothing in the photo which conveys “Rogue”.

  • jtfromBC

    HarperCollins said this week that the book had been finished early so that it could make it into stores ahead of the Christmas holiday shopping season.
    Sarah, as Santa’s little helper and color coordinated too, Ho Ho Ho and a merry marketing season to you and yours.

  • http://justbetweenstrangers.blogspot.com/ acm

    I’m struck by the combination of “casual” clothing with hair and make-up that are incredibly polished and perfected (for an all-American beauty). Very strange hunch to the shoulders is, I guess, supposed to further the girl-next-door feeling, perhaps to assuage the sort of right-wingers who are put off by any woman who appears *too* strong . . . Also, the way she’s looking diagonally up into the light recalls the sort of poses used for all sorts of evangelical Christian literature. I think it’s loaded with symbolism aimed at her desired (conservative) audience, not at the wider American public.

  • Rima

    What’s the big deal? It’s a snapshot of Sarah on her porch, enjoying her view of Russia.

  • grrljock

    This would make the perfect poster for the next Christopher Guest mockumentary.

  • http://motherrr.blogspot.com mcmama

    If wishes were horses, beggars would ride; and this lie would be true. But they aren’t and it’s not. You, serr8d, are a liar, as is Chris Andersen. There’s your answer – I’m doing the right thing, denouncing liars as liars.

  • g

    It’s a really bland and generic look. The photo looks like an outtake of the running magazine shoot. It has the look of a quickie production.
    since it was announced, her title has somewhat baffled me. “Rogue” was used as a pejorative about Sarah by the McCain staffers – to which she objected – yet “Rogue” was also used as a pejorative BY Sarah for two of her enemies, Trooper Wooten and Walter Monaghan. It doesn’t make sense to me that she would assume that word now for her identity. It also doesn’t seem to fit her “new” brand, either. she’s positioning herself as an American Everywoman, Mom and Main Streeter who speaks for regular people – that’s a Rogue at all. So the message is confused.
    I think she wanted a provocative, tough one-word title, and “Maverick” was already copyrighted by McCain.
    the only remotely “roguish” thing about her is that she’s a political Rogue – someone who rebelled at the handlers during the campaign, and then quit her office because she couldn’t take the criticsm. It doesn’t make sense. I would have expected her to pick a different cliche, something that evoked “standing on principle.”
    “An American Life” is a really generic subtitle – what a tired cliche. And it doesn’t go with “Rogue” at all.
    The photo is even more baffling, because it’s a straight glamor shot; it conflicts with any “Rogue” imagery – like someone above said, it looks like a romance cover. It’s generic, too – glamor shot, soccer mom variety.
    Taken together, a glamor-girl portrait, a nonsensically provocative title, and a bland cliche of a subtitle – it’s consistent with her lack of substance, intellectual inconsistency, and narcissism. I think it’s perfect.

  • Paula

    Meh. I’m not fond of covers like the Ted Kennedy and, farther back in the recent past, Bill Clinton autobio covers (same blue sky, same upward gaze) because it really is the same combination of casual, approachable, yet determined and optimistic that you all have pointed out here. Also, it seems to be standard for Celeb bios that their mugs get slapped right on the cover because consumers will be better able to identify the subject matter.
    As for the comparison to Dreams from my Father, it’s apples and oranges. Obama wasn’t known at all when it was first published, so his actual mug need not be emphasized (compare it to the post-Senatorial win cover of Audacity of Hope). The reasoning for the cover was to make it clear that it was a narrative about ethnicity and family history at a time in the mid-nineties when they were very popular.

  • thomas

    It’s interesting that they’re not taking the opportunity to re-brand. This looks like a very familiar image, which, considering the trashing her image has taken may not be the best idea. I don’t get much of a read on the strategy beyond appealing to the same people she already appeals to. It would appear that they’re reluctant to raise expectations. It feels safe to predict that her public image, such as it is, is unlikely to change dramatically in the coming decades. Hopefully the market for it disappears, but that also seems unlikely.
    Then again, she’s a unscrupulous opportunist so it would be a mistake to underestimate her.
    Also, I wonder if the recreational clothing and the greatly reduced American flag aren’t intended to free her up from the “political” genre, to appear more as a lifestyle or entertainment personality.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/bagnews Michael Shaw (The BAG)

    I liked the comment pointing out how, between the clouds, sky and warm up suit, they give us red, white and blue. I missed that.
    I’m also interested in the fact that Palin is presented alone, free of the typically glued-on First Dude and the kids. Does the cover telegraph at all she is going to start operating more independently? And, along those lines, is “going rogue” also mean giving up some of her persona (and supposed cred) as wife and mom?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/bagnews Michael Shaw (The BAG)

    One other way to read the text, I notice (which is separated and softened by the smile, the great outdoors), is also as a declaration or threat — SARAH PALIN/(I’M) GOING ROGUE . Also, not sure if it was mentioned above, but some of those clouds are actually pretty dark.

  • Aurora

    Well, yeah, the red, white n blue.
    Also, the author name in the title position, and font size; the title, rendered smaller and over the flattened breasts, seem to further her distancing from her ‘traditional’ roles; which is a huge, what, oxymoron or paradox?
    Just a ps from a bewildered old hippy: happened to glance at the Amazon comments section on her book, which I was unaware was even an Amazon feature. It seems to be a distillation of our current national discontent; and pretty sad and sorry, at that.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0115724f02ff970b Serr8d

    No, mcmamma, you hope it’s all a lie, but it’s not a lie. It’s a bad dream. Obama’s game consists of pretense within pretense within pretense, and all of those will come due soon enough.
    We’ll just wait and see, won’t we, together.
    Bill Ayers: Barack Obama’s first teleprompter. ;D

  • http://www.doves2day.blogspot.com g

    Serr8d is delusional.

  • Anonymous

    Coming soon to Life-Time : Television for Women

  • gryphon

    it’s actually an ok image of a middle aged woman at a bonfire…
    only the bonfire is any future she imagined she has in politics. she can heckle from the sidelines from now on, that’s all.. she quit when it got hard.
    there’s thousands of her across America she just caught one old geezers eye.

  • http://brennanarch.blogspot.com jan

    First things I noticed: RED, red-white-blue, flag pin looks photoshopped on.
    And, yes, why the serif font? What is the graphic message? She is the stealth rogue? She is innocently rogue? Rogue for God? Called by God to rogue it up as the heavens darken. The brand is comical, but, unfortunately, valued as virtuous and inspired.
    The lowered camera angle imparts a sense of strength, sort of the Russian Constructivist pose, while the passive stance imparts a sense of goodness. Were the chin just a bit higher, you would have the modern Russian peasant. Constructivism questioned the idea of art-for-the-sake-of-art (I’m sure Palin would, too). It proposed that art had to have a social purpose. Hence, the social intent displayed in those glorious posters created in the first half of the last century, for example. I am going to go with the constructivist / communist effect. After all, she was wearing a “Communist” Mao jacket for Hong Kong speech. Honest. Imagine what would be said if the First Lady were to wear one!

  • yg

    it’s a summer’s eve ad. ever get that not so fresh feeling?

  • desertwind

    Is this the real cover or just a place-holder?
    The design & photo is little too obvious, but what’s interesting to me is that that is one of the ugliest covers I’ve ever seen. It’s giving off a very depressing vibe and I’m not just saying that ’cause I ain’t a Palin fan.
    Could they not brighten up the sky? Put a little “life” in her face, which looks like a waxworks here? Is the choice of a cute, but severely bosom flattening tracksuit jacket deliberate?
    If that were the cover for Newseek or Time, her fans would be crying foul.

  • yg

    of course. he didn’t really graduate from harvard either. he’s not even a citizen. as a matter of fact, he’s not even human. he’s only a holograph.

  • yg

    hologram, rather.

  • yg

    rogue |rōg|
    noun
    1 a dishonest or unprincipled man : you are a rogue and an embezzler.
    • a person whose behavior one disapproves of but who is nonetheless likable or attractive (often used as a playful term of reproof) : Cenzo, you old rogue!
    2 [usu. as adj. ] an elephant or other large wild animal driven away or living apart from the herd and having savage or destructive tendencies : a rogue elephant.
    • a person or thing that behaves in an aberrant, faulty, or unpredictable way : he hacked into data and ran rogue programs.
    • an inferior or defective specimen among many satisfactory ones, esp. a seedling or plant deviating from the standard variety.
    verb [ trans. ]
    remove inferior or defective plants or seedlings from (a crop).
    ORIGIN mid 16th cent. (denoting an idle vagrant): probably from Latin rogare ‘beg, ask,’ and related to obsolete slang roger [vagrant beggar] (many such cant terms were introduced toward the middle of the 16th cent.).

  • yg

    a darkening sky is a precursor to the rapture.

  • Sandra

    Queen Esther in a Jogging suit.

  • yg

    there is a grimace behind the smile.

  • http://nomoremister.blogspot.com/ aimai

    Yes, I agree, the hands in the pockets is utterly wrong. Its an extremely passive pose. She takes a hell of a photograph and she looked good in bitching red sexy librarian outfits. The one thing they didn’t waste money on was her clothes on the campaign trail. They clearly decided to go for an alaskan/outdoorsy look, probably discarded the idea of posing her with a rifle, they were already in trouble because she and her husband had worn corporate logo gear on official business, so they chose this. But its a mistake. Weak and dreamy looking. She’s looking off into the distance but the picture could just as well have “has been mom” written all over it.
    aimai

  • [email protected]

    “goin rogue”… from a “sarah” spoof on saturday night live. very well known

  • Alles

    Thanks to Jamie, Dan Savage on Slog pointed out the resemblances to Steve Carrell’s 40-year-old virgin. Check it out!

  • lisa

    Interesting how her name squishes her head down, almost scrunching the shoulders in that “huh, i screwed up?” kind of insincerity she has.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes