Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
December 8, 2009

Shafting Tiger and Obama: That Sexually-Suggestive Golf Digest Cover

Tiger Obama Golf Digest.jpg

(Click for larger size)

For whatever drama this kicks up post-Tiger hitting the tree, it only gets in the way of how much the cover suggests sexual stereotypes of the African-American male.

(Just to be clear, what you’re looking at is not a picture of TW and BHO but a photo-illustration using body doubles. Also, according to the publisher, the edition went to press November 14th, which was well before Tiger’s Thanksgiving meltdown.)

I don’t think it’s unusual a caddy would be holding the flag in this situation, but look how Tiger’s clasping it — the flag like a very long shaft with that curious tip protruding.

Also, from the way Tiger is bent over Obama and holding his left hand, the designers also set up the suggestion of Tiger giving it to Obama from behind. (The shadow plays on it, too, and the 10 TIPS (italics mine) OBAMA CAN TAKE (italics mine, again) FROM TIGER” also suggests it, as does the “LOAD IT & LET IT GO.” (…Of course, if you’ve been following BAGnews for a while, you know the stereotyping of Obama as a hyper-sexual black man is nothing new — 1, 2, 3).

And then, sex aside, Tiger can be played two different ways as a racial stereotype. The way he kneels and, again, how he holds the pole also resonates with the primitive hunter, the flag connoting a spear (as in “spear chucker,” right?). Finally, with Obama as the first African-American president to have broken into that most elite all-white club, Tiger (in a “don’t get too full of yourself” message, perhaps, from the powers that be) is downgraded from the role of superstar to the old school black caddy.

And then, since I’m not aware Obama and Tiger ever played golf together, what justifies these two superstars juxtaposed in the first place, except maybe … skin color?

(h/t: Miki)

(Photographer: Martin Ellis. Design Director Ken DeLago, Director of Photography Christian Iooss. Fashion Director Marty Hackel)

  • Jim Hannley

    Frankly, I think the commentator has quite a vivid imagination.

  • Jaymin

    I very rarely disagree with your interpretations. I do think this is reaching, substantially, though.

  • MeToo

    If anything the idea that Golf Digest needed to use body doubles to feature the two most powerful people in sport (and politics) is exhibit one that these men are powerful and exclusive- and not necessarily sexualized he-men.
    Sorry, sometimes a golf club is just a golf club. And sometimes raw and refined power and courage are just that too. And sometimes marital troubles are just something the rest of the world doesn’t need to know.
    This line is curiously hilarious though, I’d submit it to the next Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest if I were you:
    “I don’t think it’s unusual a caddy would be holding the flag in this situation, but look how Tiger’s clasping it — the flag like a very long shaft with that curious tip protruding.”

  • Serr8d

    You’re a bit late with this one. I’d already fixed it.

  • desertwind

    Aw, Bag.
    Sometimes you’re too much.
    And that’s why we love you so.

  • Kit (Keep It Trill)

    I hadn’t seen this. Now that I have, I feel sick.

  • eric -notmytribe

    I think your deconstruction is absolutely spot on. It needed only Tiger’s crash and burn to tar Obama further than they could have hoped.

  • thebewilderness

    So are we to understand that Golf Digest has a policy of faking cover shots on their magazine?
    There are a number of possible reads on the composition. And what’s up with those shoes?

  • nordmend

    yeah. also, the background is evocative of the homoerotic-themed “marlboro country” adverts – open range and all that.
    weird cover. a celebrity, a politician, golf, tacky photoshop… wwhoof. disquieting.
    i get the impression of tiger as jockey, as well. riding crop (or polo thingy) and a tight hand on the reins.

  • jonst

    I’m with Jaymin, and desert wind, you’re reaching on this one. Somehow turning poor Tiger into one of many victims. It’s wearisome…..

  • kat

    the other thing they have in common is not being black. Both are bi-racial and are not african-american. Is this the closest the black race can possibly hope for?

  • acm

    put me in the “kind of reaching” camp — for one thing, I’m unfamiliar with Golf Magazine covers, so it’s hard to know whether there’s anything unusual here in terms of pose, shafts, or any of the rest.
    of course, the two black men part is hard to avoid. no “what tips Bush could get from Tiger” cover, although perhaps they imagined it was about cool and athleticism, rather than race…

  • [email protected]

    Isn’t the issue here that they are photoshopping the President of the US as well as TW? The cover would appear to be an actual photo. It’s misleading and dishonest at best.

  • Michael Shaw (The BAG)

    That’s so sweet.

  • lettuce

    Put me in the category of “you’re not reaching at all.” If your readers are uncomfortable with making sexual connections that might seem base, they have to accept at least, that there are a number of symbolic moves here that are uncomfortable and in my opinion disrespectful. The position of these two deftly portrays each person as subordinate. It’s important to remember that choices need to be made all the time. Would you put a picture of Jack Nicklaus on your cover (or in your magazine) with any caddy that close to him? Or hovering over him? Do caddies and golfers even stand this close in real life? The course is large, is that necessary? And Obama doesn’t look like he’s considering a tricky shot, he looks confused. Hand on leg and leaning on his “putter” like the weight is just too much to bear. Why is this necessary?
    The lighting doesn’t even match seamlessly on the two body doubles. Everything about this picture, including its cover status, represents poor decision making. From Bagger Vance jerking off onto Obama’s back, “Power. Load it & LET IT GO!” to the idea that they should be covering politics in the first place, and supposing that Tiger’s (perhaps unquoted) golf platitudes could be sloppily analogous to how Obama could improve his status. I’d be more interested in 10 tips Alfred E. Neuman would have for Obama. With illustrations.

  • steve

    I agree – you’re spot on. My first impression was that it was Tiger & Tiger, no Obama. Because Tiger sure has f’d himself at this point. Those aren’t body doubles. That’s Tiger’s body that they put Obama’s face on, lifted his head to the caddy and darkened the caddy’s arms. Those are Tiger’s forearms on Obama and one of his stock outfits … the black vest usually has the Nike swoosh on it. wtf? Golf is for conservative buffoons – that’s why they made such a sick cover, it plays to their base.
    This image is so Photoshop it’s hardly Bag-worthy, but I can see why you posted it.
    What’s really sad is Tiger’s upbringing and his desire to be rid of his heritage because of it. He’s another talent who had his youth taken away and now is lost. Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan … … Parents fulfilling their own dreams thru their kids lives. Sick, absolutely. To tie Obama to him is criminal and insulting.

  • jonst

    You wrote: ‘ If your readers are uncomfortable with making sexual connections that might seem base, they have to accept at least, that there are a number of symbolic moves here that are uncomfortable and in my opinion disrespectful”.
    I don’t know where you get “uncomfortable” from, other than to conjure it up out of your own, vivid, imagination. Why would one be “uncomfortable”? Disagree with Bag’s interpretation, but “uncomfortable” with it? Why?
    And is it really “criminal” and “insulting” to tie the two together given the cover came out in Jan of 09? “criminal” you say? A bit of an exaggeration perhaps? Or do you really mean that?
    And finally, “golf is for conservative buffoons”? Really, your post lettuce, speaks (babbles is more like it)for itself.

  • Johnson

    To mix it up a little big, throw in Blake’s “The Tiger”:

  • cedar

    I think that this particular Bag analysis is a bit on the overwrought and missing-the-point side. As a Golf Digest subscriber, I have the benefit of knowing that the strangely and rather crudely executed cover art for the article “10 Tips Obama Can Take from Tiger”, is visually only half the story–the opening 2-page spread for the article reveals the entire, uncropped point of the illustration–a mirror-image concept with the left page having Obama as the caddie advising the crouched Tiger Woods and the opposite page having Tiger as caddie advising the crouched Obama. The actual article is titled: “What President Obama could learn from Tiger Woods–and vice versa”, and is a collection of twenty short comments (10 for each) from fifteen men and one woman mostly associated with golf as either players, writers, or network commentators. In fact I find zero “sexually suggestive” content in the cover art. What I find most revealing, though, is how actions precipitated by both men have diminished them in different ways, and they make the whole premise of the cover art and article quite unsettling. Obama as Nobel Prize-accepting warmonger comes to mind, as does the double-meaning of another question put to Tiger in a regular “Ask Tiger” section titled “Homefront”: “Q. How hard is it to leave home now that you have two small children?” Poignant stuff as far as Tiger goes–I’d not be so kind to President Obama about the disappointing choices he has made to date.

  • Yg Bluig

    I think it’s safe to say that if this cover came out a month before the Tiger crash-and-burn, no one this side of Beevis and Butthead would looked at the way Woods is holding the flag and thought of a penis.
    I’m surprised no one is exploring the what it means that the two of them are totally focused on a hole.
    And I almost forgot – there’s balls involved.
    I said balls. heh-heh-heh.

  • ivyleaves

    I am no fan of President Obama due all of the stuff he has failed to do since he took office and all the stuff he has managed to do that was unexpected from his electorate, but the shame for the Nobel Prize debacle belongs to the Nobel committee, not to Obama.

  • Jason

    Something tells me that the world of golf isn’t/wasn’t shocked by TW’s revelations, I imagine it’s still a “good old boy’s” club. I’m sure much like the President, Tiger has his share of “Haters”. Politics and golf have a long history together. Bush had to give it up, as to not ‘appear’ insensitive to the troops. Beyond the “timing” of this phony cover; I’m struck by the focus on their logo’s (GD’s logo included), I’m used to TW having at least 3 or 4 logo’s in the frame (Buick,Chevron,Nike ect.) I think Tiger would benefit from guidance from Obama when it comes to the course of life. There a only a few things these men share in common and while they are major things like being biracial, wealth, world wide American success idols, they certain are not cut from the same cloth. Obama’s not President for his jump shot it’s just a convient bonus. He’s President because America was starving for sensible leadership. A great logo never hurts either.

  • Wayne Dickson

    An image can be interpreted in different ways.(I have a collection of art history essays titled Twelve Views of Manet’s Bar [at the Folies Bergere].) Mike’s readings often cover the relationship between image and context.
    In this instance we have the image between two phrases. The first has already been mentioned: “LOAD It AND LET IT GO!.” But the image is bracketed by that phrase and this: “OBAMA CAN TAKE FROM TIGER”. Mike mentioned the tip of the flag. The last phrase begins with TIPS.
    Might be just dirty-minded “eisegesis” rather than sober exegesis. Depends on how subtle you think the graphic designer and editor are. For example, the “teabaggers” were apparently clueless when they identified themselves that way. So maybe these folks were equally clueless.

  • Kevin

    Definitely overreaching in the analysis. Sometimes a picture is just a picture…

  • steve

    That was me and Lettuce babbling, two posts.
    As an artist who uses Photoshop I find the cover an art crime, not the penal code type. As for the Jan09 date, you’re right and wrong. A lot of people on the golf tour knew what Tiger was up to and that it was going to become public, he had a reputation for a long time, couldn’t hide the vast number of hos he was shagging or the style(or lack there of) in which he did … so you’re right and wrong, just like all of we bag-b,babblers. They put a good man’s head on a bad man’s body, I am insulted visually (fwiw).
    I like your babbling, quite good, and the leafy green’s too.

  • Wayne Dickson

    Gertrude Stein: “A rose is a rose is a rose.”
    Stipulate that a picture is just a picture: What’s a “picture”? For one thing it’s a visual representation freighted with ambiguous meaning. And that meaning, though legitimately there, might not have been consciously intended.
    T.S. Eliot was asked by a student, “In poem X, did you mean Y?” Eliot responded, “If you see it there, then I must have put it there.” (approximate, of course)
    But Eliot was wrong. Think Rorschach. He provides the ink blot; the patient or client provides the meaning.

  • mon_oeil

    I don’t get the point of this snarky remark. Isn’t this space about critical engagement? Which requires knowing a bit of history? Perhaps you can go back in U.S. history to make similar “corrections” now that the term “bi-racial” is de facto the accepted categorization. Thus, you can highlight the fact that Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, P. B. S. Pinchback were bi-racial. But the “one drop-rule” was a fact of life and law–and still is, at least in the former. Recall Homer Plessy (i.e. Plessy v. Ferguson)

  • mon_oeil

    I am sure that the Golf Digest is very embarrassed. And I suspect that President Obama is probably rolling his eyes right now–recall the presidential praise given to Tiger Woods: On the other hand, he should not stop honoring people who are praiseworthy in anticipation that they will betray themselves in the future.
    I thoroughly enjoy the Bag’s deconstruction of images, by the way.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes