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February 9, 2012

Shooting Marshmallows

Muslim? Foreigner? Urban (read: Black) radical? The other day, we noted how much The New Yorker’s Obama Super Bowl cover reflected the President’s success in becoming recognized as a regular Joe.

So, how did he get there?

A good part of the answer involves a combination of photo ops and classic American banality. The images this week are instructive, as unremarkably remarkable they are in telegraphing how much the First Couple has turned the White House into the set of the TODAY Show. Among the latest visual comfort food that went viral, we have an in-house science fair, and celebrity tug of war and potato sack races (the shot below springing forth from that master archive of “soap-opera-ific” material, the White House Flickr site).

And then, certainly no one blinked an eye or started throwing references to The Manchurian Candidates around when, in a shot published everywhere, the President got all “gee whiz” helping fire up a rocket launcher shooting marshmallows.

Paging Matt Lauer!

(photo: Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images caption: Joey Hudy, 14, demonstrates his Extreme Marshmallow Cannon for the president, who welcomed Joey and other students to the White House to promote science education. (photo: Chuck Kennedy/White House caption: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a tug of war with Jimmy Fallon in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House during a “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” taping for the second anniversary of the “Let’s Move!” initiative, Jan. 25, 2012.

  • bks

    Photo #1 should be paired with Dukakis in a tank:


    • jonst

       Can’t agree with you. Dukakis, in my opinion, was trying, hard, to look earnest and serious.  Hence it was so funny…..because it WAS like Snoopy trying to look serious. Obama is simply fooling around here. Whatever, the intention is lightheartedness.

    • Glenn

       Erm… coincidentally, I just met Michael and Kitty Dukakis this evening.

  • Gasho

    I see some of the “Can Do” American spirit in this shot. The kid is proud and he’s focused on the results of his engineering work — rather than the person of the President.  Too bad it’s a model gun that has to represent America’s newest invention.. but oh, well.

    The Prez is goofing around, yes. But he’s also celebrating ingenuity, science and our CHILDREN.  He’s a decent dad, you can tell.  Model that all you want, I say.

  • quax

    Gasho.  Couldn’t agree more.  Maybe you have to be a dad to see it that way.  To me Obama never seemed less guarded and scripted in any other photo op.  He actually comes across as somebody really having fun with the marshmallow gun and you can see the kid digs it. Part of goofing around is to not mind looking silly. That’s why the comparison to Dukakis is totally off the mark.

    • Anonymous

      If you want to compare it to anything – and it compares favorably, I think – compare Obama with the air cannon with GHWBush seeking for the first time a scanner at a supermarket checkout.

      Both had the same science-geek sense of wonder at seeing something new, only in Obama’s case, it really was something new.

    • Glenn

       This reminds me of the pix of Obama riding bikes with his daughters. He looks a little dorky – except for the fact that he looks really sincere – having fun with a kid. Anyone who makes fun of it is really mean-minded.

  • Marie

    What strikes me about the first photo (other than marshmallows-paff!) is President Obama’s pitch perfect expression. It’s a geek/kid showing off his cool apparatus, so Obama is mirroring a geek/kids expression appropriate to the emotional tone of the demo. He’s appreciative of the kid’s effort, and showing his engagement.   Contrast with his likely expression watching, say,  a foreign head of state’s demonstration of a rocket launcher shooting non-marshmallows. We’d see a different, more serious and controlled, expression, I think. Here, he looks like somebody’s cool Dad. An everyday Dad. Somebody you would want on your side and cheering you on.

  • Tardigrade

    Does this image have something to do with contraception?

    • Glenn

       No. They took sponges off the market years ago.

  • Thomas Gokey

    I love this image. If Obama wants to win me back, nerding it up is the way to go.

    I agree with the other comments that this models Obama as a father and as an enthusiastic supporter of kids and their creativity.

    I wonder if republicans are going to make an issue out of these images, not just Obama shooting a marshmallow in a room full of old paintings, but Michelle Obama’s wonderfully silly images with Jimmy Fallon. This seems like it could fit in the same category as pictures of Obama not wearing a suit jacket in the oval office. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if we see reports that the Obama’s aren’t treating the white house with enough respect, etc. They’ve already made the most ridiculous attacks on Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity work. 

  • omen

    obama policy certainly can be compared to marshmallows. feeding people crap in place of real reforms, appeasing ppl with empty platitudes. also exemplifies the president’s soft (to nonexistent) opposition to republican/corporatist agenda.

  • George Mokray

    The role are reversed:  the kid is the adult, concentrated on his task and enjoying it, while Obama has a look of child-like delight on his face, appropriate to the occasion.

    There was something innocent about Dukakis in the tank too.  

  • jonst

     what were they driving in?

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