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April 29, 2013

Obama as Daniel Day Lewis

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I can’t even begin to say how clever this is, Obama playing Daniel Day Lewis playing Obama. Having squeezed all that juice out of America’s love affair with Hollywood and celebrity for the past five years, this video spoof in collaboration with Spielberg at the already incestuous White House Correspondent’s Dinner breaks new ground. To the extent Obama is vulnerable to the criticism that he’s milked the star strategy, both as one and hobnobbing, he stays one leap ahead through the creative act of morphing with one. And then, more ingenious than Obama as Lewis as Obama is the carom shot in which Obama ties us all the way back to his identification with his hero, Lincoln.

This video does a wonderful job of illustrating how much Obama (with an eye to the screen or the mirror) can play himself as well as, if not better than being himself. Remember that photo of Obama on the first inauguration day looking at himself in the mirror? Or the Saturday Night Live skit of Obama removing the Obama mask to reveal Obama underneath? But before you call that phony, let’s consider he’s really a product of our age. With Obama, I think that there’s a very high degree of genuineness, and I think that there’s also a very high degree of manipulation and staging and self-consciousness. And how could that be? Because he’s grown up in a culture that’s so sophisticated in terms of visuals and media and he’s mastered that sophistication. So in some way, what this Presidency has turned into for me is “The Truman Show.” It’s weird and it’s complicated but I can’t tell the difference between what’s self-conscious and what’s candid about Obama because it’s both — and on top of that, he can be so candid about both.

(screen shots via The White House)

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