ELECTORIAL PUBLIC RELATIONS

Obama’s a bit like THE DARK KNIGHT’s Joker, readers: you’re never quite sure what his grin MEANS.

I’ve been thinking about political PR, an issue of enormous importance in this age of image-mediation.

And I have to tell you, Obama’s Public Relations sucks. Not only does his voice sound like he doesn’t believe in his very own promises, Obama’s Joker-like grin is also WRONG. I get this creepy feeling, as though being stalked by the Cheshire cat. The message transmitted should be direct and powerful, instead, it’s ambiguous and meek. The ”Nutty Professor” attire that I caught Obama wearing, I guess as a way of saying that he, too, attended the Leftist University, doesn’t really do it for me. It’s one of those worn-out statements, like George Clooney’s coat in CHILDREN OF MEN, that make socialism look last season. In any case, I wouldn’t want to fall into the embrace of this Joker; especially because he seems all-too often like  a black girl so desperate for acceptance she’s painted herself white.

By contrast, Sarah Palin comes across as a healthy butch top, a crass version of Vivian Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara; the crucial ingredient are her cheeks, full and bright, suggesting health, robustness and Nashville. The figure most closely resembling Palin on the musical scene would be Shanya Twain – ”It don’t impress me much”. For in this sort of PR, readers, you want to tell the voters that you’re one of the people, that they can count on your toughness, that you’re determined as Hell, but when it comes to family, you’re still the pure, kind-hearted local girl who just happened to make it big.

(Some commentators in the blogosphere remarked that Palin’s impossible marriage between the married wife and tough girl stereotype indicates she’s America’s most successful cyborg politician. And there is something to this view, readers, for Palin’s performance recalls Walt Disney characters – she’s too cute and too pretty to be real, approaching cartoon registers.)

Another famous Republican vehicle demonstrates that the right-wing adulation of ”family values” functions as a disguise for the establishment’s perversity. I’m talking about Mc Cain, who walks around in a semi-mummified condition akin to Marlon Brando’s performance in THE GODFATHER, and Cindy, whose resemblance to Michelle Pfeiffer must be on purpose. McCain’s PR is telling us that he’s a cruel but reliable maffia overlord, while Cindy’s youthful cheeriness must mean she’s popular with the rent boys. In other words, when you have the power, you can be a decent prostitute.

 

WALL-E

The problem with Pixar is that they always teeter on the verge of brilliance, but never make it. There are pressing commercial demands to be met. In this case, Pixar caters to the consumerist guilt of fat Americans, who will go to WALL-E so they may ”engage” with the film’s politically correct ecology. One according to which the energy problem comes not from economic exploitation, but from the failure of the general population to recycle.

What’s nearly brilliant about WALL-E is the way it uses the language of animation (first discovered by Charlie Chaplin) to create a complex choreography. There is very little talk, except for some coy buzzing and bleeping. The film unfolds through pantomime, making good use of the mise-en-scene to create an allegory of the Apocalypse. In some special moments, when the director drops all pretense of story, movement and sound accomplish a total synergy.

Then in a move which felt avant-garde for a big studio like Pixar, the early scenes are shot by a candid camera (as in reality TV), suggesting not so much audience voyeurism as an omniscient Machine-Camera. This is later supported by the reference to Stanley Kubrick’s Hal, the robotic control freak from 2001:A Space Odyssey. The trick never gets as subtle as it did in independent films, but for a mainstream animation, it’s pretty daring.

The second, ”environmental” part of the movie is a rather weak parody wherein the humans of the future appear as half-paralyzed slugs living on a spaceship. This is where the 1950s Americana comes in, readers, for Pixar’s brand of social critique is a subliminal advertisement for 1950s consumerist bliss. It’s very important that Americans should feel that their country still stands for a middle class Paradise in the midst of the Iraqi war.

Set design draws on the obsessive scavenging of the 1980s and of course, it re-brands Lucas’s STAR WARS and Spielberg’s EXTRATERRESTRIAL abundantly. Yet the parody neither made me laugh nor did it get me to sweat over issues: as it turns out, humaneness will triumph in the end and the exiled people will return from the City in the Clouds to Mother Earth. Wall-E shall overcome his Oedipus complex, be reborn, and the story of Adam and Eve shall recommence.

Among the many opportunities missed was a bleak ending (which the makers originally intended) with WALL-E completely losing his hard disk and his memories of being human. With such an ending, the film would have stayed truer to its origins in 1980s apocalyptic science fiction.