Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama Cover As a Museum Piece

It's one thing to find the New Yorker Obama cover in questionable taste, but the yahoo-ish invective being aimed at the magazine is over the top. However flawed in the eyes of some, the cover is nevertheless in the best tradition of magazine journalism.

Doubters can check out the Museum of Modern Art exhibit showing 32 of the 92 George Lois covers designed for Esquire between 1962 and 1972.

Unlike the current New Yorker, with the Obamas imagined by an illustrator, Lois often had subjects pose for his satirical images--heavyweight champions Muhammed Ali as the Christian martyr St. Sebastian with arrows stuck in him and Sonny Liston, the "meanest man in the world," as Santa Claus, to name two featuring African-Americans.

After the JFK assassination, inspired by the article "Kennedy Without Tears," Lois superimposed a hand with a handkerchief dabbing at the eye of the slain president. "I caught hell from a lot of people," Lois recalls, for being 'insensitive.'"

In 1968, as a takeoff on the five o'clock shadow from the 1960 presidential debate, Lois had a number of hands applying makeup to Richard Nixon, one of them wielding a lipstick, which a campaign honcho complained was a slur on the candidate's masculinity.

Lipstick had previously figured in a cover of a college football player applying it to his face to illustrate a piece on "the gay way to beat the draft."

Equal-opportunity offenders, Lois and editor Harold Hayes showed Vice President Hubert Humphrey as a ventriloquist's dummy on LBJ's lap, Stalin's daughter who defected to the US with her father's mustache drawn above her upper lip and TV MC Ed Sullivan with a Beatles' wig on his head.

The Obama cover is not likely to end up with all those in the MOMA, but it would be heartening to be able to look back at the reaction to it some day as a museum piece reflecting the prejudices and stupidity of our unevolved era.

1 comment:

Swampcracker said...

I'll take the cynical view: The so-called low information voter (read: "chimp-grunting and chimp-screaming Ignorati") never gets the point of satire, and the New Yorker cover will hang next to the pinups of the pinheads who actually believe this stuff.