Pranks, Power and Pop Culture
I woke up this morning to a couple of messages informing me that my “Obey” spoof poster was featured on last night’s Daily Show. Well, not exactly. The graphic in the screenshot here is different in one key way, from the poster I designed. They’ve used Obama’s logo to replace the “o” in “obey.” When I designed the original “Obey” spoof, I found that other spoofers– mostly of the right wing variety– had come up with a similar idea. Shepard Fairey’s work has long spoofed propaganda, and so when he decided to make an unironic endorsement of candidate Obama, replacing the word “Hope” with his usual “Obey” signature (itself lifted from John Carpenter’s film They Live) seemed like an obvious rejoinder for many pranksters on the left and the right. Bottom line: while I’ve spent the last few months wondering if I’d be the target of a Fairey copyright infringement lawsuit, I woke up today to friends and family asking if I’d planned on suing Comedy Central. It’s a funny idea, but no.
As many of you may know, Fairey himself is in a complicated legal battle with the Associated Press over his unauthorized use of the photo from which the “Hope” poster is based. Fairey is also countersuing the AP. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is trying to figure out how to reign in unauthorized merchandising of the President’s image. To me, this is a bit like trying to put the genie back in the bottle. President Obama is so popular, and so iconic that he represents a one-man stimulus to the consumer economy.
It’s not for nothing that he won Advertising Age’s “Marketer of the Year” award in 2008. In fact, the marketing of Obama as a vehicle for “Hope” and Change” was so successful that it helped inspire re-branding campaigns for Pepsi (ironically, one of Fairey’s bigger corporate clients) and Ikea.
Personally, I’ve been on the hunt for bizarre Obama merchandise. So far, my two favorite personal finds are this Obama votive candle (I still wonder if this depiction of the President as savior/messiah is ironic) and First Family dog tags (sorry, but that’s just creepy).
In fact, as much as Fairey might protest that he didn’t make a dime off of the “Hope” poster, his profile as an artist/brander, and thus his market value, have both risen dramatically. The “Hope” poster is now a part of the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian and the artist has been a guest on Terry Gross, Steven Colbert and Charlie Rose. He recently landed a gig with Saks Fifth Avenue, applying his cheeky socialist aesthetic to a high end retailer, even while America’s economic climate teeters on the brink of class warfare.
Issues of fair use and Obama merchandise aside, it’s distressing that The Daily Show, and indeed much of Obama’s liberal base has been largely silent on recent developments in his foreign policy. Would liberals really sit still while a President McCain deepened the occupation of Afghanistan or displaced half a million people in Pakistan through bombing raids? And what if McCain had maintained the Justice Department’s stonewalling on the rights of detainees and investigating warrantless wiretaps? In short, when are we going to set aside the hero worship and the “hope” rhetoric and push Obama to roll back the rightward shift in American politics? The campaign is over. Obey, indeed.
Those of you who are my friends on Facebook know that I have a small, but manageable addiction to that site– it’s catnip for narcissists. But I also love the ephemeral qualities of the medium, much different from conventional blogging. I’m also a sucker for the navel-gazing memes that circulate on Facebook, basically exhibitionistic chain-letters for people with far too much time on their hands. Here’s a repost of something I wrote a couple months ago– a parody of the popular 25 things meme. Enjoy!
1) I’m still bitter about the dentist who gave me unnecessary X-rays as a child, against my parents’ wishes. Fuck that quack!
2) I’m still pissed at a girl I dated in the early 90s. She dropped acid right before she was supposed to meet my grandmother.
3) She also stole a bunch of my CDs including Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. I want all of my CDs back, Kim!
4) I’m pissed at the guy who cut me off on the 405 near the La Cienega exit three years ago. He almost pushed me off the road. Then, he had the nerve to flip *me* off.
5) I’ll never forgive Rod from Rod’s Records & Video for firing me at the age of 19 because his best friend didn’t like working with me. Show a little backbone, Rod!
6) I’m still angry about that performance evaluation (you know the one) and all the mean things people said about me.
7) And how about that fucker who mugged me in Oakland last year? He got my Macbook Pro, my wallet and all of my ironic t-shirts. I hope they catch that guy and throw the book at him.
8) I’m still pissed at the barista who tricked me into buying an overpriced chocolate malted frappe at Chango two years ago, under the guise of letting me “try the new flavors.” He didn’t say he was gonna charge me for “trying” it. What a scam.
9) That music promoter in Sacramento who still owes me for a gig from 2003, and who later stole my act? Yeah, fuck him too. Where’s my money?
10) I’m still fucking furious at Hotmail for deleting not one, but two of my email accounts for failing to log in for 30 days. What kind of stupid policy is this? I will never use Hotmail again.
11) It still bugs me that my nearly blind, aging pediatrician made a giant blister on my finger because he literally couldn’t see the wart he was supposed to remove. He was way too old and couldn’t see anymore, but he had too much pride to admit it, so he just kept burning my finger with liquid nitrogen until there was a giant, burning lump. The wart sat next to the blister, totally undisturbed.
12) I’ll never forgive my mom for sending me back to him so that he could lance the blister and burn the wart again. We should have reported him to some kind of medical board.
13) I’m sorry I never punched the guy who used to make fun of my breasts in junior high. I hope I see him someday and he tries it again.
14) I still can’t believe they fucking stole the election from both Al Gore and John Kerry. I will never forgive that.
15) If I ever find that mangy old cat that attacked me while I was canvassing in Marin County, I’ll wring its neck. The little bastard drew blood and then hissed at me, like he was the victim or something! What a nasty, hateful little creature.
16) I’ll never forgive Chumbawamba for selling out, especially because they made such a big fucking deal about other bands selling out. Way to go, assholes!
17) I wish I knew what happened to the woman who used to steal peoples’ newspapers near my old apartment on Golden Gate & Baker. She would actually go out early in the morning with a long stick and fish the NY Times out from under peoples’ security gates. One morning I followed her, and spooked her so much that she went away paperless. But I know she’s still pulling this shit somewhere and she deserves to be caught. Buy your own paper, lady.
18) I’m still angry at the guy who sold me a Westside Rentals password that didn’t work, and then refused to refund me my money. It’s been almost two years. Still waiting for that Paypal notice, Mario?
19) One day, about seven years ago, while eating a burrito at El Buen Sabor on Valencia, I dipped a chip in the salsa and found a chewed up piece of gum in the bowl. Whoever did that seriously deserves to be brought to justice.
20) When I first moved to San Francisco, I tried to get a job at Kan Zaman on Haight as a busboy. The manager told me he was “looking for someone who had experience carrying a tray.” Well how exactly am I supposed to get that experience if you don’t give me a break, huh? I hope that guy is suffering in this current economic crisis. Better yet, I hope he’s carrying a tray.
21) I hate Frank Darabont for making “The Shawshank Redemption” and I hate whatever person or institution it was who decided that it’s one of the greatest movies ever made when it is really such a lame, manipulative, shallow, hokey piece of crap. Please people, come to your senses!
22) I still hate my elementary school Principal. My mom asked him to evaluate me for the gifted and talented program. So he called me into his office, played word association with me for two minutes (“Dog/Cat. Black/White) then called my mom and said I wasn’t gifted and talented. Thanks a lot, Dr. Crumbine!
23) I think I know who loosened the screw on my car’s oil pan during my cross country road trip back in 1995. Oil and steam sprayed out everywhere and I was forced to make an emergency stop. But I got the last laugh when the mechanic in Bozeman said I was probably due for an oil change anyways. So, there!
24) The eight digit phone number I got at the all-ages club in Palo Alto when I was seventeen? Honey, you don’t know what you missed out on.
25) I’m still angry at you. Yes, you. I’m trying to forgive and move on with my life. But I’m only human.
This meme is copyrighted by Matt Cornell (but according to the new Facebook Terms of Service, my copyright is actually null and void, since they own anything we upload here, so I guess this is grudge #26. Fuck the new Terms of Service!)