sex, politics and YouTube
Today Bergens Tidende published a kronikk I wrote, Sex, politikk og YouTube, about political YouTube videos in the US campaigns – and especially about the recent ones that are styled as love letters to the candidates: Crush on Obama and Hott4Hill. I should add that I was inspired by Tama Leaver’s post that referenced the videos, and also by a post he linked to at PopPolitics.com called
The Power and Playfulness of Parody: Obama, Hip Hop and Misunderstanding. Go on, have a look at the videos if you haven’t already, they’re amusing:
Note in particular that the video begins with Barack Obama talking about the “conversation” he wants to have with voters – and how ObamaGirl simply takes that literally:
Obama: I want to thank all of you for your time, your suggestions, your encouragement, and your prayers. And I look forward to continuing our conversation in the weeks and months to come.
Obama Girl: Hey B, itís me. If youíre there, pick up. I was just watching you on C-SPAN. [Sigh] Anyway, call me back.
I just love the porn-style sigh she gives immediately after saying “C-SPAN”, don’t you? (C-SPAN, btw, is the channel that broadcasts continuous coverage of what’s happening in the House of Representatives and Congress and so on – like NRK Stortinget in Norway. Hardly sighable in most cases.)
My main point in the kronikk is that beneath the cheap plays on sex there’s a serious critique in these videos of politicians’ attempt to play the “conversation” card. The relationship between ObamaGirl and Obama is visually emphasised as extremely distanced and one-sided. Hott4Hill plays so heavily on clichÈd fantasies (the maid’s uniform..) that it’s quite clear it’s never going to be real. And yet they both participate in a different conversation, that between voters about candidates. Actually I’m not sure I got that last line into the kronikk but I think it’s important.
Since writing the piece, I saw this story at The Guardian yesterday that interestingly discusses the use of the term citizen media for these kind of works: “the notion of a ‘citizen ad’ is an intriguing one, suggesting as it does both a citizen’s arrest – the idea of doing something without pay for the public good.”