Mar 8, 2014
What Reactions to the Obama-Thorning-Schmidt-Cameron Selfie Say About the Media
Posted on Dec 11, 2013
A glance at U.S. media coverage of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service Tuesday will tell you only two important things happened: President Obama shook hands with Cuba’s Raul Castro and also took a selfie with the prime ministers of Denmark and the U.K. Neither of these nonevents should have received the attention they did, but the fact that they did tells us a lot about our media’s priorities.
As has already been pointed out, speculation over the Obama-Castro handshake is fruitless, but what the “selfie seen ’round the world” spurred was, in a word, vitriolic. A candid shot of the three world leaders posing for a picture on Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s phone while Michelle Obama looked away was posted all over the Internet. And, with an absurd penchant for drama and blatant sexism, the media went on to create scenario after scenario that demeaned two powerful women, as The Guardian’s Kayla Epstein puts it, into the “blonde, ditzy seductress and…the jealous, shrewish wife.”
That this was one of the most discussed aspects of the memorial of one of the world’s greatest leaders is just plain sad. Especially since other more telling things happened that actually involved the U.S. president, such as the crowd’s booing that revealed bubbling discontent toward current South African President Jacob Zuma.
The media’s overreaction to the selfie once again shows how quickly they jump toward misogyny, eager to reduce figures as significant as Thorning-Schmidt and Michelle Obama as though being embroiled in soap opera-like scenarios is all women can really do with their time and energy. What’s more is that all of these theatrics were almost certainly imagined, seeing as the photographer who captured the selfie says the first lady was laughing with the three only moments before the picture was taken. All in all, Epstein remarks, “when you look at all the players involved in this fictional telenovela, it’s really the media who failed to observe the proper decorum.” But one could argue it’s merely another example of the dramatic decline in the quality of media coverage that seems to only worsen with time.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi
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