Looking around, Friday was a day of curiously juxtaposed ups and downs, as on the one hand there was the pleasant schadenfreude of seeing the wheels continue to come off not only John McCain’s campaign but those of other desperate Republicans as well, while on the other hand we all mourned the passing of the inimitable Studs Terkel.
But rather than focus on anything too serious, I thought I’d take a short break to look at the less weighty side of political life. On the day that Obama took at least a few hours’ break to take his kids to a Halloween party, I dug up an interview with him from that long-ago time before the conventions, in (of all things) Entertainment Weekly, asking him about his choices in (yep) entertainment.
And if the comic I reviewed in my last post demonstrates that the intersection of politics and pop culture can sometimes range from awkward to excruciatingly bad, well… at other times and in other ways, it can be illuminating and fun.
For me, the key take-away quotes were these:
What about TV shows? What shows were you passionate about as a child?
You know, I grew up in the golden age of sitcoms. I think was probably my favorite. …
Last question, and the fate of the Republic hangs on your answer: If you could be any superhero, which superhero would you be?
I was always into the / model. The guys who have too many powers, like , that always made me think they weren’t really earning their superhero status. It’s a little too easy. Whereas Spider-Man and Batman, they have some inner turmoil. They get knocked around a little bit.
(He has intriguingly eclectic taste in music, too. And the last video game he played was Pong.)
Now, I have to say, they may not be about global warming or economic restructuring, but these remarks make it easier than ever to relate to Obama. It’s not just the reminder that there’s more to him than a policy wonk or an eloquent public speaker. It’s also the fact that M*A*S*H was and is one of my all-time favorite TV shows as well—my girlfriend and I just finished watched the whole 11-season DVD box set a few months back, in fact—and a major formative influence on my attitudes toward war and peace.
And it’s that I respect his music; and that like him I never really got the point of recent generations of video games (although he has a few years on me, so while I do fondly remember Pong, my last real obsessions in that vein were Pac-Man and Donkey Kong).
And it’s that he not only has favorite super-heroes, but gets them well enough to explain why.
(John McCain, asked a slightly different set of questions by EW (hey, there was no TV when he was a kid!), instead provides answers that sound like they’ve been put through the spin cycle: he admires Batman because “he doesn’t make his good works known to a lot of people, so a lot of people think he’s just a rich playboy.” (Huh??) And his favorite TV programs allegedly include Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dexter, and The Wire—which could be true, I suppose, but I can’t help thinking he had crib notes from younger campaign staffers. Certainly The Wire, at least, is excellent television—but if McCain watched it, he seems to have missed its recurring theme of the corrupting influence of institutionalized power.)
Look: in most respects I try to be a serious, analytical, issues-based voter, as I’m sure do many others. But once in a while, I can’t deny it’s nice to be able to relate to your candidate as a human being, too. And while I really can’t imagine identifying with the militaristic McCain or (eek!) that provincial fuckwit Sarah Palin, this piece just underscores that Obama—far from being some aloof “elitist”—is ultimately just a guy (with good taste), someone in whose shoes it’s easy to imagine standing.
Anyway. On that note, I hope everyone reading this (I know you’re out there!) had a happy Halloween. (I did. Handed out comics to 135 trick-or-treaters in 45 minutes, then went to see a terrific play, strolled around Chicago on a warm Indian-summer evening taking in the amazing array of costumes, and had a nice late dinner.)
Back to more focused stuff tomorrow!…Tags: McCain, media, Obama, super-heroes