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Thursday, October 30, 2008

The times they are retrofittin'

If a picture is worth a thousand words (750 online), a new photograph making the rounds of the InterWeb speaks its own volume about links between the time of this presidential campaign and an earlier, epochal American life during wartime. "Everything old is new again," the late Peter Allen used to sing. And pertinent, too, in a cheekily retrograde way.

Four young women in the Lysistrata district of Brooklyn sat recently for a photograph. It was nothing lewd or salacious, just Anna Bean, Karen Maine, Dana Gluck and Lindsay Withers sitting on a couch posing for a group picture ... which became an image circulated worldwide with the caption "GIRLS SAY YES to boys who say OBAMA."

Setting aside for a moment (and only a moment) the in-your-face whiff of sexual innuendo more a product of the era that preceded the women’s liberation movement, the photograph taken earlier this year endows the forthcoming election with an historical resonance not everyone will understand right away.

Not until they see the picture this picture is based on.

The quartet of lovelies in the 2008 photograph was inspired by the famous Jim Marshall photograph of sisters Joan Baez, Mimi FariƱa and Pauline Marden sitting in a sunny living room in 1968. The Marshall photo was eventually circulated as a poster sold to benefit the Draft Resistance, with the caption “Girls go out with guys that say no” — the “no” a direct reference to the military draft then roaring its way through America of the Vietnam War.

Despite its presumably progressive political stance, the Obama retrofit of Marshall's photograph has taken its hits from feminists. Jeff Fecke, for example, writing at Blog of the Moderate Left, noted: "The ad’s problematic, because it’s clearly reducing women’s ability to convince men to their facility with what’s between their legs, not what’s between their ears. A reasoned explanation of why Johnny Maverick would be a disaster for women? Men won’t listen to something like that, especially from a girl. But a blow job might get you your way, sweet cheeks. As such, it devalues women. This much is obvious.

"But it also devalues men, as these things often do. After all, the ad implies that men would put their views of what’s good for the country second behind the prospect of sex. ...

"Just as the poster reduces women to a form of currency, it reduces men to easily bribed fools. And this is from liberal women."

It's some kind of testament to the importance of this presidential contest that a sense of anything goes has run powerfully through the whole campaign. John McCain's sputtering bid for the presidency is still animated by that very philosophy.

Was the Brooklyn quartet trying to make a broader historical hookup between momentous eras? Or were they just feeling frisky? Who knows? However sexually extreme their appeal for Obama votes might be, give the Brooklyn crew credit for espousing a politics whose, uh, passion fits the times.
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Image credits: Top photo: bustmagazine.com (immediate source). Bottom photo: © 1968 the immortal Jim Marshall (via Crawdaddy!).

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