Monday, September 22, 2008

Part II: The Weekly Standard

Departing from Newsweek and veering to the right, we are greeted with this cover from the conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, published by Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes.

Gary Locke's cover (pictured left) seems innocent at first glance, with it's bulbous-headed caricatures zeroing in on the most obvious physical features of the candidates. It hardly requires a second look to get the message: Sarah Palin has energized the McCain campaign and the Republican party as a whole.

In the absolute simplest of terms possible, Palin's caricature is representative of herself, McCain's caricature represents both himself and his campaign, and the elephant is, of course, the Republican party. But there is an obviously intentional subtext to this image that links these three countenances together into a message both illustrating and exploiting the power of sexual persuation.

I doubt that I need to explicitly point out the symbolic value of the elephant's trunk here, positioned as it is squarely in front of McCain's groin and extending upward in a display of phallic turgidity. Within the narrative of the image, Sarah Palin is the stimulus for this eroticized display, lithely reclining at the end of the groping, grasping trunk/phallus. Couple this with the naughty glair in the eyes of the elephant and the message stated above becomes obvious and much more specific: the energy Palin lends to the campaign is of an unmistakably sexual nature.

But this is only half the story when it comes to The Weekly Standard's symbolic depiction of Sarah Palin...

The caricature to the right is composed of several relevant symbolic elements: The Alaskan Wilderness, Sarah Palin, A Beauty Pageant Sash, and a Hunting Rifle. Of these, the two that play the central role are the most dynamic elements in the composition: The Beauty Pageant Sash and the Hunting Rifle intersecting right at the center of the image. In this case, "X marks the spot" for symbolic value.

Here, Palin's femininity (referenced by the beauty-pageant sash) is crossed with her toughness (her moose-hunting rifle) to create a visualization of the much discussed difference between "hockey-moms" and pit-bulls.

Observe that this juxtaposition is perfectly in line with Newsweek's feature article employing an image of Palin as an amalgum of hard edged toughness and softly curved femininity (see previous entry for context and elaboration).

So it seems, at least on this point, that The Weekly Standard and Newsweek are in agreement about which of Sarah Palin's personal qualities are the most important.

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