Obama depiction poses questions

Published 11:59 pm Friday, August 7, 2009

Recently, an image of President Obama depicted as Heath Ledger’s Joker character from “The Dark Knight” has been posted around Los Angeles and several other cities. The image, which shows Obama covered in white face paint, also includes the word “socialism” in small letters below the portrait. It could be seen as a satire of the “Hope” poster from Obama’s campaign.

Some have said the poster is racist, because it depicts Obama as wearing “white face” makeup, sort of like a reversal of the old black-faced white minstrel (which by the way, I do think was racist). But to make that accusation about this poster is ridiculous — it’s Obama as Heath Ledger’s Joker character, who just happened to have his face painted white in “The Dark Knight.”

Yet, even in the midst of this obvious evidence, there are still those who say the poster is racist because those who have not seen the movie before will interpret it as a “white faced” caricature. This is scary stuff, people. Does this mean now that any satire will be deemed unacceptable as long as a single person somewhere finds something offensive by it?

I remember, relatively early in the 2008 campaign, reading an article about a comedian who said that it was hard to make fun of then-candidate Barack Obama. He said the senator was too well spoken, intelligent and gentlemanly, and made few gaffes that would lead to comedy.

I remember laughing to myself and saying, “Yeah, right. Comedians aren’t making fun of the guy because they’re afraid they’ll be called racists.”

There is no limit to the amount of ways you can make fun of Obama. The man has larger-than-normal ears, he isn’t exactly the most Herculean of athletes and he has a choppier speech pattern than William Shatner. As far as gaffes go, Obama once said that the U.S. had “57 states” and that a tornado in Kansas killed 10,000 people, when it actually only killed 12 (To be fair, I’m not always the best at math, either).

Trust me, if you really wanted to make jokes about Obama, there is no shortage of material to do so. But it seems as if any insult directed at Obama will brand the comedian as a “racist,” simply because the president happens to be black. The same comedians who ripped George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle to shreds won’t lampoon Obama to anywhere near the same degree.

Martin Luther King Jr. said he wanted people to be judged by their character, not by the color of their skin. And he wasn’t joking.