Thursday, May 10, 2012

In defense of Julia

Stand tall Julia! Haters gonna hate!
Well I've criticized President Obama on occasion here on this blog, but I'm feeling the love for the POTUS right now thanks to his stepping up for social justice.

And I don't think this will hurt him in the election - as Frank Rich observed:
I, for one, never understood the point of saying you were “evolving” when many of the voters you were pandering to don’t even believe in evolution.
But I'm nevertheless annoyed with Frank Rich for his criticism of the Obama campaign's The Life of Julia which seems to focus entirely on aesthetics and on whether the Right will be able to parody it:
But the Obama camp’s didactic comic strip suggested what Cathy might have looked like had it been conceived by a humorless committee of social planners in a Scandinavian government bureaucracy; it played into every right-wing caricature of Obama as the “socialist” avatar of a nanny state. That this thing saw the light of day suggests that the Obama campaign has management and quality-control issues that had better be addressed.
Over at the New Yorker, Jill Lepore has the same concerns:
“The Life of Julia” borrows its aesthetic from USA Today and its narrative logic from Chutes and Ladders. It is a very bad place to begin a campaign. As a story, “The Life of Julia” is a mess; it’s got the verisimilitude of a string of paper dolls. As an argument, it’s worse. Better public education and affordable health care are worth fighting for, urgently, and they matter to everyone, but the heart of the fight is not over whether Julia, a fictitious college-educated Web entrepreneur, can one day plant Brussels sprouts.
First off, I disagree. I like its aesthetic, and I think it gets the message across succinctly and clearly. And the "Brussels sprouts" line is Lepore's own invention. What it actually says:

Under President Obama: Julia retires. After years of contributing to Social Security, she receives monthly benefits that help her retire comfortably, without worrying that she'll run out of savings. This allows her to volunteer at a community garden.

Under Mitt Romney: Julia's benefits could be cut by 40%.

There's not a damn thing wrong with that.

But maybe it doesn't work for most voters - I think it will - and I seriously doubt it's the disaster Rich or Lepore both claim it is - but I have no evidence.

But neither do Frank Rich or Jill Lepore.

All they have are their aesthetic complaints and concern that it's able to be parodied. Whether or not it accomplishes the goal of its existence - reaching the voters - does not seem to matter at all to either of them.

I mean, of course it can be parodied by the Right. The Right will find a reason to parody anything. The Right found it hysterically funny when Rush Limbaugh imitated Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's symptoms. Does Frank Rich really thinks there's a way to make anything parody-proof?

And as far as aesthetics - I guess Rich and Lepore wanted it to be illustrated by R. Crumb, but I think it looks just fine, and many voters don't share Lepore's tastes.

The New Yorker and New York Magazine are good publications, but let's face it, their writers are a tad, shall we say, self-impressed.