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Why the anti-Obama jokesters need a different way to spoof the president

August 4, 2009 |  8:01 pm

Ledger

Raising one's fist defiantly against an oppressor is part of being an American. And doing so to someone as powerful as the president of the United States is not only admirable, but, most would say, downright patriotic.

Which is why I appreciated the creepy, surreal and plain-old-scary posters making their way around Los Angeles this week by an artist who has yet to reveal himself. Political discourse via street art is one of the things that makes this country great, especially if the images are shocking and powerful and weird. The Obama-turned-Joker posters were just that.

However they picked the wrong comic book character to lampoon the president. The Joker, especially the most recent one, is just way too...

cool -- a trait Barack Obama's detractors tried to use against him when he ran for office last year.

Think about who's played the Joker on TV and in the movies: Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and most recently Heath Ledger. Do you really want to complain about someone by calling them suave, hilarious and dashing?

As the kids say: You're doing it wrong.

 Also, the Joker was resourceful and relentless and fast on his feet. He was ambitious and creepily charming. He often sported a dark smile on his crooked face. Oozing with charisma, he wasSocialism quick to toss out a funny tale. In that sense the Joker was like many politicians, but as Batman, Commisioner Gordon, and the rest of Gotham could attest to, the Joker was unlike most politicians because he actually had follow-through.

Talk's cheap, and when you want cheap talk the Riddler is your man, not the Joker.

But finally, and this comes from an LA Now commentor, you can't put a "socialism" tag under Obama/The Joker because The Joker is not a socialist, he's an anarchist. Ledger's character didn't rob from the rich or from the banks to give to the poor, he burned the money. He blew up hospitals. He even murdered his fellow clowny gang members. That is the epitome of someone who sees beauty and order in chaos -- thus, an anarchist. 

Political art is just that. And although it's easy to use Photoshop to apply a green tint to hair and some red tones around the lips, accurate, biting, long-lasting social commentary is an art. Which is usually why the best examples are created by artists like Robbie Conal, Shepard Fairey and Banksy. And why the lesser pieces are tossed off by... jokers.

Kudos to the creator of the poster, but perhaps a more fitting villain would have been Egghead, played by Vincent Price during the kitschy '70s Batman TV series; a foe more intent on puns than evil, but allegedly the world's smartest criminal.

Better yet might be Black Mask, whose cult-like following mirrors that of the president's underground rise to power. And of course he has that black mask and all -- that's clearly hiding the fact that he wasn't born in this country, and probably hails from Sweden, the Bethlehem of Socialism.

-- Tony Pierce

Top photo of Heath Ledger as the Joker courtesy Warner Bros. Bottom photo via KTLA

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