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Obama, Bush and the Joker: Cultural double standard?

August 6, 2009 |  5:18 pm

Ledger

Culture Monster has been getting a ton of feedback regarding our post on the Obama-as-Joker poster that popped up this week around L.A. and has morphed into an online avalanche.

A number of comments mention that last year, Vanity Fair ran an illustrated caricature of then-president George W. Bush in a similar Heath Ledger Joker-face.

The main question Culture Monster readers seem to be asking is: Why is Obama-as-Joker more objectionable (or worthy of coverage) than Bush-as-Joker? Some examples below:

-- Y'all didn't mind it so much when the Joker was Bush in Vanity Fair, huh?

-- The Obama version is an author-less creation of unknown provenance. The Bush version's provenance is well known: it was created by Drew Friedman and was published on Vanity Fair's website in July 2008, which means that it went through (at least some) editorial approval process before it ended up online.  Vanity Fair even gave the drawing a headline in the form of a question ("George W. Bush: Comic-Book Villain?"), as if to take some of the political sting off of the cartoon.

-- Since when is it disturbing to lampoon or posterize the president of this nation? If the so-called journalists would take the time to do just a bit of research they would find that this is an American tradition - and it should NOT make a difference what color the Chief of State happens to be.

-- It must be said: Bush-as-Joker doesn't look very much like George W. Bush. If it weren't for the headline, you would be hard-pressed to identify who exactly the cartoonist is trying to parody. Why does this matter?

What about you -- what's your opinion?

-- David Ng

Photo: Heath Ledger as the Joker in "The Dark Knight." Credit: Warner Bros.

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