The FLOTUS, the Selfie, and my analysis

its mediaYesterday evening, I caught whiff of a story on Twitter, about the first lady of the United States, her husband and the Danish prime minister. A narrative was constructed using three images that depicted the POTUS, the beautiful prime minister and the British prime minister, David Cameron, posing for a selfie. The outcome of the story was that the First Lady blatantly disapproved to the point of swapping seats with her husband.

Media reports ran with lines such as:

Washington Post: “The first lady looks stern – dare we say disapproving? – throughout.”

New York Daily News: “..sat at a distance, as if in disapproval of the digital display.”

Huffington Post: “Michelle Obama is having none of it”

(thanks @ Salon for curating these quotes and for a cool-headed report on the “selfies”)

An angry black woman is an old stereotype. I’ll confess I feed into it sometimes, and it’s tough not to when you watch Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman or Waiting to Exhale and… you know what i’m talking about. However, when you see a few like Olivia Pope in SCANDAL (still a media narrative) who can get so mad yet DO NOT take off their earrings and whip out the vaseline, you start to stroke your chin and give the media that what-are-you-up-to look.

I am a black woman, I get angry sometimes, but it’s because i’ve got blood in my veins not cream soda.

Going back to the FLOTUS. An angry black woman who is also the First Lady of the United States makes news look good (online hits). As Salon’s writer rightly pointed out, it’s sad that this is even reported as a story. Seriously, this selfie-drama made all major news organisations that ran with it look like Heat magazine, or UK’s Look, for a day. In Nigeria, the equivalent would be City People and Encomium. Anyway you catch my drift…

I have always hammered on how the media constructs realities for us, either through the news or entertainment and other forms. By constructing realities, I mean they tell a story (through facts), thus giving us a window from which our world view materialises. Facts can be presented in an “economical” way that pass an unintended message. We are increasingly nudged to adopt an interpretation we think is ours. Because they are facts and they speak for themselves (irrespective of how they are presented), we throw critical thinking to the burner and swallow the hook and line + the sinker.

I don’t have the FACTS as to what went down in that room, or the FLOTUS’ head, especially when seats were swapped with her husband. However, 3 images are not enough to draw the kind of conclusions found in the media, which apparently piggyback on stereotypes about the black woman (and a blond woman). Stereotypes are not good.

Within the time lapse between the 3 images, a lot of non-news-worthy events could have taken place, but didn’t get reported because they taint this sensational narrative. How do you explain away the shared smiles, the hand-kissing and the adoring looks passed between the President and his Wife during the event? So what do we (media gatekeepers do), we SELECT those pictures… and make them trend!

I am a big follower of the FLOTUS. Thankfully this is not an academic analysis, so I am injecting myself into this piece and asking you – do you really the First Lady of the United States would ask her husband to swap seats just because he took a selfie with another woman? Seriously. I wouldn’t. Would you?

What’s your take on this whole gist. Please share.


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