USA TODAY reports, in pressing news, that Michelle Obama has axed her short-lived romance with bangs. The choppy fringe she premiered just before her husband’s second inauguration made headlines as media outlets from celebrity tabloids to CNN and the mainstream media fawned over her “new development.” These developments, however, come at the expense of an informed population that has a sense of responsibility to themselves and the rest of the world for the actions of its government.
Michelle Obama is a tabloid darling, often pictured in designer fashion with her similarly attired children. She can be found in the pages of People, US Weekly, and women’s magazines that claim to offer well-rounded content for “modern women.” The media’s focus on her appearance and first-lady pseudo-humanitarian projects (like “ending” obesity or “honoring” military families) is laughable at best and dangerously desensitizing at worst. That America voraciously consumes such shallow stories and demands more of them to them is even more depressing.
While women are busy fawning over Michelle Obama’s bangs or her much-discussed recycled Academy Awards gown (she had worn it before, thereby demonstrating her frugality and solidarity with the downtrodden victims of the recession!), the realities of the world are systemically ignored. While she presented an Academy Award for Best Picture to Argo as military men stood behind her, the talk was not of how the film distorted history to make Iranians look like saves. The CIA’s actions in the region were hardly addressed. But never mind the corruption of policies past.
Few Americans are even aware of the atrocities committed by Michelle’s husband, nor do they bother to Google them. While Katy Perry and Beyonce performed at the inauguration in January, innocent civilians around the world were maimed and killed at the hands of Barack Obama. It is not difficult to guess which story got more coverage. This represents the mass-ignorance promoted and perpetrated on the American people. Michelle Obama famously fulfills her role as a female in a pop cultural world, fitting in with actresses and pop stars as America’s most beloved figures–and it seems totally natural. She distracts the public as her husband exploits it.
However, this celebritization of the first lady is only part of a larger trend that has turned the modern presidency into one of fortune, fame, and celebrity (the difference being that Hollywood stars receive more scrutiny and criticism from the press than does this ultimate celebrity couple). It is a saddening fact of American culture that this trend applies to men as well. In the age of the personality president, men are swayed by photo-ops of NBA stars shooting hoops with the president, of Obama knocking fists with Jay-Z (a man who ironically once rapped about the tyranny of the police and their racist policies). His cool jokes and beers with average Americans aim to convince men, too, that Barack Obama is a man of humility and compassion, worthy of praise and adoration (men’s interest is not often provoked by gossip over famous hairstyles).
Though the news reports half-truths about world affairs, they are peppered with celebrity drivel that numbs the mind of the average American. Even if they watch the news for the propagandized version of reality, the channel often switches to Dancing with the Stars or football so that Americans may continue their aspartame-enhanced entertainment splendor. Only when Americans get sick of tracking the fashions of the rich and famous and of grunting and burping to vicarious victories of athletes will Americans demand change, accountability, and more than villainous celebrity for president.