Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Just Chillin'"

Maybe it is because I write a column on media and societal portrayals of Italian-Americans for the monthly Fra Noi, that I may be a little more attuned to (or overly sensitive about) things like this, but I had my ire raised Tuesday by what I saw as a sly racial slap at Barack Obama on CNN.

The network touted "exclusive" video of Barack Obama ... sitting on an outdoor lounge chair, in shorts, T-shirt and baseball cap, talking on a cell phone. The person behind the camera for that shot obviously was some distance away. The news reader billed this as "a rare" glimpse of the presidential candidate taking a break from the campaign trail.

This bothered me on a couple fronts. First of all, shooting a faraway video of a presidential candidate with his feet up, chatting on a phone is not an "exclusive." An invasion of privacy, perhaps, but certainly no "exclusive." And secondly, the video caption, which was repeated by the anchor, "Just Chillin'," would likely not have been used to describe John McCain or Hillary Clinton putting their feet up and chatting on a phone.

Even sadder is that very likely there were people at other networks who were pissed that CNN got this video, and they didn't. This is just one symptom of the obsessive insanity of the 24/7 media these days. It seems that no matter how insignificant or ridiculous the item, if one outlet has something, be it video or some stupid, un-newsworthy story, their competition goes nuts believing they have got to get it, as well.

Besides the racially charged caption, the Obama video seems to me no different than those videos you see of mad, rabid packs of paparazzi hounding Brittney Spears at the gas station. There is no need for it, it dumbs down all of us and it is terribly invasive of what one can expect to enjoy as a reasonable degree of privacy.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

I, too, found it to be an invasion of privacy, although I didn't pick up on the racist overtones of the "Just Chillin'" headline. I've just heard so many young people of all races co-opt the phrase until any ethnic significance is bled out of it. Also, I remember that in the 80s we all used to say "Chill Out," which was shortened to "chillin'," so I never took it as a "black" thing.

I suppose it's not the most fortunate of headlines to use, but I thought it was more a reflection of how Barack is the "younger, hipper" candidate, and his casual pose implies tacit permission to describe it with slang (though I've NEVER heard him use any speaking).