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Obama Works It
September 29, 2012 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Obama Works It
posted by Evernix (118 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm mochapickle, and I approve this SLYT.
posted by mochapickle at 11:09 AM on September 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Who built that?
posted by chavenet at 11:15 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was fun and lighthearted... thanks for posting it :)
posted by starscream at 11:16 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was fun!
posted by absalom at 11:19 AM on September 29, 2012


Also really fun: And now they have murder in the spice building
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:20 AM on September 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


Oh my god, I watched this in the embedded player and I was really enjoying it, and thinking "man this guy reminds me of nathan barnatt!" Then I clicked a related video and discovered it was nathan barnatt all along and now I'm watching it again
posted by tehloki at 11:21 AM on September 29, 2012


I needed an anthem and didn't know it. This might be perfect.

This will work for the next few weeks, at least. Let's get this started, indeed. (also, the part where he falls into the fountain? I love his reaction.)
posted by bilabial at 11:23 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was fucking awesome.
posted by Space_Lady at 11:27 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep, that made me smile. If only all campaign ads were so lighthearted and sweet.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:31 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


huge fan of this vid, thanks for posting :)
posted by rebent at 11:31 AM on September 29, 2012


Romney's should just be five minutes of doing the Cabbage Patch.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:32 AM on September 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Looks like it's my turn to be Humorless Killjoy of the Day here at Metafilter, but I didn't get it. As in, Huh, I don't understand what this is supposed to be or how I'm expected to react to it.

But, also, the white people in exagerrated character masks of black people made me feel kind of uncomfortable. As in, quite uncomfortable. As in, "Oh, look, they've found a form of blackface that is apparently OK now. What a breakthrough!"

I don't usually think of myself as the humorless killjoy type. But there you have it.
posted by not that girl at 11:33 AM on September 29, 2012 [38 favorites]


tehloki: "man this guy reminds me of nathan barnatt!"

I watched the first few seconds and then when 0:40 hit I said, "Oh. It's Nathan Barnatt." No one else can do that with their body like he does. Then I saw him sitting at the video game at 1:33.

... then in the course of gathering those time links I found that if you click through to watch the video on YouTube (instead of embedded in MetaFilter) it's clearly on his personal YouTube page.

that made me feel far less clever.
posted by komara at 11:33 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I knew right away that wasn't Obama. 'Cuz Obama would be riding a Harley, not a Triumph. Didn't fool me for one minute, nope, not for one minute.
posted by HuronBob at 11:35 AM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


And what is so epic about this President, is that I could see him making a "response video" and doing the same damn thing. Only better...
posted by Windopaene at 11:37 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Holy crap does that guy talk fast.
posted by XMLicious at 11:41 AM on September 29, 2012


I enjoyed the arcade games in the background. :P
posted by wierdo at 11:44 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought shufflin' white guys in blackface died out in the 1960s.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:53 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm weirded out by the hard, shiny plastic mask too. I was immediately thinking of people robbing banks. It was a little too creepy for me.
posted by arnicae at 11:55 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would vote for that version of Obama, which is more that Obama v.1 can say.

Also, this was definitely filmed in my neighborhood, which makes me very happy.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:19 PM on September 29, 2012


Er, creepy and weird. I didn't get the joy- that mask was horrible, verging on offensive. I've seen photos of people wearing that mask at anti-Obama protests, so maybe it's my problem. Still, white man in blackface, dancing? I'm not sure if it is an okay thing to do if you like Obama, if at the same time it would not be okay if you don't like Obama and are trying to be offensive. I get that intent has a value but I can't imagine this happening outside here in Oakland and people not being variously embarrassed, appalled, or offended. But you know, that's just IMO. Maybe at some point in the future it wouldn't be wrong, but I don't think that point has come yet.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:39 PM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


But, also, the white people in exagerrated character masks of black people made me feel kind of uncomfortable. As in, quite uncomfortable. As in, "Oh, look, they've found a form of blackface that is apparently OK now. What a breakthrough!"

You know they sell these everywhere, right? And not just for black people to buy? I'm sure though that if they knew how uncomfortable they were for white people to look at though, they'd stop.
posted by hermitosis at 12:42 PM on September 29, 2012 [12 favorites]


Surely presidential caricature masks are a well enough established part of the landscape (and obvious cultural reference points at least since Point Break) that it would be rather peculiar to judge one of Obama according to a different standard just because he's black.
posted by howfar at 12:47 PM on September 29, 2012 [45 favorites]


I get that there are a lot of ways that this could have gone horribly wrong, even down to the choice of music or style of dancing. However, the dancing is an expression of pure joy and energy, and the music comes with no pre-loaded associations. Why project anything unnecessarily troublesome onto it?

Are all caricatures of the president offensive, just because he's black? Boy, somebody better tell all of our political cartoonists.
posted by hermitosis at 12:47 PM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


exagerrated character masks

I think a photorealistic mask (of anyone) would have been even creepier. (warning, 1980s session muscian rock)
posted by zippy at 12:48 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not offended by the masks, and I don't see them as blackface. And I thought that was fabulous and joyful. It had me dancing in my seat (and I don't dance).
posted by mudpuppie at 12:52 PM on September 29, 2012 [14 favorites]


Why project anything unnecessarily troublesome onto it?

It's not a projection- this is how I feel and what I am reminded of when I watch it. I don't expect anyone else to agree with me, and if I did, there's ample evidence in the comments before mine that that's not the case, so why post at all? There's no thick, red line that separates perfectly acceptable from holy shit racism, and certainly not one that everyone is going to agree with. I don't think people are being obtuse or color-blind or dismissive of racism by getting joy from this video, and I think it's bullshit to tell people that feel otherwise that they're "projecting". You're not the arbiter of the legitimacy of people's responses.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:56 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obama 99 Problems Remix

posted by angrycat at 1:01 PM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


<>I think it's bullshit to tell people that feel otherwise that they're "projecting". You're not the arbiter of the legitimacy of people's responses.

Wow, but apparently you are. Alright then, I see one of us brought a lot more baggage into this conversation than the other, though I'm sure I'm just projecting.
posted by hermitosis at 1:02 PM on September 29, 2012


So, this was obviously shot in/around Los Angeles. I NEED TO KNOW where those arcade games are located, please. (it's not any of the other arcades I know of around here)
posted by ShutterBun at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: My baggage, let me show it to you.
posted by dobie at 1:06 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gets SOOO much better at 2:45.
posted by ColdChef at 1:07 PM on September 29, 2012


You know they sell these everywhere, right? And not just for black people to buy? I'm sure though that if they knew how uncomfortable they were for white people to look at though, they'd stop.

I am confused by this answer as well as by the video! What is the relevance of "they sell these everywhere"?
posted by not that girl at 1:09 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


This goes to 11 around 2:45.

Also, points for not doing this as a Gangnam Style parody.
posted by eugenen at 1:11 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey howfar, I just tried to articulate that idea and noticed that you did it extremely well. So thanks.
posted by Buckt at 1:12 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, but apparently you are. Alright then, I see one of us brought a lot more baggage into this conversation than the other, though I'm sure I'm just projecting.

Hermitosis, with a lot of respect, I'm finding this engagement pretty hostile. I value a lot of your contributions and so I'm hoping (as someone who appreciates much of what you say) that perhaps you could back off a bit? Sorry if I'm out of line.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:14 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's bullshit to tell people that feel otherwise that they're "projecting". You're not the arbiter of the legitimacy of people's responses.

Wow, but apparently you are. Alright then, I see one of us brought a lot more baggage into this conversation than the other, though I'm sure I'm just projecting.


Give me a break, dude. You can feel however you want about this video- I have never said otherwise. What I don't appreciate is being told that my personal response that I couched in entirely "IMO" terms is being dismissed by you as "projection". If you don't understand why claiming someone is making up their feelings based on completely unlikely associations is not cool than I have nothing else to say about it.

going to work now.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:16 PM on September 29, 2012


I am confused by this answer as well as by the video! What is the relevance of "they sell these everywhere"?

As in, from Nixon onward, jokey Presidential masks have been a popular novelty, and we've been seeing Obama masks (on both black and white people) since before he was elected. And why shouldn't we? The mask exaggerates his features in such a general way that it actually resembles the Nixon mask more than it does Barack himself.

If anything, I see this as a sort of cheerful reclamation of a mask that might normally be used (as all of these Presidential masks tend to) for mockery. If the George W. Bush campaign'd had any sense of humor whatsoever, they totally could have spun something like this.

Hermitosis, with a lot of respect, I'm finding this engagement pretty hostile.

The comment in which I actually used the word "project" is incredibly civil. The response to it, not so much.
posted by hermitosis at 1:17 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I do see your point there; my first instinct is discomfort in exactly the same way not that girl expresses discomfort. That said, I acknowledge that putting Obama in a different category from other presidents because he's Black is also super problematic. It's an interesting nexus of two modes of expression and I think it means there's a lot to sort out here. I'm definitely still trying to figure out a) how I feel b) why c) to what extent that matters at all since I'm not the potentially injured party in any part of this discussion, being both white and not the president.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:35 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had the same initial blackface concerns on watching the video, but was won over by the sheer joyfulness of the dancing. So yeah, I can see why people might have issues with it.
posted by arcticseal at 1:47 PM on September 29, 2012


So in the Point Break remake, who wears the Obama mask?
posted by localroger at 1:57 PM on September 29, 2012


I like the video. And Obama.

I did immediately have to deal with the inevitable "black face" red flag when the video started. I got distracted focusing way too much on the guy's hands, trying to decide between "white guy" or "light skinned black person." Partially through my first viewing I gave up the game and decided that I didn't care at all. That was right about the time he fell in the fountain.

I understand not that girl's reaction to it; I was almost there myself. But I think maybe black face is different when a performer is impersonating a real person versus dressing as a caricature that mocks an entire ethnic group in broad strokes.
posted by dchrssyr at 1:57 PM on September 29, 2012


I said that wrong. Someone else want to try to parse out the difference?
posted by dchrssyr at 1:58 PM on September 29, 2012


This wouldn't be offensive if it were a Clinton or Reagan or Nixon or Carter mask so it's not offensive because it's an Obama mask. If it were a white guy *in* blackface doing this then I'd agree on offensive, but caricature presidential masks are so much a part of culture that the skin color is secondary in this case.

I really think that getting offended by this says a lot more about the person getting offended than the video. Are we really still seeing him as black first and President second?
posted by mikesch at 1:59 PM on September 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


In the infamous ethnic stereotype costume thread, there was a lot of talk about how it was less problematic for someone to go as a figure of another ethnicity, as long as the costume wasn't itself a performance of ethnicity. Like, it's fairly acceptable (if a bit weird) for me to dress up in a flight attendant uniform and tell people I'm Jackie Brown, but it's seriously offensive for me to color my skin to do it.

By that standard, this dude (and dudette) are okay. They're not performing another ethnicity. Their unclothed skin is clearly visible. They're just wearing novelty masks that you can buy at the mall.
posted by hermitosis at 2:13 PM on September 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


If he'd been shooting the video around me, I'd have no idea what to think of it, and would be reluctant to give him a high-five. Seeing the finished product, it's clearly a supportive celebration of his presidency, so I'm not sure how that can be racist. If it were mocking him, that's a whole 'nother can of worms. But if YouTube were popular in the 90s, this just as easily could've been a Clinton mask.

And thinking of this guy as only being black or white comes a bit too close to being Scott Brown-ish. Obama himself is mixed, so just on appearance, who's to say the dancer isn't also? Or something else entirely?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:35 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


They're just wearing novelty masks that you can buy at the mall.

The optimistic, joyful post-racial world this video lives in is perhaps not yet the same as what the rest of the country lives in. So it is maybe a bit of a complicated matter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:52 PM on September 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


Obama is bi-racial, so this is only 50% racist, at worst.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:15 PM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have to admit that the mask threw me for a few seconds, too, but on further thought I don't really see a problem with it.
posted by wierdo at 3:16 PM on September 29, 2012


I really think that getting offended by this says a lot more about the person getting offended than the video. Are we really still seeing him as black first and President second?

This is a fascinating rhetorical trick.
posted by not that girl at 3:18 PM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is a fascinating rhetorical trick.

Why must it be considered a trick? Sincerely asking.
posted by hermitosis at 3:33 PM on September 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


So, this was obviously shot in/around Los Angeles. I NEED TO KNOW where those arcade games are located, please. (it's not any of the other arcades I know of around here)

The dude lives in or near Santa Monica (he advertised a bouncy castle party at his place, for anyone to come to, once). When he did the video for the Madeon song, I think there were several locations from around there.

So, um, I'd check arcades in that area?
posted by zippy at 3:33 PM on September 29, 2012


But, also, the white people in exagerrated character masks of black people made me feel kind of uncomfortable. As in, quite uncomfortable. As in, "Oh, look, they've found a form of blackface that is apparently OK now. What a breakthrough!"

Easily avoided if they had just closed with a shot of 'Barack' shooting Gary Busey.
posted by mannequito at 3:33 PM on September 29, 2012


Dances pretty good for a black guy.........with white hands.
posted by MtDewd at 3:49 PM on September 29, 2012


Why must it be considered a trick? Sincerely asking.

Well, for a couple of reasons. But mostly it's such a nifty twist, turning the question of racism so that the person who is uncomfortable with this portrayal is actually the racist one. Of course, there's also the reductionism--that if this video made you uncomfortable, you are a person who sees "race first" and the president as a human being after that.

I'd like to go on record, though, as pointing out that I never said I was offended. I just noticed the resemblance to what the dancer was doing in the video to blackface, and it made me uncomfortable.

It seems like a lot of people in this thread who liked the video were familiar with the person who made it and his style of dancing. I am not familiar with him. I am perfectly well aware the novelty president mask is a thing anybody can buy, though I've never seen one in a store or on a person in real life. I have, in fact, so far as I can recall, only ever seen them in that vaguely-recalled bank-robbery movie. I have no idea what cultural resonance they might have for people more generally. Do you see people wearing them pretty often? Why? For what purpose? I also had never, so far as I know, heard the song before, and I couldn't understand the lyrics very well, so I wasn't sure what mood the song was meant to evoke.

So one thing that affected my viewing of the video was perplexity, because I couldn't understand the various cues telling me what the video was about and what reaction I was expected to have to it (of course one doesn't always have the reaction someone is trying to evoke--but you usually can tell pretty plainly what it is). When I said up-thread that I didn't know what reaction the video wanted me to have, I meant it. For the first half of the video, I honestly wasn't sure if it was an homage to Obama, or making fun of him somehow.

All of that certainly colored my reaction to the masks. For whatever that's worth.
posted by not that girl at 3:51 PM on September 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not white. Not offended by the video. Sincerely jealous of that guy's mad dancing skills.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 3:56 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


not that girl, I'm going to try and explain to you what I believe the intended reaction of the video was. Though, I feel like when you're confused about so many aspects of the video and the only thing you understand is "white man in a black man mask", you should probably step back and try to gather more information before stating an opinion on the video.

The base of the intent of the video was to make something joyous, that would go viral, and has a good message. [It ends with encouraging people to vote.]
Here's how the video tries to accomplish that:
Nathan Barnett, the man in the video, is known on the internet as that awesome guy who dances crazy. Just seeing him, for lots of people, will suddenly make them go "hey this is awesome yayyy!"
The song, which is also pretty popular, is by Two Door Cinema Club. The premise of the song is "hey things are going to be hard but keep fighting and you can show the world how awesome you are!" Here's the chorus:
Let's make this happen, girl. You're gonna show the world that something good can work, and it can work for you. And you know that it will.
Let's get this started girl, we're moving up, we're moving up, It's been alot to change but you will always get what you want.
Took a little time to make it a little better,
it's only going out, just one thing and another, you know!


So, for most people who are familiar with the song, its another signifier for positivity.

As far as the masks go, they're neutral, in my opinion. They're enough of a cultural thing on their own that i feel like they can stand solo without having any other baggage along with it. And by that I mean they're widely enough known as a common reference that when it's used, its probably for the sake of itself, and not trying to reference anything else. I admit I was a bit worried when I first saw him, but then I saw him dance, and heard the song, and my mood changed from "uh, oh" to "oh good this is a happy thing!"

So, yeah. There you have it. That's how you were supposed to feel. But you not getting the intention of the video isn't really a fault of your own, more a fault of the video not communicating broadly enough that this was indeed a happy thing that's supposed to make people excited and hopeful for the election.
posted by FirstMateKate at 4:16 PM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


As long as we're discussing race in a viral dance video ... I felt this shiver of 'oh no' when I realized 'white dude in a black dude mask.' That went away in about .3 seconds when the whole joyful dancing bit and 'oh yeah, the President' bits of my brain lit up.

If it had been a 'generic' black mask (if such a thing exists) then, yes, Al Jolson blackface would have persisted and I would have felt pretty creeped out.

But in the context of the video, and the President, and the music, and the performer and his history of making fun videos, rather than being a Tea Partier or something, I'm ok with this.

And while I recognize the 'huh, blackface on a white person, is that really OK?' feeling, and of course it's not OK, I guess I don't think this video is an example of that.
posted by zippy at 4:28 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


ShutterBun: "So, this was obviously shot in/around Los Angeles. I NEED TO KNOW where those arcade games are located, please. (it's not any of the other arcades I know of around here)"

That's actually his garage

Also, did anyone else notice this in the credits:

Body camera rig by Dan Bartolucci http://www.inFluxLab.com
Body rig digital clean up by Brian Garcia http://www.tacolamp.com


I can now no longer watch this without being very distracted by the CG crotch cover-up :p
posted by rebent at 4:41 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


First - That is some dancing!
FirstMateKate - totally get that. I was not familiar with this dancer guy, but he is truly joyful and fun and the video made me smile big. But I also understand what Not that Girl is saying. Not so much blackface, exactly. It's not that. It is obvious the guy is white and wearing a "the President" mask, and I am sure this was meant as pro Obama. I think the issue that made me uncomfortable is that a video of our president dancing is way too close to a video very racist opposition people would put out. (because, dancing black people!) It is so wrong, but I could see this being played at a Republican fundraiser and everyone laughing knowingly. The opposite of the intent .

Hermitosis, it awesome you live in a place where you do not have to deal with this shit every day, but this is what makes some of us uncomfortable. We know these people and how they think.
posted by mkim at 5:02 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought the video was awful. A pretty-good dancer in a certain style (readily seen on most Broadway stages and often executed with greater competence) using the concept of "Obama" and "get out the vote" to promote himself.

The song was nothing, an average pop song.

If this performer possessed any cleverness, any wit whatsoever, he could have used the Obama premise to compose a dance that had *something*, *anything* to do with Obama: the man, his job, his background, his accomplishments, etc. -- but he did *nothing* with his idea except wear that stupid ugly mask (I bought one of those for my son for some Halloween years ago - it was the only one we could find. It does seem marginally racist, but that's the least of the problems here).

In addition, one does not associate Obama with southern California, palm trees, etc., -- although i guess something might have been done with the Occidental College part of his past (a trivial point, though, obviously).

Just a really dumb video that is certainly not inconsistent with the odious non-word "positivity".
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:02 PM on September 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


People do No-bones and swap scenery mid-jump on broadway? Shoot, I've been to all the wrong shows! It really is too bad that a college drop-out isn't performing nearly to the standard of professionally-trained dancers. I'll stop watching his videos - thanks for the tip!
posted by rebent at 5:22 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


DMelanogaster, consider that maybe it is you that is the really dumb video.

I thought it was fun, a pretend Obama dancing like crazy. Some people are realllly overthinking this.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:23 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


And further Hermitosis - re your accusation that the uncomfortable people need to examine themselves, this is what I mean. It's not us, it's what we know about the people around us.
posted by mkim at 5:25 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


actually, Dmelanogaster, if you look at the times that Nathan dances with other dancers, I see a huge difference between his self-taught moves which look incredibly natural, and the (I assume) trained dancer's body moves, which look uncanny and as if they are just moving their arms and legs and torsos in a particular mannercanny and as if they are just moving their arms and legs and torsos in a particular manner

eg: this one (particularly 3:06)
posted by rebent at 5:36 PM on September 29, 2012


I NEED TO KNOW where those arcade games are located, please.

Heck, I'd settle for a laundromat that has Ms Pac-Man.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:41 PM on September 29, 2012


Metafilter: inconsistent with the odious non-word "positivity
posted by howfar at 5:43 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could easily imagine the President enjoying this video*, which is enough for me to consider it non-offensive. Personally thought it was awesome, though I too looked for skin color on his hands on first viewing and thought 'huh' for a minute. But that's my personal baggage and doesn't have anything to do with what Nathan intended.

* - While watching it, I kept wondering if OFA has a staffer whose full time job is to collect happy videos like this and put them in a private channel or in a sort of briefing as a way to boost campaign morale and provide a small measure of public opinion. Probably not, but was a fun job to think about.
posted by honestcoyote at 5:48 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Point Break wasn't the first cultural reference that came to mind here, True Blood was. In that context, it was a little troublesome at first.

Then I kept watching and started smiling. It reminds me of the original optimism of Obama 2008. It was an inspiring example of hope and support oof a candidate somebody believes in. Reminds me of the spontaneous dancing to Journey in Capitol Hill, Seattle after the election. Good fun.

And I say that as somebody deeply unhappy with Obama's civil liberties record.
posted by formless at 5:56 PM on September 29, 2012


Hermitosis, it awesome you live in a place where you do not have to deal with this shit every day, but this is what makes some of us uncomfortable. We know these people and how they think.

...It's not us, it's what we know about the people around us.


What on earth are you talking about? No really, what is it you think you know about my background or where I live? If it's in any way reflective of what you think you know about the people in your area, then apparently the world has a thing or five left to teach you.
posted by hermitosis at 6:08 PM on September 29, 2012


Supple joints for sure but hokey as hell.
posted by deo rei at 6:08 PM on September 29, 2012


Argh, people, people, the bank robbers in Point Break were the Ex-Presidents.

Can we please not tempt fate here?
posted by BrashTech at 6:24 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hermitosis "What on earth are you talking about? No really, what is it you think you know about my background or where I live?"
Don't you live in New York? I am not trying to insult you. Dude, I read your other websites and think you are great! I am telling you I live in the south and things are different here. Not trying to be combative, just trying to explain how racism works here. IT IS A HUGE THING. That everyone pretends doesn't exist. I meant no insult to you. Calm down.
posted by mkim at 6:29 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


And the fact that the racism element did not even occur to you is a good thing! It's just that that is rare. Really.
posted by mkim at 6:45 PM on September 29, 2012


FirstMateKate, I..oh, never mind.
posted by not that girl at 6:46 PM on September 29, 2012


No, not never mind. It has been interesting watching people read so very much into my very mild and personal comments in this thread. FirstMateKate, thank you, but I didn't need an explantation. And since I wasn't expressing any strong opinions in a particularly pointed way, or arguing with anyone, I don't think I needed to be asked to go away.
posted by not that girl at 6:49 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Callouts are weird.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:56 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


thank you, but I didn't need an explantation

You probably shouldn't say that you don't understand it and ask people questions about their understanding of it then. If you don't want to talk about it, y'know, just don't talk about it maybe?
posted by howfar at 6:56 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who was telling you to go away? Was that comment directed at me? I mean, I'm the only one you're calling out by name, so I'm assuming you mean me, and I never told you to go away.
Also, I gave you an explanation because you stated, at least 3 times that you didn't get it, that you were perplexed, or, quite specifically that you didn't understand what the video wanted you reaction to be. So I told you. I don't understand how that trading of info is equal to me reading so much into some mild and personal comments.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:09 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ. Please take this to MeTa if the lot of you have a creepy personal vendetta against Hermitosis. He seemed to have made it clear that he was just expressing his own opinions, which should be a perfectly okay thing to do around here without fear of being harassed.
posted by schmod at 7:56 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


And, for what it's worth, I think that anybody who shouts RACISM needs to examine the context and intent before making that claim.

Historically, yes, this does resemble some mean-spirited racist stuff. There's absolutely no evidence of ill intent here. Taken out of context, you can find a racial subtext in anything. Should Obama stop playing basketball and eating chicken, because those things are "stereotypically black," and could be used by his enemies with racist agendas? Of course not — that's akin to admitting defeat.

This is a goofy YouTube video about the president. Any American should be able to make a harmless/goofy YouTube video about the president without having the race card automatically thrown on them.

That said, I'm pretty glad that SNL finally found a black dude to portray Obama. Fred Armisen's portrayal of him always made me kind of uncomfortable.
posted by schmod at 8:04 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


In addition, one does not associate Obama with southern California, palm trees, etc., -- .

There aren't palm trees in Hawaii ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:49 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


strangely combative thread. the video grew on me and joyous is exactly the word for the way this guy dances. started out asking myself if he was a good dancer or just energetic, ended up at "who cares, dig it."

it would be nice to live in a world where black face was not a thing anyone has to worry about, where this video could be judged apart from that and on its own merits. i don't believe we live in that world and i'm totally ok with metafilter dissecting it. the issue of ethnic costumes and problematic stereotypes is interesting to me as someone who wants people to have fun while remaining sensitive to the bigger picture. and yes, it's hard to ask folks to do that without being called a killjoy.

i say not guilty, but only because in context there doesn't seem to be any racial aspect whatsoever. it definitely crossed my mind and i looked at his hands for a bit before i got caught up in the performance. if this guy had, for example, a history of making provocative videos, we'd be having a different conversation.

plus this particular president has gotten so much ugly shit for being black, and this being election season, well that's part of the context too. it's fair to treat this president a little differently because it's clear others are knee jerk doing that to him already. no need to impugn the motives of mefites coming at it from that angle.

also if this obama got out of the jeep he'd dance like nathan.
posted by twist my arm at 8:52 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hrm. That was light on policy.
posted by mazola at 9:07 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, blackface a form of ethnic aggression depends on context and to some extent on the intention of the performer. In and of itself, blackface is not racist. One of the first cinematic depictions of blackface minstrelsy in Alan Crosland's 1927 The Jazz Singer is a perfect example of this.

Blackface in that film is meant both as a tribute and acknowledgement, one that from our contemporary eyes is troubled.

The difficulty of determining the final meaning of any blackface performance (including blackface by black persons) is the stuff of critical race theory and studies.

Ultimately, there is no standard by which a performance can be judged to be racist or not. It really just depends and even the interpretation is complicated because as more than one scholar of race has noted, a lot of racism is unconscious. From a psychological perspective, even the most enlightened of us hold unconscious racist beliefs and trying to figure out if the source of the racism is in the beholder or the beheld really can make one coo-coo.

From my perspective, the video is not about Obama's blackness (though I know his blackness is not something that can be written off as insignificant) but about a celebratory enactment of Obama's status as a celebrity.

Would it have been different if the performer was black? Yes. Would it have been less racist if it the performer were black? Who can say?

Does it matter?

The video is a lot of fun and I'm glad it makes people (including myself) smile. It's a nice performance, well-edited and scored with a pleasing pop song.
posted by mistersquid at 9:58 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: only 50% racist, at worst.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:06 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: it's a nice performance, well-edited and scored with a pleasing pop song.
posted by barnacles at 10:15 PM on September 29, 2012


The optimistic, joyful post-racial world this video lives in is perhaps not yet the same as what the rest of the country lives in.

Right, it was filmed in Los Angeles, which has a totally enlightened track record with race relations. Erm...

Don't you live in New York?

Racism is a HUGE THING here too. People are constantly surrounded by different classes and ethnicities, and while it seems to have an exposure-therapy on some people, in others you get a slowly building deep-seated resentment based on lots of confirmation bias, which explodes in lots of weird ways, especially on a systemic level (look at the NYPD's recent stop-and-frisk scandal) It is certainly a motivating factor in plenty of violence and acrimony here. Different than the Deep South, and certainly very different than my sorry homeland of Arizona, where people get away with saying shockingly racist things all the time because there are so few actual black people for them to be on their best behavior around.

I just don't think it's productive to break up the country into zones where certain things fly and certain things don't, especially when reactions to the video here seem so personal. A lot of it seems to be based on pure feeling, and when people try to unpack that intellectually they are being met with a lot of defensiveness. But you know what? These issues are worth appreciating critically. Otherwise a conversation will come to a screeching halt anytime something "feels" racist. You can kind of see people working it out for themselves in this thread, where at first the video "felt" racist, but then they thought about it and decided it wasn't.

Obviously some will disagree, but I'd prefer those disagreements have more meat to them than "who are you to question my special feelings?" And I appreciate the people who have put the effort into elaborating on them.
posted by hermitosis at 10:57 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Everyone seriously needs to drop the whole weird "making-it-personal" thing. Maybe it's some sort of election season super-aggro miasma, but we've got to be better than this.]
posted by taz at 11:19 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


And what is so epic about this President, is that I could see him making a "response video" and doing the same damn thing. Only better...

I'm hoping he makes it his lame duck video . . .
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:42 PM on September 29, 2012


I'd rate it a 99. It's got a good beat and he can dance to it!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:57 PM on September 29, 2012


I'm hoping he makes it his lame duck video . . .

Why's that? These moves are easier to pull off at 51 than they are at 55...
posted by alexei at 12:44 AM on September 30, 2012


It never even occurred to me to check the guys hands to see what race he was. Once I figured out he wasn't really Obama, I was just all "hey! dancer guy in a mask pretending to be cool obama!"

Then again, I'm not American.
posted by fshgrl at 12:53 AM on September 30, 2012


"If anything, I see this as a sort of cheerful reclamation of a mask that might normally be used (as all of these Presidential masks tend to) for mockery. If the George W. Bush campaign'd had any sense of humor whatsoever, they totally could have spun something like this."

This wonderful post-racial paradise where Obama's skin color means nothing to anybody, and white dancers can perform as black characters without evoking a horrific past that is nothing like gone today, which your privilege has apparently carved out for you is not the same place as where your neighbors live.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:34 AM on September 30, 2012


It really might be worth bearing in mind what taz said about not making this personal. I really don't think anyone is approaching this thoughtlessly or from a position of unconsidered privilege, no matter what their response to the video. Feeling like you're being accused of either imagining or ignorantly applauding racism is unpleasant, but I don't think such accusations have been the intention of people in this thread. It can be a tricky subject, I know, but it would make me really happy if we could try to do it justice.
posted by howfar at 4:43 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Firstly I must say; impeccable choice of motorbike.

I would also echo fshgrl's comments, good moves, upbeat tune, what's not to like.
posted by johnnyboy at 4:48 AM on September 30, 2012


"what's not to like."

Continuity. One minute the dancer slips and steps in the pond, the next minute his trousers were completely dry. It took me out of the moment and I was forced to think about water.
posted by panaceanot at 5:06 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Then again, I'm not American

i... totally resemble that comment (damnit)
posted by twist my arm at 7:31 AM on September 30, 2012


Count me among the unimpressed. That mask is creepy, as is the skinny tie, and that song is not to my taste.

Also, everybody should wear a helmet when riding a motorbike.
posted by discopolo at 7:51 AM on September 30, 2012


Man, that guy's dancing is completely (as mentioned more than once above) JOYOUS. really. I can't imagine feeling I can't imagine feeling that thrilled with how my own body moves. For me, how joyous became extra apparent when the woman joined in. Her body just did not move with such bliss as his did.

As for the masks, (like lots of people have said) there have been Halloween masks of the President every year as long as I've been alive (probably longer). While I recognize that in the U.S., you cannot put a white person in a mask depicting a black person without considering intent, context, and message, I do wonder how else can you make a Halloween mask of our President if it does not look like a man with an African father? I saw those masks in the Halloween aisle at the Walgreen's yesterday and for a brief moment I was taken aback. But then I mentally contrasted them with the last photograph I had seen of the President and with a mask of him I had seen the first year he was President. This one looks like someone trying to make a mask which looks like Barack Obama--sure, slightly caricatured and with a big goofy grin, but one that looks like Barack Obama, who happens to be a Black man. The other looked like a cross between Amos, Andy and a police sketch. One of these has a nasty racist undertone, the other does not.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:18 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


WRT the whole mask thing, I cannot believe that no one has linked to this yet. And, yes, context is everything. (Sadly, though, my enjoyment of the video was tainted by the knowledge that it would be turned into ONOESBLACKFACE by some.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:28 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Right, it was filmed in Los Angeles, which has a totally enlightened track record with race relations. Erm...

I am sure you have seen enough film in your life that I think you know that I was not invoking Los Angeles when I was referring to the metaphorical world this specific popular music video lives in.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:55 AM on September 30, 2012


The whole "is this blackface?" question briefly crossed my mind but was quickly displaced by burning envy at the ease with which this guy dances. And how flexible his knees are.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:06 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, some of you guys are REALLY going to be upset with the latest season of True Blood.


...not because there's a hate group which serves as an ersatz KKK that wears Obama masks and is referred to as "The Obamas" (even though there's an anonymous black member as a failsafe against racism claims), just because it's really getting dumb.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:48 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dancing: cool
Music: upbeat, fun and vaguely Royskoppish
Song: added to my latest running playlist
Some of my fellow Mefites: Presumably grumpy due to projected bacon shortage
Pancakes: suggested course of treatment for same
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:09 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, that was disappointing.

I liked the last season of True Blood. Beat the witches by a mile.

I'm also vegetarian. I'd be happy if bacon were illegal.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:47 PM on September 30, 2012


I was, however, a pretty big Russell Edgington fan, and thought his demise was awfully anti-climactic.

My wife had CafePress search results page for "Obama" up while I starting watching the video. I think being reminded of blackface is not so ridiculous when people are selling obviously racist slurs about Obama on T-shirts, hats, mugs, bumper stickers ... every day.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:51 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


A separate issue that briefly worried me about the video is that it plays right into the line of attack started by McCain's 2008 ad, Celeb, and more clearly communicated in the 2012 ad spot, Cool. This video plays right into those ads' explicit intent: to portray Obama as such a celebrity that he's out of touch with the struggles of mainstream people. Many people don't relate to traveling around the Westside dancing in arcades and under palm trees.

I'm not trying to say this is a major problem, as I don't think that frame on Obama is valid or gaining traction. He can clearly handle policy substance, and he visibly advocated policies for the middle class. His campaign has been having some success portraying the Romney camp as the one out of touch with mainstream struggles, and the one without comprehensible policy proposals. But I did briefly wonder if portraying him as carefree and whimsical was entirely helpful.
posted by salvia at 1:58 PM on September 30, 2012


Heh. As soon as I saw this I knew I could look forward to a nice Mefi discussion about how white people wearing masks of black people is okay while blackface is not. Or not. And so on.
posted by Decani at 2:10 PM on September 30, 2012


I enjoyed this! I like Nathan Barnatt's dancing very much. His seeming effortlessness leads me to believe (probably erroneously) that I, too, could dance like that. Also, did anyone else notice that the guy playing the arcade game was Barnatt's alter ego Keith Apicary?

Given the historical and current context of being black in America, I find it completely unsurprising that someone would find the video unsettling. It gave me pause at first too, and led me through an interesting consideration of whether context (filmmaker's intent, Barack Obama's identity as recognizable public figure, cultural familiarity with US president masks) makes a difference to the appropriateness of a white man dressing up as a black man. I think it does, but I can also understand why these complexities mean someone else doesn't enjoy the video the way I did. It doesn't mean they are oversensitive any more than it means I am ignorant of race issues.

[salvia: those ads' explicit intent: to portray Obama as such a celebrity that he's out of touch with the struggles of mainstream people.

As someone who knows the basics about the US presidential candidates but is not regularly exposed to American election campaign advertising--I am shocked that anyone would try to portray Obama as out of touch with regular people in an effort to...what, convince voters that Romney is more in touch with the struggles of the working/middle-class?? The mind boggles!]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:47 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can see someone in the under-30 crowd being excited by the video, maybe even enough to actually vote when they weren't heretofore enthusiastic or motivated enough to do so.

I don't think anyone will choose to not vote, or be motivated to vote against him, because one of his fans made a video that depicted Obama dancing in the streets. And it probably won't change a Romney-leaning voter to suddenly switch sides.

It's certainly better than Paris Hilton "rocking the vote" (and then not voting).
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:20 PM on September 30, 2012


But he looks so happy.
posted by RobotHero at 8:41 PM on September 30, 2012


Wow, after the cloud atlas thread I was going to make a sarcastic comment about [ethnic]face ALWAYS BEING WRONG NO EXCEPTIONS EVER!!!! but amazingly the comment already showed up sincerely. That's clearly a pro-obama video, some people obviously just hate fun.

Also thought the Michelle mask was kind of crappy.

Speaking of race and politics, has anyone else seen these completely insane ads from Scott brown attacking Elizabeth Warren for being possibly maybe 1/32nd native American? It's kind of crazy to see someone be attacked over whether or not they are an indian in 2012
posted by delmoi at 9:13 PM on September 30, 2012


Yeah, it's bizarre. Observing from a neighboring state, what comes through here makes it sound as though that's the centerpiece of his campaign at this point. This Mother Jones article links to a 2006 genealogy newsletter where a researcher also claimed that her great-great-great-grandmother was Cherokee.

So whatever the actual truth of the matter is, in trying to research it herself she would have found stuff corroborating what her family had told her. I don't get why anyone at all would consider this an indictment of her personally or how it makes Brown look like anything other than an idiot for harping on it.
posted by XMLicious at 9:46 PM on September 30, 2012


Heh. As soon as I saw this I knew I could look forward to a nice Mefi discussion about how white people wearing masks of black people is okay while blackface is not. Or not. And so on.

I thought...we were going to talk about the hilarious expression on the supermarket woman at 1:38 who's clearly thinking "I just need to get to the dairy aisle. Please let me get by. Oh god, the flailing, aargh, don't hit my cart..."

I'm naive.
posted by psoas at 6:10 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


i have a couple weddings to attend this month so now i am amped to tear up the motherfucking dance floor, badly.

i'll have to remember to stretch.
posted by twist my arm at 8:12 AM on October 1, 2012


I think I've watched this video too many times.

There's something about it that is just incredibly melancholic. The more I watch it, the more I am sure.

The dancer represents a visitor. The mask is not who he is, but it is the only thing people notice. The dancer purposefully wears a mask - why? Is he hiding something? Does he truthfully believe that people will accept the mask more than they will accept the person under the mask?

In my opinion, he wears the mask because he understands that his true self will raise more questions than his affectation, because of his outsider status. So he accepts and promotes his outsider status while concealing it behind a false front that fools no one.

The dancer is joy; personified, disguised as a person. Traveling through a world of humbugs, he has no purpose other than to just be.

He has two sparklers, representing his dream - two sparks of joy.

He is a visitor from a different world - a different type of existence.

He lives through his dance. To move himself, he must dance. He must be joyous. Can he stop dancing?

The pay phone. He finds a form of connection, sends out an invitation. Two sparks of joy.

He moves through the city, dancing, searching, sharing. He finally finds what he's looking for - the perfect partner. Another dancing being; another masked dancer. Arriving in the same means from the same realm as himself.

His search is complete. He has found joy here. He has achieved success. But then, after far too short a time, his reciprocal joy, his mirror into himself, vanishes in his arms. The very moment of his success is taken from him.

he has lost his joy.

but he cannot stop dancing - to be is to dance is to be joy.

He searches through the city, disbelieving, looking for her, remembering the feel of her in his arms.

She is gone.

And so he leaves.
posted by rebent at 9:02 AM on October 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've thought about this more as well. (And have watched the video several more times, because it makes me happy.)

My white liberal guilt started acting up after reading this thread and the responses/uneasyness about the blackface.

What I came up with, which finally reconciled it for me, is that we're not supposed to believe that this is a white guy playing Obama by doing some dancing. We're instead supposed to believe that it is Obama HIMSELF doing the dancing. It isn't, of course, but that's how we're supposed to perceive it.

And that's one of the reasons I love it so much, because Obama is fucking cool in my book, and I love that he's dancing through the city and tapping me lovingly on the forehead with sparklers.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:19 PM on October 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


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