Monday, February 28, 2011
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
Am I the only one that finds this photograph positively frightening?
It is one of the most starkly chilling photographs I have ever seen—as chilling as any photograph that came out of Nazi Germany—and would inspire a grim 10,000-word essay on The State Of America if I did not have more important things to do with my time.
The photograph is not a fake, and the photograph is not intended as comedy—although anyone might be forgiven for assuming that some massive joke were being played, or that the persons in the photograph were play-acting a family of nitwits and boobs.
The photograph is from a 2009 issue of the Cornell alumni magazine, which I was flipping through this weekend at the home of one of Andrew’s friends, who is a Cornell alumnus (and not an especially proud one).
The photograph was taken during the 2008 election campaign. As a matter of good taste, I have excised a figure on the right—although it was impossible to remove this figure entirely from the photograph without interfering with the portrait of the gruesome harridan of a mother standing alongside, which I did not want to do.
The photograph is an instant classic. At one glance, it captures and summarizes—as well as satirizes—The State Of America at the end of the last decade. Through dress, hairstyles, postures, facial expressions and eyes, the members of this vapid and unappealing family are revealed as unintelligent, half-educated, self-indulgent, lacking character, lacking probity—and profoundly and fundamentally in need of regeneration.
Is the family in the photograph even aware, in offering for publication this ridiculous yet somehow iconic portrait of itself, that it invites ridicule?
I grieve for the children in the photograph, appalling as they are.
Of greater importance, I grieve for this nation.