a serious review of the candidates' faces

By Amanda Sebastiani

Face to Face

This presidential race is peculiar in that we have two fairly good-looking candidates. In the past we’ve had men like Richard Nixon and his bulbous nose, John McCain and his stoplight red cheeks, Shorty Dukakis, big faced John Kerry, Bushes 1 and 2, too preppy inbred to be handsome and Al Gore, he of the sweaty jowls and the high forehead. True, we’ve had some make-my-heart-flutter poster boys—Hollywood Ron Reagan, knee shaking John F. Kennedy, and even the big boy from Arkansas, Bill Clinton, who was kind of good looking in a hick by way of Yale way. But this year, unbelievably we have two candidates who are, well, not so hard to look at. Both President Obama and Governor Romney are good looking, attractive men, at least sevens, maybe eights on the standard ten point scale of attractiveness that the entire world is judged by. The President and Romney are visually perfect candidates for the type of voters their respective parties want to attract. So let’s start with the obvious.

Romney is white, closer to the latter part of middle age with a nice dash of grey in his full head of luxurious looking hair. It’s shaped in the symbolic 1950‘s I’m going to make money for the little lady and bring home the bacon for the kids look. Romney’s jaw is very angular and square. He has an equally strong brow. He presents himself as a man’s man, more or less the perfect frat boy with pep and youth in his step and expressions. But to ensure his rank, he can also appear serious. His strong masculine physic allows him to easily take on power and authority. He has small beady eyes matched with oft-raised eyebrows giving off an air of arrogance and impatience. Remember, most of these traits can be wildly attractive to some people and offensive to others.
I'm serious and so am I
On the other hand, Obama is black and has a less angular head. It is more rounded, but not totally feminine and he recovers his angularity in the strength of his chin, which is pointy and chiseled. This chisel tipped chin punctuates his expressions and makes him seem alert and present. In addition, he has a long forehead that gives him a nice symbolic relationship with Abraham Lincoln, both tall and from Illinois. Obama does not have long flowing Anglo-Saxon Viking hair. He is unable to style it, as Romney does, in the business/political industry standard—is there really a difference between the two these days? So he chooses to keep it buzzed short. I’d like to see him dread it out or fro it up, but I’m just a small niche of the electorate and do not as yet sway the choices of campaigns or how the candidates groom themselves.
Second Term Dreams
It is clear that Obama and Romney’s looks are exquisitely different and are so for a reason, as we are primarily a two-party country deeply split by policies and ideology. Elections are essentially big sales competitions and not only require extremely large sums of money, but also excellent marketing strategies. And in front of each strategy are Obama and Romney. Teams and teams of people basically sculpt the candidates' public image and with each election the marketing gets better and better. What’s beautiful this year is that each team has found candidates whose looks are the perfect expressions of what they want to sell the public.

This is what it comes down to: America is about celebrity. We love pretty people. The Republicans have been suffering since they lost Reagan. The Democrats had the charismatic Clinton, but then descended to Gore and Kerry. Four years ago Obama was the corrective and now Romney is attempting to perform the same kind of visual surgery for the Republicans. Democrats might be immune to Romney’s looks, but it would be a mistake to underestimate his attractiveness. He and Paul Ryan, disgustingly preening to some and senior prom perfect to others, are easy eye candy for conservative women. Despite the millions in marketing, there is still a primal quality to these elections and in the primacy of looks the Republicans couldn’t have come up with a better face for their team.

Look at those faces
Obama’s potential and his current successes lie in his shifty class and racial background. He has a sort of rags-to-riches story, a looking glass version of American success. He came from a middle class, bi-racial family, but his father soon split and went back to Kenya, his mother went off to find herself and he was raised by his Kansas-bred grandparents. For the Democrats, this is perfect. He’s (half) black, which acts as sort of a ghetto pass if you will, allowing the Democrats to revel in a politically correct high-mindedness, while pursuing policies that are hurtful to poor inner city African-Americans. But breaking the minority and discrimination gates of government only works because Obama’s face is a yuppie black man’s face—he definitely ain’t stylin’ like no OG.

You can often see class background in someone’s expressions, and the President has a number of qualities, Hawaii, private school, Columbia, Harvard, that puts the closet racism of many Americans at ease. Samuel Jackson is a great actor, but he or someone like him will not play Obama in the eventual Oscar winning bio-pic. There are many political and cultural limitations around race that, face it, still exist. For example, Obama can’t get mad in public. Why? Because Grandma Betsy’s still terrified that there will be a ghetto insurrection. The funny thing about that is that there should be a ghetto insurrection, although if Obama wants to get reelected he must act white and make sure that hordes of crazed black men storming the suburbs never enters the dreams of all the white Grannies of America. Of course, Romney has to act white, too. In a crazy way, they’re both acting white and what we’re seeing is the political marketing of a quality, whiteness, that doesn’t even exist and that is in many ways a figment of our national imagination. It’s all there in what we want to see.
Who you laughing at?
Looks influence us in so many ways, but in voting for a president it probably comes down to this: is this person strong/powerful enough to lead us? To get that answer we scrutinize each candidate’s face. We all have unique and individual feelings and beliefs that control how we react to people and eventually make decisions. It is vital to our cleaved-in-two country that we stop using our eyes and start to listen and pay attention to how our subconscious desires are controlling us. This race is steeped in the power of celebrity and that power is visually seductive and sadly, ultimately, empty of meaning.

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