Barack And McKayla, Unimpressed and Still Popular
The Internet lit up this weekend when pictures were released of Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney’s visit to the White House.
Maroney, whose “not impressed face” on the medal stand went viral this summer, joined her gold medal-winning teammates to meet President Obama on Thursday. As they were leaving, Obama and Maroney did a joint pose where each did the “not impressed face.” The picture immediately went viral on the White House Flickr, drawing nearly 2 million views as of Saturday evening.
What’s notable about this is not that Obama took a funny photograph, but that he pulled it off. There are countless photographs of Calvin Coolidge in what are described as “Indian war bonnets,” let alone the infamous pictures of Michael Dukakis driving a tank. But Obama, who seems to strike a Heisman pose every time he’s handed a football, successfully shifts gears into silliness. The photo of the president posing with Maroney becomes cute, rather than ridiculous.
It’s hard to describe why Obama has an ability that even John Kennedy (who was deathly afraid of being photographed in a funny hat) didn’t possess. After all, it’s difficult to name any other politician from either party who could effortlessly pose with Maroney the way that the president did. (Mitt Romney? No way). But in the Internet age, where awkward moments instantly wind up on everyone’s Facebook page, the ability to make the absurd somehow look cool has become a necessary political skill. And it’s one that Obama has in spades.
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