Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The Smart Girl in the Glasses or the Pretty Girl Who Can’t Do Math?

There’s a prevailing media myth – born I suppose of the need to draw "contracts" wherever possible – that any positive quality a person holds must be offset by a corresponding negative one.

Thus, in classic Hollywood teen-movie format – the smart girl has to wear glasses and be socially awkward or unattractive, the pretty girl must be dim. A star athlete must be cloddish and insensitive, the artistic or dramatic types must be physically frail and frankly kinda wussy.

A similar dynamic seems to be at place with media coverage of Barack Obama. Since very early on in the primary there has been this reflexive assumption that because Obama gives powerful and inspirational speeches that excite large crowds THEREFORE, we can assume his actual policy prescriptions and proposals are necessarily thin and lacking in detail.

Those of us who admire the total package (“That girl is pretty AND smart! Weird!”) have long been capable of seeing that while, granted, Obama’s speeches ARE beautifully crafted, well delivered and crowd pleasing it seems that he ALSO has all these detailed and well thought-through policy statements.

What can account for this impossible paradox?

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