Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Problem With A Steampunk Obama

You ever come across something surfing the net that just makes you say no?  I came across the following image at Xerposa and took an immediate dislike of it. 


According to Xerposa, this image was created by "Deviant Artist Benjo Camay of the Philippines, [who] used Painter to render this mechanical version of the leader of the free world."  I read a lot of steampunk and I can tell you that when it comes to speculative fiction, to say it's highly erased is being kind.  I wanted to like this version of Obama but after some thought, I have realised that what Camay has done is to turn Obama into an automaton, thus removing his personal identity.  The fact that this has been done to a man of colour, in a genre which regularly excludes people of colour is problematic to say the least.  Yes, the image is recognizable as Obama; however, by definition a mechanical man is not a man and considering that the manhood of Black men and in fact their humanity has historically been denied, it's impossible to divorce this image from the social constructions of Black masculinity. The image further troubles me because Obama's mouth is reminiscent of those racist minstrel images of Blacks.

I love to see our modern technology be altered to reflect a steampunk esthetic, as has been done to this laptop for instance, but it is another matter to do this to a person. I am further troubled by the fact that this was not done for Mitt Romney as well.  How is it that a rich, White man gets to keep his humanity, while a Black man does not?  Xerposa made some comment about Romney being already to robotic but to me that speaks of a failure to consider the race dynamics at play.  I know that the intent behind this creation was good, but that does not mean that the end result isn't disturbing. 

What are your thoughts on the steampunk Obama?