Friday, January 1, 2010

Politically Korrekt

Germans love our president. If President Obama took it into his head to run for German Chancellor after he's through in the White House, I have no doubt he'd win hands down. But Germans have come up with some rather odd ways of showing their appreciation for Mr. Obama. Take the "Obama-Fingers" shown above, for example. What's that all about? Even if Mr. Obama were actually going to eat junk like this, I can't believe he would dip it in curry sauce. Some people (I'm talking about German people here. American people are largely unaware of the Obama-Fingers product, excepting those 100-200 loyal readers of Forschungjahr) have responded very negatively to Obama-Fingers. They feel that the product is racially insensitive. "Fried chicken has long been associated with African-Americans in the US..." they say. I can't really see the problem myself, and don't find the product to be a racial slur. Stupid, yes, but not racist. In fact, I question the possibility that any frozen food could be racist, but that's just me.

But how about a doll? Could a doll be racially insensitive? Here I think German doll maker Marcel Offermann has shown that the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Offermann is famous for his dolls representing figures such as Pope Benedict XVI, the Dalai Lama and Lady Diana. But as he turned his hand to Barak Obama, he decided to just use a generic dark skinned doll head. He admits that the physical resemblance to Obama could have been closer. "The doll works more on a symbolic level," he said. "It's a symbiosis of the clothing and the fact it's a black doll." Although "90 percent" of the feedback so far has been positive, he admits that "10 percent of people said the doll doesn't look like Obama." I figure that means 90 % of the people asked must be blind. Just for the record, let me state here that all black people do not look alike. Not that Herr Offermann is too concerned. The Barack Obama doll is available in a limited edition of 999 and as Offermann points out, "The pope doll sold out in two-and-a-half weeks." Alle Achtung!

But my favorite example of Obamamania is the cover of the Berlin-based daily Die Tageszeitung: normally considered a bastion of political correctness. Founded in 1978, it has always been seen as a left-leaning alternative to the mainstream press and is outspoken in its attack on xenophobia in Germany. In a cover story about Obama's run for the presidency back in May of 2008, the paper referred to the White House as "Uncle Barak's cabin." "The headline is intended to be satirical," said deputy editor-in-chief Reiner Metzger as he defended the paper against critics. Well, that's a relief.

I'm just happy that our president is so popular and that I can retire the red maple leaf I always kept handy while traveling in Europe, at least for a little while. I'm not very touchy when it comes to racial insensitivity and I don't see the point to getting all worked up about an Obama doll that could easily double as a Muhhamad Ali doll in a pinch. There are hate crimes enough to go around without looking for offense where none is intended. At 139€ a piece, the Obama doll is out of my price range. But I'll be on the lookout for other German Obama memorabilia on my next trip. And with any luck I can get on his campaign staff for the 2017 Kanzelerwahl.


Em said...

I'm having flashbacks to the big "Sock Monkey Obama" controversy. The odd couple in West Jordan thought it was a good idea. And not another living soul agreed apparently. Wish I could've got a hold of one before they halted production...

I wonder if the Obama fingers are a limited time product (based on the presidents current approval rating?) and if Germans are the hording type like many Americans. Perhaps stockpiling these for when they're "worth something"?

Anonymous said...

wonderful ..................................................

Pjotr320 said...

You pretended to be Canadian when you visited Europe before Obama became president?

Maybe that's a strange question, but I'd like to be sure about this.



ps. I' just answered your question on my blog

Christopher T. Terry said...

I've checked out the Obama sock monkey doll. Truth really is stranger than fiction. And did I really pretend to be Canadian when I traveled in Europe in the past? No, not really. It's a technique we semi-professional writers use: hyperbole, exaggeration... it has many names. But it is certainly true that US Americans talk about doing it all the time. Presumably some have done it. And it's also true that I am often taken for Dutch when I'm in Germany and I've never spent much time trying to correct the mistaken impression. Many thanks for the helmet advice, ct