Sunday, July 6, 2008

Barack Obama and Black Cool

What are you, a cop or a model?

The last time I remarked on Obama's coolness factor was on my Barack Obama is only human post. He looks so ready for The Matrix in the picture on that post and in this Ebony shot. I learned of the August Ebony cover that features Obama wearing shades as he steps from a limo at ShallowNation.

Since Oprah dubbed Obama "The One,", then I guess if he's got Matrix cool, then he'd be Neo and not Morpheus, the leading black character in the movie. Oprah, btw, took a lot of flack for calling Obama "The One," but I don't think she's sweating that. Her reference to The One, however, was not a Matrix reference. The media mogul was alluding to The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and how the elderly woman would look at black babies and ask, "Is you the one?" Pittman meant the one destined to bring black people to equality.

Nevertheless, if you're the first black man in American history to have a believable chance at winning the presidency, then maybe you really have, like Neo, followed the rabbit down the hole. Will Obama's coolness be an issue in the election? After all, he is running against the antithesis of cool when it comes to exuding charisma.

Furthermore, being cool is not seen as a good thing by socially conservative people. I mean, James Dean was considered cool and his most memorable character is a Rebel Without a Cause.

But Obama definitely has a cause. So, perhaps he's a little like Neo and also like Mr. Tibbs, Sidney Poitier's character in "In the Heat of the Night." Oh, oh! One of that movie's most memorable scenes is Tibbs having the audacity to slap a rich white man in the face after the man slaps him. The white man is offended that Tibbs, a negro, would dare question him regarding a crime. Tibbs' action scares the hell out of the white southern sheriff played by Rod Steiger.

That "In the Heat of the Night" scene was considered scandalous back in 1967, a black man standing up and considering himself equal to a white man to the point where he'd slap him back! I remember the impression it had on me as a child. My mouth dropped open

I think if you're genuinely cool and not just surface cool, then you'll stand up for yourself and the people you love. You won't let others steal your dignity. Obama, however, is supposedly trying to move closer to the center. Center means less of a rebel. Maybe he's going to downplay the cool now.

Nevertheless, in Ebony, the presidential hopeful is listed as one of the "The 25 Coolest Brothers Of All Time." According to another site, Poitier is also on Ebony's 25 coolest brothers list.

When I saw the Ebony cover, this clip () from the movie Bad Boys II popped into my head in which Martin Lawrence's character, Detective Marcus Burnett, asks his partner Mike Lowrey (played by Will Smith, who's starring as Hancock in theaters now), "What are you, a cop or a model?"

In this case, replace the word "cop" with "presidential candidate." Will Smith's character, Mike, responds, "Hey, don't hate the player, hate the game."

I've been amused at how Obama's being treated as much like a movie star or a rock star as he is like a candidate. He's even got something like groupies. So far I know personally of two white females, political professionals, who've temporarily left their day jobs to volunteer for his campaign. One's a spin mama and the other is a Web diva. I know of loads more people, male and female, black and white, who've gone Obamarama. I guess we'll all know in November whether smarts and charisma can really move you to the highest elected position in America.

The August issue of Ebony also features Prince, a favorite of mine, as one of the 25 coolest brothers of all time.

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Hello there...

It is a shame that "COOL" has to be defined as an seems that Barack was on the cover as the future POTUS....but aren't the majority of the others just entertainers...what about the black scholars and the hlack clergy and the black literary giants?

{shaking my head}

Vérité Parlant said...

I had similar thoughts, Lisa. I also wondered in a comment on another blog where are the cool sisters? Will Ebony do a similar "cool sisters" edition, or are there cool black women?

The list does include non-entertainers. Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, and Ed Bradley. Gordon Parks is also on the list. However, you're observation is quite on point. The Ebony cool list is entertainer/sports figure heavy.