Barack’s bimbo, Hill’s hussy and more
By Erika Spaet
What better way to get young people involved in politics than by giving the 2008 campaigns long legs, a fake tan and a suspiciously well endowed bust? Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock — or the idea of pornifying the campaigns doesn’t do anything for you — you’ve seen, heard or drooled over Obama Girl, 26-year-old Amber Lee Ettinger, who has walked her kitten heels right onto the center stage of campaign ad politics. So forget mud slinging; let’s talk about sex…slinging.
Straight out of the Wharton school of business at the University of Pennsylvania, with a degree in journalism and an MBA under his belt, Ben Relles, along with entrepreneur David Shrager, dreamed up (perhaps to his wife’s chagrin) Obama Girl. Coming off the viral video success of “Box in a Box,” the partners went to Craigslist to find their team and build BarelyPolitical.com, a site they hope will be the 2008 presidential campaigns’ own JibJab runaway hit.
Three hours later, filmmakers Larry Strong and Kevin Arbouet signed on to direct the videos. Leah Kauffman, a Berklee College of Music graduate and New York coffee shop folk songstress, collaborated with music producer Rick Friedrich to weave together lyrics that are intended to both seduce the listener and send him to the polls.
Enter Ettinger, a Hazleton, Penn. native with a degree in intimate apparel from the Fashion Institute of Technology. With the ennui that sets in after being a Miss Hawaiian Tropic runner-up one too many times came the opportunity of a lifetime. Now YouTubers can experience BarelyPolitical.com’s “I’ve Got a Crush on Obama,” a video featuring Kaufman’s vocals, Ettinger’s obliques and some low-rise, cheeky boy-short undies with “OBAMA” emblazoned on the tush.
Relles and BarelyPolitical.com are not affiliated with any campaign, but, with the exception of a mostly undecided Ettinger, are self-proclaimed supporters of Obama. The team hopes the site will help get his name out to otherwise politically prudish potential voters. And to make things fair, BarelyPolitical.com has signed on a few other helpers: things get dirty when Obama Girl takes on Guiliani Girl in a pillow fight, and the Romney triplets are running a smear campaign against Obama Girl, calling her fiscal policies irresponsible.
But everyone seems to want in on the action. Amateur videographers not associated with BarelyPolitical.com are posting music videos featuring McCain Mama, Brownback Girl, and even a busty blonde who’s “Hott 4 Hill” and hopes that the junior senator is at least bi.
The tunes are quite catchy and have a broad appeal, especially if you’re like Obama Girl: healthcare reform makes her warm, and she likes her candidates like she likes her coffee.
But as much as one might covet those underpants, I wonder what sort of public need the Obama Girl videos and the like are fulfilling, besides creating jobs for unemployed sex kittens. If young voters need soft-core porn to send them to the polls, what sorts of presidential qualities will they be looking for in a candidate?
No actual issues are addressed in the videos, unlike JibJab’s cartoons in 2004, so the value of them is found solely in their novelty. And that novelty—Ettinger (and her bod)—isn’t even a supporter of Obama’s campaign. She told a Republican YouTube-er she had no choice in the matter and that it’s just another acting job for her resume.
And what about voters who couldn’t care less about Ettinger’s G-string? My biggest fear isn’t that a woman is being objectified in the name of semi-clever advertising, or even that Barry will choose her over me; instead, it worries me that the power of these beautiful women’s bodies will turn some voters off.
Reactions to the videos are good indication that conservative or on-the-fence voters might make too much of a connection between the videos, candidates, and the Democrats that support them. One New York Times blogger said she wasn’t surprised to read about Obama Girl, posting “After all, this is the party of blasphemy, Hollywood sex and drugs, and every other scandalous activity known to mankind.” Obama himself condemned the video and said it disturbed his young daughters. “I guess it’s too much to ask, but you do wish people would think about what impact their actions have on kids and families,” Obama told the Associated Press. Apparently real messages are being lost in the name of seemingly unwanted publicity.
Presidential campaign politics is an easy target for satirists, and parodying the process or its quirky candidates isn’t the problem. But when a politically apathetic beauty queen becomes the symbol of a candidate’s campaign, and voter ignorance of the real issues is encouraged by a Hooters model asking a senator to “Ba-rock her tonight,” it’s clear that there are some creative minds out there that could have been put to better use.
The witty humor of JibJab that tickled Americans in 2004 has been replaced by raw sex appeal and an obviously desperate attempt to cash in on website hits.
So, if you want, join in the gyrations, but please head to the polls. Otherwise, poor Amber Lee and her panties have sexed you up for nothing.
Erika Spaet is a junior journalism major who shudders profusely at the phrase “Hott 4 Hill.” Email her at espaet1[at]ithaca.edu.