Viral Obama Pic Symbolizes Healthy Society

Scout Tufankjian/Obama for America
Scout Tufankjian/Obama for America

A photo tweeted from President Obama's official account after it was announced that he'd won re-election quickly became the most popular image in the social networking site's history.


It goes without saying that it had emotional resonance with the American public (or, at least, about half of us), but what exactly was it about this particular image that got such a broad swath of citizens excited? The Washington Post's Phillip Kennicot takes a stab at an explanation.

It has all the generic ingredients of a successful political image. With its moody and slate-gray sky, it encapsulated the drama many of President Obama’s supporters felt Tuesday evening: The Obamas had weathered the storm. It also appealed to the almost cultlike sense of affection many Americans feel for the couple. Surging through social networks commonly used to keep people in touch with family and friends, it offered a sense of intimacy with the first family, stroking the same emotional receptors as photographs of the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, and the family’s dog, Bo. For Democrats, it also has a basic allegorical function: The bonds of love between Barack and Michelle Obama symbolize a healthy society. For African Americans, it adds to a repository of images that celebrate the success of the Obamas in opposition to the frequent demonization of supposedly dysfunctional black families in popular culture.

But the photograph has a remarkable and specific latent message, too. Unlike many images of political marriage in which the man lays claim to his wife through a symbolically possessive gesture — touching her shoulder, raising her hand up or kissing — the embrace between these two people seems mutual …

The photograph strongly suggests an ideal of mutuality in marriage, unencumbered by older ideas of possession and obedience that still hold sway in some deeply traditionalist religions. 

What did you love about the photo? The equality? The love? Or just the electoral-vote count that accompanied it?

Read more at the Washington Post.