What’s wrong with this picture?

2009 December 14

Via the usual tortuous, hyperlinked route, I came across this creation by the right-wing parodist who goes by the mono-moniker Dale. Dale’s work, at least stylistically speaking, suggests a wedding of the late, maniacal Mad pioneer Will Elder with the only slightly more sedate contemporary caricaturist Drew Friedman—but with none of the inventiveness or originality that characterize their work.

In Dale’s vision, former Republican Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is the latter-day embodiment of “Rosie the Riveter,” the generic name for the millions of women who entered war production during the Second World War, which was most popularly portrayed in the iconic Norman Rockwell painting that first appeared on the May 24, 1943 cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

Although Rockwell based his Rosie on a real person, a nineteen-year-old Arlington, Vermont, telephone operator named Mary Doyle (to whom he later apologized for adding heft to her apparently slender figure), Rockwell’s Rosie was clearly an archetype. Dale situates his Sarah in an America “arguably in peril from forces potentially as destructive as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan,” but—putting aside the sloppiness of the historical comparison—despite the title (evoking the Latin phrase Si vis pacem, parati para bellum: “If you wish for peace, prepare for war,” or more concisely “Peace through Strength”), that analogy is not apparent without explanation.  And Dale’s attempt to associate a historically-specific symbol with a fuzzily-defined current political figure only makes the meaning of this new version more obscure.

Dale seems to have understood this problem, at least in so far as he’s poured on the symbolism. Indeed, to compensate, his Sarah is what you might call symbolicallly overdetermined.  She’s laden with enough right-wing tchotchkes to, well, sink a battleship: death panel beer (or is it soda—some particularly virulent form of diet soda?), a crucifix, right to life and Reagan buttons, a shotgun, ammo, a bible, and a rattlesnake that mimics the original composition but is really the straw that breaks the symbol’s back.  Finally, Dale provides two phallic images (shotgun and snake) for Rockwell’s one (rivet gun)—and replaces Rosie’s coveralls, which might incriminate Sarah as a feminist or worse.

Whatever you think about this “homage,” Dale’s dedication to asserting the backward nature of his political perspective is most evident in his exact duplication of the American flag as it appeared in Norman Rockwell’s painting: one that in 1943, displaying 48 stars for 48 states, did not include Alaska.

Last 5 posts by Josh Brown

2009 December 14
Ellen Noonan permalink

Josh, I’m deeply grateful that you spend your free time finding such images so that I don’t have to! But I think that might be a Blackberry in her hand, not a beer can.

2009 December 14
Josh Brown permalink

Blackberry–equally lethal!

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