Newsweek magazine’s August 15 cover was a big, unflattering close-up of Michele Bachmann. It was a political jab, it was sexist, and it’s making me defend Michele Bachmann, which is not okay.
A lot of public anger about the cover has been directed at the photo–which is bad–but I can’t give a pass to the title: “Queen of Rage.” Queen of an uncontrolled, violent, dangerous emotion. Dick Cheney was never granted the title “King of Rage,” nor Senator Joe Wilson. But Bachmann, whose trademark isn’t rage but more a calm, reasoned delivery of some of the strangest and more unreasonable crap available, is the Republican party’s own She-Hulk.
That said, the photo is beyond unflattering, and not accidentally so. We wouldn’t be likely to see, say, any of the male Republican candidates shot from below, lit from the front, looking like they’re about to sneeze. It doesn’t matter whether or not Bachmann is still an attractive woman on the cover, although given the way she looks at public appearances, it’s an easy guess that she wouldn’t have been happy with that cover photo, had they asked her. What matters is that she doesn’t look like herself and does look spacey and misguided. With all of Bachmann’s available legitimate targets, editor-in-chief Tina Brown takes a jab at Bachmann’s appearance to make a political point in a way that she’d never do to a man.
If she wanted a cover photo with that same gaze, she had plenty of other, more flattering photos to choose from (in which “more flattering” is defined as “closer to the way Bachmann chooses to present herself publicly,” which I tend to think is her call). Their own gallery of outtakes has at least two photos that show that same Manchurian Candidate intensity without making her look like her own wax figure at Madame Tussaud’s.
Brown said, “Michele Bachmann’s intensity is galvanizing voters in Iowa right now, and Newsweek’s cover captures that.” Unless what she meant to say was, “Michele Bachmann’s evil magic mirror is controlling the minds of voters in Iowa right now,” or “Michele Bachmann’s zombie hordes are descending upon the children of Iowa right now,” their cover photo is way off and out of line.
Everything about Michele Bachmann squicks me out. Her stance on gay rights, her bizarre opposition to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, her ignorance of basic second-grade American history, her good Christian submission to her husband, everything. If I had dinner with her at the Olive Garden, I might be too disconcerted by her very presence to share a bottomless salad bowl with her. But her looks wouldn’t even rank, and it’s a cheap shot for Newsweek to bring them into it.
And thus I am pissed off: I find myself in a position to have to defend Michele Bachmann. I hated having to face off against the sexist attacks on Sarah Palin, and I hate having to do it now in defense of Bachmann. There are so many things to attack besides her appearance. On the list of things that are wrong about her, those glazed, kind of disturbing eyes are way down toward the bottom. To quote Jon Stewart last week, “You want a photo that makes her seem a little off? Make it out of her words.”