I'm still waiting on my Michelle Obama Barbie. Seriously. Where is she? I'll buy 20. But do you want to know what I won't buy? All this crap created in the time honored tradition of the enterprising North American "Hustle Man/Woman."
From tacky President-Elect plates to tacky President-Elect gold plated coins, if you can slap Obama's smiling, inspirational mug on it, you can profit from the latest piece of swag to move aspiring hustlers from rags to Obama riches.
There's gold in them there Obamas! Whether it's book sales (Both pro and anti-Obama books are selling like crack rock on the block!), TV ratings (Barack and Michelle gave 60 Minutes its highest ratings in nearly a decade) or magazines covers (I don't think they've been on Soldier of Fortune yet, but I'm sure they're working on it) -- people are buying visages of the Obamas. Even the fashion industry is hoping Michelle Obama will become their prêt-à-porter deity and keep sales going while the nation goes to the poorhouse.
From ABC News:
"We're all obviously trying to look at the silver lining," designer Norma Kamali told ABCNews.com. "Where do we look for hope, an opportunity to create good feelings for the customer? There is real hope with Michelle Obama. I think she can keep women interested in purchasing."
Obama's name surfaced at a recent meeting of The Fashion Group International, a professional organization for members of the fashion industry. The topic of discussion was the economy, and one member wondered aloud whether Obama could bolster the industry during the current economic downturn.
Networks are cobbling together half-assed documentaries. Books are being rushed to presses. Even the tabloids have put down running pictures of Brangelina (or Jennifer Aniston still upset over Brangelina) to boost their sales with Michelle and Barack. Where will the girls go to school? What is Michelle wearing? Why is Barack the "bee's knees?" What is this "hope and change" thing he keeps talking about? People want to know and the media is willing to provide knowing it all leads to the dollars.
From The Washington Post:
Perhaps it was the announcement that NBC News is coming out with a DVD titled "Yes We Can: The Barack Obama Story." Or that ABC and USA Today are rushing out a book on the election. Or that HBO has snapped up a documentary on Obama's campaign.
Perhaps it was the Newsweek commemorative issue -- "Obama's American Dream" -- filled with so many iconic images and such stirring prose that it could have been campaign literature. Or the Time cover depicting Obama as FDR, complete with jaunty cigarette holder.
Each writer, each publication, seems to reach for more eye-popping superlatives. "OBAMAISM -- It's a Kind of Religion," says New York magazine. "Those of us too young to have known JFK's Camelot are going to have our own giddy Camelot II to enrapture and entertain us," Kurt Andersen writes. The New York Post has already christened it "BAM-A-LOT."
But the real stars of this effort to capitalize and monetize history are not the media or the book publishers, but the hustlers, the peddlers, the eBay specialists who are the true heroes of crass capitalism.
America is a country founded on the ability to hustle. It was the founding fathers who hustled themselves out of being a colony, hustled the Native Americans out of their land and hustled slavery until that little Civil War happened. But this has always been a place where many business people who saw opportunity where other people only saw crap.
Take the inventor of Barbie.
Former Mattel, Inc. president Ruth Handler modeled the doll off of a German doll marketed to adults as a sexually fused gag gift, explaining Barbie's impossible waist- and bustline.
Or, Madam CJ Walker who became the first black and female millionaire through the invention of the pressing comb and creating the black hair care industry.
When others say why, the hustle man/woman says "Why not?"
From poorly bootlegged DVDs of new films the same day they come out to Steve Jobs pushing iPhones you can't afford, America is built on the backs of folks who can put up a mean hustle. It's only natural that the hustler would celebrate our fair Hopey McChangey by pimping his message in the most garrish, ridiculous, tackilicious "hang your portrait of Barack and Michelle between the MLK/JFK/RFK memorial plates/paintings and the giant, wooden "Tiki" (or African) fork and spoon in your dining room" fashion.
Before he won, Obama had already created a hustler's economy of buttons, jewelry, T-shirts, hats and all kinds of weirdness that I have chronicled on this blog over and over and over again. From his likeness in chocolate to indie designer label trousers, these were Obama items that sometimes came in "extremes," but the money was always right.
Aw shizz! A shirt of Barack dunking on McCain? Order me fifty, son!
"Folks want to buy it," recognizes the hustler, "No matter how cheesy." From lame Obama action figures (this doll is no where as talking Ken doll-riffic as the talking George W. Bush doll I have in the basement somewhere. Lame! Give me a Barack doll worthy of making out with my old school Barbies!) to Obama themed skins for your iPhone, who knows which tchotchkes will be those Eddie Money-esque two tickets to (financial) paradise.
As a child I sat in the homes of many relatives staring at framed photos of John F. Kennedy next to Martin Luther King Jr., typically mounted near the wooden Tiki fork and spoon wondering "why?" How did these particular items become the tributes of choice for black people? I've moved past that wondering to now expecting gigantic, gawdy-to-gorgeous portraits of the Obamas smiling at me, symbols of both pride and the North American hustle man/woman's entrepreneurial spirit.
In crap we trust. Some gaze at the Grand Canyon or Sierra Nevadas to understand America's beauty. Save the money, turn on QVC and do nothing but slow claps. Bravo, hustlers. Bravo. You truly are recession proof.