If you’ve been trolling the internet at all the lost couple of days, you’re aware by now that Christopher Knight, who has what is apparently a paying gig at the Los Angeles Times, has taken umbrage at a political cartoon likening the profligate Mrs. Obama to Marie Antoinette, who was herself no slouch at spending other people’s money. If you haven’t heard about this kerfuffle, let me lead you through it.
First, here’s the original Marie Antoinette portrait and the companion political cartoon:
And second, Christopher Knight’s fevered fulminations:
A baldly racist depiction of First Lady Michelle Obama that appeared Tuesday on a right-wing website is based on a 1775 portrait of Marie Antoinette by Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty (1740-1786). The full-length painting hangs outside Paris in the Palace of Versailles.
The Internet image grafts Obama’s face onto Gautier-Dagoty’s lavish depiction of the French queen, dressed in full regalia. It also replaces the draped left arm of the young monarch, then barely 20, with a muscular black arm and shifts the position of the right hand to place it in front of a world globe.
The caricature of Obama as a profligate queen relies on the racist stereotype of an “uppity Negro,” which emerged among slave masters in an earlier American era. Obama, born into a working-class Chicago family whose roots are traced to the pre-Civil War South, graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, prior to holding several high-level positions in the academic and private sectors.
The racist image appeared Tuesday on the right-wing blog Gateway Pundit; the slur was later called out by Media Matters for America. A post by Gateway blogger Jim Hoft paired the picture with a clip of the first lady’s guest appearance on a forthcoming episode of “iCarly,” a Nickelodeon sit-com. In the script, Obama commends the cast for their support of military families. Responding to a cast member who mistakenly addresses her as “your excellency,” the script has Obama jokingly reply, “I kinda like it.”
The doctored painting also turned up in August 2010 on the right-wing Instapundit website, where it apparently originated.
You can read the rest here, if you want a laugh and have a strong stomach.
I’m not usually moved to comment on MSM articles (too many comments mean mine get buried, a dreadful fate for an egotist), but this time I couldn’t resist. Here, in its entirety, is my comment:
Dear Mr. Knight: I’ve pretty much ignored the whole zombie phenomenon, thinking it’s kind of stupid to fear the living dead. (I find the actual living much more frightening.) Your post, however, is causing me to rethink my rejection of the zombie trope, because you have just provided living (or, rather, undead) proof that zombies are actually sucking people’s brains out.
Is it possible that you’re unaware of Marie Antoinette’s reputation for living extravagantly while the ordinary people around her starved in the street? And are you unable to make the connection between Marie Antoinette’s reputation (and she was Austrian, by the way, not African American) and the fact that Michelle Obama just recently went on a $4 million tax payer funded vacation, while wearing $1,200 sundresses, even as Americans have been struggling desperately with unemployment and rising prices? For the informed mind (or just the living mind), the comparisons are inevitable, appropriate and non-racist.
Sherlock Holmes famously said that “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Since it must be impossible for a major publication such as the Los Angeles Times to have hired an idiot, the improbable truth we are dealing with is that, since being hired, you have had your brain sucked out by zombies.