Wednesday, 5 November 2008


The world as I know it breathed a sign of relief today with the election of Barack Obama as President of the USA. I must say I feel it's the best possible ending to the strange, borderline absurdist soap opera that's been centre stage for so long now. To be honest it baffles me that some of the characters (I mean candidates) are actually real people rather than the figment of a writer's imagination. But there's nowt as queer as folk I suppose.

What strikes me about Obama is that he comes across as a good guy. Don't worry, I'm not under the illusion that I'm making a really new point here. Bear with me. I'm aware that Obama's gift for strong reassuring rhetoric and his apparently warm character are a draw to millions of people all over the world. He's even quite good when he's being cheesy because he retains a credible dignity.  But I'm not here to talk about how great it is that Obama is president. I want to talk about goodies and baddies. In my memory American Presidents have always been... baddies.... There.... I've said it. Obama is the first "goodie" American president I've ever been aware of.

From an early age vilifying US premiers has been child's play. If you think about the presidents my generation have been exposed to and the media that we consumed it's easy to see why. It all started with Regan. I was born in late 1978, so Jimmy Carter passed me by completely. Ronald Regan came to power when I was 3 years old. I didn't even know what a president was, much less care. I was far to busy thinking the world revolved around me. By the time I was 6 years old though I'd been watching Spitting Image videos with my parents. I loved the silly voices and mindless violence but didn't much like the horrible big nosed baddie Regan man. My resolution that Regan was a villain was compounded by the fact that Spitting Image often portrayed him with Thatcher, sometimes kissing her, which obviously meant that she was his wife. And I knew SHE was a baddie because I'd been told so by my Mum. Maggie Thatcher according to Mum was "not a nice lady" and according to Dad she was a word I'd never even heard before. 

George HW Bush was a baddie because my English teacher said so and he knew everything. I was in my early teens and politicians, maths teachers, capitalists and meat eaters were all fair game. Bush looked like all of those things to me. He was also up for something called "THE NEW WORLD ORDER" which didn't appeal to me at all so he was definitely a good baddie.  Come to think of it, I might have been onto something. This clip from the famous New World Order speech in 1990 is straight out of James Bond. Just look how it zooms slowly into his face as he talks. Scary. Very scary.

By the time Clinton came to power I was 15. He seemed like a nice guy at first, but being 15 years old gives you license to dislike people for no reason whatsoever. So I did. By the time the Lewinski Scandal occurred I was 20 and as deeply conservative as I think I've ever been in my life. Endless TV coverage aired the dirty laundry and publicly scrutinised Clinton's morals. Whereas, I now see the odd stained dress as just one of life's occupational hazards (more or less depending on what your occupation is), at the age of 20 I was appalled, shocked, outraged. I was a feminist after all. Obviously. Yes Clinton was a baddie too, a very good baddie because he'd first pretended to be a goodie. And as everyone knows, this is classic villainous behaviour.

George W Bush....I don't think there's any need for me to go into this one. Just replace "NEW WORLD ORDER" with "WAR ON TERROR" and my preteen perspective with the realisation that "Yes, it really, really is very scary, even now I'm a grown up."

So as Obama becomes President, people all over the world rejoice for their various reasons, Paxman inexplicably interviews Dizzee Rascal, hundred year old ladies who remember Rosa Parks go on TV, and I'm just glad there's a goodie in this story.