Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Presidents, Television and Goosebumps

I'm not really one for getting up in the middle of the night, so I made the decision to trust in the repetitive impulse of television to be able to watch the Obama inauguration. Morning television did not let me down. The differences in the free to air coverages here in Australia were distinct. Not so much in terms of content, although the ABC2 coverage with a freezing Barrie Cassidy was notable in its worthiness in taking the whole thing as a serious political event. I didn't watch too much of this however, because unlike Sunrise and Today it didn't seem to be showing live pictures. Rather, there was a lot of Barrie standing on a Washington street corner interviewing other commentators. What I wanted was the live pictures, and the repeats of the speech which I found on Today.

Sunrise, a program to which I was once addicted and now refuse to watch, seemed to be tapping into the American broadcast every so often and then topping up with inane comment and discussion in the studio and with their so-called correspondents. Come on people, was that Larry Emdur hosting with Mel? Did he shout out "Come on down" when Obama first appeared. With their American flag studio background I couldn't stand to watch them for more than a few minutes at a time. So cloying and banal.

Today, surprisingly showed a slightly more respectful tone. Richard Wilkins was nowhere to be seen, so thumbs up for that. Karl and Robert Penfold were clearly some distance from the action freezing their behinds off in the great Washington outdoors. Still, they at least demonstrated a hint of understanding the politics of the situation, made some intelligent comments, while also realising that what we were really interested in was what Michelle Obama was wearing (a Cuban designer no less). However, they threw to Lisa in the studio for the fashion discussion, which was probably wise. There was also an interesting discussion as to whether the Obamas were wearing bullet proof vests during the parade (which was exactly what I was wondering as well) when they got out of the car and walked. I would have been.

It was fun to watch the twitchy agents, especially those who had to walk oh-so-slowly alongside the car. How thick are those doors? Answer: very! Would they really take a bullet for the President?

Anyway, I enjoyed the speech muchly. He said all the right things in his usual engaging way. Perhaps if we could have a speech like that broadcast once a week it would be good. let's hope he is able to follow up the rhetoric in reality. Time will tell. And the joke about swiping the pen was cute too.

Now, to the real business, when we will see what the new First Lady wears to the 10 inauguration balls?

Still none of it affected me in quite the same way as yesterday when I was watching some previews on the news when they played a clip of Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream speech". Suddenly, I was all goosebumps. This just goes to prove, that television images, even when they are old and fading, if they show an event that had enough force can still affect us in the present. Sometimes, it doesn't matter whether you watch it in real time, as a real event. If the event has enough force to ripple through time, it can still affect us today.
The test of time, will be if in looking back at Obama's inauguration speech in 40 years or so, we get goosebumps.


djfoobarmatt said...

We tuned into Sunrise at our house with pretty much the same motivation. Despite Obama not being the messiah, I think he's pretty awesome and hope he'll do some good stuff. Enjoyed how the Australian journos were having awkward moments commentating on the racial aspects with stuff like "It's not just that he's the first black president, even if he were white there'd be this much excitement because he's a good guy".

Wendy said...

yes me too. He's smart and articulate, just hoping he doesn't get crushed by the weight of expectation...but so far looks like his feet are firmly on the ground.

that's interesting isn't it that they felt they had to explicitly qualify his apparent "goodness"...just in case we weren't convinced...what with him not being white. So do we think that the journalists imagine the public as unable to equate "black president" and "good" without clear explanation?
Someone can have a field day with that in some research one day.

Wendy said...

That being said, I guess we are talking about morning television here, rather than serious journalistic current affairs, which one would hope would have a clearer idea of how to talk about such in an intelligent way.

John said...

I watched it live and wasn't much impressed with Penfold and Larry Emdur (or whoever). They seemed to get everything they knew about American politics from the Woman's Weekly: "Did you see that photo of Obama with his shirt off?"

Even more frustrating was that they chatted inanely over the MC, so I still don't know who wrote that fascinating--albeit poorly recited--poem.

It was a little off-putting that the Good Morning America (ABC) commentators were more respectful and informed.

Wendy said...

that's interesting that even the live, live broadcast was all a bit hopeless as well. Yes you're right...women's weekly a good reference point to try and explain what I didn't like about the TV coverage.
The ABC just replayed it, with very little voiceover interference from Barrie Cassidy.

A good post here that mentions the poem.

I wouldn't have had high hopes for the US coverage but maybe they got the tone right this time which is nice.