This ad sure doesn’t need my two cents at this point, but I’m fascinated by how dated the blonde runner looks, with her “short graduated haircut,” athletic wear that conjures an American Apparel line, and, added seemingly pointlessly, her iPod. (Has anyone solved politicians’ universal fascination with how Now iPods are?) As she smashes the Hilary control machine to bits, the added meaning of her retro period appearance lends to the dissonance of this ad.
In 1984, this runner’s outfit would have been invisible. That’s just what people on TV looked like back then. It certainly falls seamlessly into the mid-80s ethos of healthy, muscular femininity America promoted. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics debuted the first woman’s Olympic marathon, and the winner, Joan Benoit, was American.
In fact, this commercial actually pre-dates the appearance (in 1985’s Red Sonja and Rocky IV) of Brigitte Nielsen, the former Mrs. Stallone and Amazonian 80s cultural phenomenon.
The Danish Nielsen’s fame presented the oversized woman as a European import. Top Secret, also 1984, had a joke on this theme: the East German Women’s Olympic Team.
The colorful blonde athlete tearing through a dystopian fascist theater, populated by uniform subjects, is intensely problematic: it feels racially pure, even Teutonic, it calls to mind that prototypical athletic apologist of the Fascist—Leni Riefenstahl. And so, borrowing from the Architect’s reading of the Matrix, this blonde fascist liberator does not free the enslaved PC subjects from the oppressive system. A fascist product of that system herself, she can only improve its inefficiences.
But that would be the Architect’s reading, which Neo and the Wachovsky Brothers proved dead wrong. (Granted, I couldn’t be dragged into watching Matrix III, but I feel confident I can go out on a limb here.) And in the Clinton-Obama remake our athlete adds a level of period-costume disconnect, and – and Republicans are going to love this – this disconnect invites a whole host of lite-Marxist readings. To wit, everyone knows consumer capitalism sustains itself only through a constant renewal of its products (look at her iPod!), that renewal depends on cultural amnesia: always buy the new, forget the old. In this Matrix, the recently obsolete is an uncomfortable reminder, an embarrassment, a potentially subversive destabilizer. The embrace of the recently outdated can disrupt capitalist progress. It is a form of resistance. As such, this political commercial implies that Obama could be that shock to the system after all, but only if he subscribes to Marxist cultural theory.