The aim of my dissertation is to apply the theories of para-social interaction and celebrity and race, to four issues of Time magazine featuring Barack Obama, whilst analysing how the representation of Obama develops and changes over time.
I have chosen Time magazine as the basis of my study as it is so widely read and respected in America and is regarded as politically neutral. The issues studied were carefully chosen from key dates surrounding his campaign and concentrated on Obama, featuring him as the main cover story.
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The first issue studied (appendix 2) was published on 23rd October 2006, and acts as an introduction to Obama as a US Senator at the time of release of his book ‘The Audacity of Hope.’ This issue was prior to Obama’s declaration of his intention to run in the 2008 US presidential primaries, providing a relevant insight into his image and how he was presented at that time. They key article within this issue analysed was written by Joe Klein and is titled “The Fresh Face.”
Issue two (appendix 3) was published on 10th December, 2007, exactly ten months after Obama announced his candidacy for the 2008 US presidential primaries. This issue looks at Obama as “The Contender” and examines his ability to transcend race as well as his appeal as a celebrity . With a careful examination of his strengths and weaknesses it appears to portray a fair and neutral representation of Obama. The two key articles studied within this issue are “Barack Obama: The Contender” written by Karen Tumultry, and “The Identity Card” (author undisclosed.)
Issue three (appendix 4), dated 20th October 2008, was written shortly after Obama defeated Hilary Clinton to gain the Democratic Party nomination. This issue features the controversial front cover of Obama’s face divided in two, implying that he has a black and a white side. The key argument was that the economy was considered more important than the issue of race. Within this issue the three main articles analysed are “For White Working Class, Obama Rises on Empty Wallets” by David Von Drehle, “For Blacks, a Quiet Question: What if Obama Loses?” By Ta-Nehishi Coates, and “Is Barack Obama American Enough?” by Peter Beinart.
The final issue studied (appendix 5), issue four, was published on 17th November 2008, shortly after Obama had successfully won the presidential primaries and had become president-elect. It focuses on Obama’s achievements as well as the prospects for his future, and that of America. Within this issue the two articles analysed are “How Obama Rewrote the Book” by Nancy Gibbs, and “Will a Black President Really Heal the Racial Divide?” by T.D. Jakes.
The studies conducted are presented in a tripartite structure. The first chapter is an analysis of key theoretical resources relating to para-social interaction and celebrity and mixed race.
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