The Other Half, United States — April 16, 2012 7:10 pm

Reframing a Personality – TextsFromHillary

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Four years ago, Barack Obama was the epitome of “cool” as far as politics were concerned, and his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, was “politics as usual.” From the mystical “O” logo to a hope poster which played with sharp contrasts to capture one’s attention – and the youth vote, Barack Obama’s nonchalant professionalism came across as wonderfully 21st Century. Clinton, on the other hand, was unable to mobilize Americans the same way. An Obama presidency was something young Americans looked forward to.

But then Obama actually became president, plopping on the laurels of bureaucracy, and though he’s still the same Obama, the spark is gone. The excitement of possibility no longer exists, because what was then possible now is already a reality.

Obama won. Turns out he’s just another president.

But how, then, is Hillary Clinton suddenly cool?

It’s the same Clinton personality that many abhorred four years ago. Cold? Check. Calculating? Check. A woman growing older in public? Some Republicans definitely made that clear. Gendered epithets? Those, too, played an unfortunately large role.

But now, the same Hillary is a meme – in the form of the glorious but short-lived Tumblr TextsFromHillary. Her seemingly distant, disconnected, indifferent persona – shattered by a tear in ’08 – is now what makes her cool. Clinton texts. On a smartphone. Wearing shades indoors. She snaps back at a variety of celebrities, showing her seemingly effortless firm handle on global diplomacy. There’s Hillary Clinton, “running the world”, and she makes it look easy.

The TextsFromHillary Clinton is a woman who has climbed to where she is through hard work, and knows that she is good at what she does. The kicker is that the public knows it too. Hillary Clinton comes off as cool, as opposed to cold, because Tumblr users see her as a ridiculously accomplished woman who has earned the right to show pretenders their place – this shown by the fact that the response to the site was so large, with thousands of Twitter and Facebook followers on top of the Tumblr reaction.

Clinton in Tumblr form represents a powerful femininity which transcends unequal treatment. When a joke comes in about her sartorial style – in this case, her scrunchie – it is her very own submission to the site. The Tumblr Clinton is able to make fun of John Boehner’s tears, and deflect Sarah Palin’s desires to be seen as an equal in accomplishment. This version of Clinton is comfortable in her skin, and a great example for women (and men) around the nation for that reason. Once you get to the point where you are on a first name basis with foreign leaders, you are actually totally allowed to wear sunglasses on a plane. And even wear a scrunchie.

Hillary Clinton, in essence, has won. Her newfound viral meme fame – another fifteen minutes to tack on to her well-earned decades – demonstrates that her story can be retold, her narrative reframed – and confirms the view that Clinton is still one of the “most famous but least known” figures in America.

  • Pdgandy

    I don’t think this president is “just another president”. The job is hard work.  Sometimes you gotta slog through it. There should be no surprise here. 

  • Andrew Seo

    One of the best analyses of the TextsfromHillary phenomenon. I would say that even President Obama would agree with your point, stating at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: “Four years ago, I was locked in a brutal primary battle with Hillary Clinton. Four years later, she won’t stop drunk-texting me from Cartagena.”

    I was wondering if you think this Clinton in Tumblr form can last. If she were to run in 2016, is this an image she can expand upon?

  • Humza Bokhari

     Sorry, I just noticed that you had a question here! Um, I’m not sure… I think part of the whole speed of the phenomenon was that it ended as quickly as it started, and no one is even really talking about it anymore. I don’t think this is something she could successfully revive – as she continues to age and the sexism kicks in (which it especially would if she were to run), this sort of “cool” image may be harder to maintain.

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