Obama: president or product?

OPINION - Nine months after his ascension to the White House, President Obama is still an international phenomenon and quite possibly the greatest marketing tool of all time...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

President Obama will be traveling to Denmark to lobby on behalf of Chicago, his hometown, for the 2016 Summer Olympics. He will be the first American president in modern times to pitch for a city at the International Olympic Committee meeting. By the mere fact that he is making an appearance in Copenhagen, some speculate that Obama has already sealed the deal for the Windy City. Nine months after his ascension to the White House, President Obama is still an international phenomenon and quite possibly the greatest marketing tool of all time.

Despite the fact that his job approval ratings have suffered recently due to the health care debate and the sour economy, most polls show that President Obama still maintains high personal favorability ratings. Of course, there is much to like about our president including his intelligence, political suave, good looks and nice looking family. Whether he is giving a speech at the United Nations or cracking jokes with David Letterman, Obama swoons his fans just as easily over him as they do over Bono or George Clooney.

As with any celebrity, Obamaholics want to have anything with the man’s likeness on it. Immediately after his election, television commercials advertising commemorative Obama silver dollars and plates were in heavy rotation, although I still haven’t met anyone who admits to owning any of those things. In the black community, we have a deeper appreciation for wearing Obama’s image with pride. I don’t go a day without seeing someone wearing a T-shirt with an image of the Obama family on it or one that says “My President is Black.”

Lately, however, some of this Obama accessorization may have reached a breaking point, begging the question as to whether or not it is appropriate to use the president and his office as some kind of accessory for pushing an agenda or making money.

Recently, actress Victoria Rowell stirred up controversy in the blogosphere when she wore an African print dress with Obama’s face on it to the Emmy Awards. The dress, which I have seen many women in Africa wear but with Nelson Mandela’s or Steve Biko’s likenesses on it, looked great on Rowell, but probably would have been more appropriate at a less formal affair. Her reason for wearing the dress was to show support for the president’s health care plans, but many others felt the dress had the opposite effect and actually disrespected the president. I think she should just stick to advocating for health care for foster children in a more subtle manner.

And then there is the growing business of pimping out Obama’s image on almost anything – and I mean anything. Some of these things are just plain tacky. I can’t knock capitalism if there is a demand for these products, but who is buying Obama paper dolls, cigars, Chia Heads and Obama dildos (yes, dildos)? I can understand saving commemorative magazines and buttons, but commemorative Obama thongs? To each his own, I guess.

While it is great that there is such admiration for President Obama, we should still keep perspective. He is the president and we should respect him as more than something you wear, something you own or as some kind of product placement tool.