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Para Social Interaction Theories of Celebrities and Race

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Thu, 08 Feb 2018

Introduction

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.

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. These were chosen because it has been suggested throughout Obama’s campaign that he was favoured by the media and was more celebrity than politician. Para-social interaction is “interaction not with other people but interaction with the messages provided by radio, television, newspapers” (Trent et al, 2007. p.47). This form of interaction with the messages formed in the media is argued to be highly influential. The theory of celebrity and mixed race looks at the key perceptions and ideologies surrounding mixed-race celebrities in a popular culture context. This section aims to provide information into the representations of mixed-culture celebrities in the media.

Chapter two focuses on key theorists’ opinions of Obama and his campaign. This section is broken into subcategories studying Obama’s background, as well how he was represented in the media , his biracial heritage, and the argument whether or not he is really forwarding ‘Change’ in America.

The final chapter of this tripartite approach is the analysis of the four issues of Time magazine, applying the theory of para-social interaction and celebrity and race, together with the considerations of key theorists on Obama, and considering the potential impact upon his campaign to become President.

Chapter One: Key Theoretical Resources

1.1. Para-social interaction

The theory of para-social interaction was first introduced by Horton and Wohl in 1956 at a time when access to media was becoming increasingly available and accessible to the masses. “One of the striking characteristics of the new mass media- radio, television, and the movies – is that they give the illusion of face-to-face relationship with the performer” (Horton et al, 1956. p. 215). This illusive contact between spectator and performer is described by Horton and Wohl (1956) as a para-social relationship. The bridge between performer and spectator is crossed using a variety of methods. Often, the performer will be seen interacting with others “but often he faces the spectator, uses the mode of direct address, talks as if he were conversing personally and privately” (Horton et al, 1956. p.215). This method of performance is intended to subtly give the spectator a feeling of direct involvement in what is occurring on screen and that the comments made are being directed towards him personally. This sense of being physically involved with the performer leads to the spectator subliminally observing and participating as if they are involved in the on screen relationships and action. Often, the performer will get feedback on the reaction of the audience; therefore, will adapt his performance to suit the anticipated response. “This simulacrum of conversational give and take may be called para-social interaction” (Horton et al, 1956. p.215).

Rojek (2006, p.390) explains that “the term ‘para-social interaction’ is used to refer to relations of intimacy constructed through the mass-media rather than direct experience and face-to-face meetings. This is a form of second-order intimacy, since it derives from representations of the person rather than actual physical contact”. In order to attain this level of intimacy the spectator must be “able to believe that the celebrities are not so distant from those in their social circles” (Lai, 2006. p.227). To achieve this, a range of relaxed and intimate images “whereby they appear to be just hanging out in unremarkable settings, goofing around, or in a moment of tired reflection” (Lai, 2006. p.227) are often used to ensure that the celebrity remains in the realm of the real world in which his listeners and viewers live.

Horton and Wohl (1956, p.216) take particular interest in a new generation of performer; such as interviewers, critics, and quiz hosts, whose sole purpose is to para-socially interact with their audience. They argue that media formats such as television and radio have created a generation of “personalities” whose “existence is a function of the media itself”. They refer to these performers as “personae”.

A “persona” is a particular social role or a character that is performed. Horton and Wohl (1956, p.216) explain that the “spectacular fact about such personae is that they can claim and achieve an intimacy with what are literally crowds of strangers, and this intimacy, even if it is an imitation and a shadow of what is ordinarily meant by that word, is extremely influential with, and satisfying for, the great numbers who willingly receive it and share in it”. Giles (2003, p.190) believes that “there should be some concordance between the way we experience our relationships with real others and the way we experience our attachments to celebrities and fictional characters”. Concordance exists because the spectator displays interaction with the personae in the same way they would with their peers, through observation of the personae’s non verbal communication, paralinguistic features, and their attitudes and values. The object of the persona is for the audience member to perceive him in a “manner parallel to their interpersonal friends- as natural, down-to-earth, attractive people holding similar attitudes and values” (Rubin, 2008. p.177).

An important part of deepening para-social interaction is that the relationship between persona and spectator is continuing. Giles (2003, p.192) believes the “the strongest relationships are those built up over time with individuals appearing in a variety of media and possibly a variety of guises”. Therefore, the persona needs to appear on a regular occasion, and possibly in a variety of media, to ensure that the spectator can “‘live with him’ and share the small episodes of his public life – and to some extent even of his private life away from the show” (Horton et al, 1985. p.216). Rojek (2006, p. 390) believes that the tensions of physical and social distance of the celebrity “is compensated for by the glut of mass-media information including fanzines, press stories, TV documentaries, interviews, newsletters and biographies, which personalize the celebrity, turning a distant from a stranger into a significant other”. Like a real social relationship, the acquisition of experiences with the persona adds extra depth and meaning to performances in the present and future. If the persona successfully para-socially interacts with the spectator, the spectator may become a fan, or devotee. In time the devotee “comes to believe that he ‘knows’ the persona more intimately and profoundly than others do; he ‘understands’ his character and appreciates his values and motives” (Horton et al, 1985. p.216.) He will perceive him almost as a friend and be influenced by him.

It has been argued that audiences seek “guidance from a media persona, seeing media personalities as friends, imagining being part of a favourite program’s social world” (Rubin et al, 1985. p.156-157). This shows the importance that the celebrity develops a reputable persona, as para-social interaction can be highly influential. “The notion that para-social interaction is fundamental in engendering and reproducing celebrity culture is well established” (Rojek, 2006. p.397). This is especially true in advanced capitalist societies. This is because citizens often communicate at a distance electronically; therefore, celebrities can take advantage of this void to “cultivate a loyal fan base, an enduring audience for their projects and products” (Lai, 2006. p.227). This makes para-social interaction easier between the performer and the spectator, as the spectator can provide feedback through media such as websites and forums. This leads to an increased intimacy. The role of developing an illusion of intimacy is always on the shoulders of the persona. However, if the persona is successful in creating a para-social bond of intimacy, then the audience is “expected to contribute to the illusion by believing in it, and by rewarding the persona’s ‘sincerity’ with loyalty. The audience is entreated to assume a sense of personal obligation to the performer, to help him in his struggle for ‘success’ if he is ‘on the way up,’ or to maintain his success if he has already won it” (Horton et al, 1985. p.220).

1.2. Celebrity and Mixed-Race

In the modern era there are increasing numbers of celebrities of a variety of races appearing in popular culture. Celebrities play a key role in challenging stereotypes and representations because “Stars are, like characters in stories, representations of people. Thus they relate to ideas about what people are (or are supposed to be) like” (Dyer, 1979. p.22.) In the U.S. mixed-race celebrities are appearing more often in popular culture, therefore, potentially indicating that attitudes towards ethnic minorities are changing within a white majority.

Dagbovie (2007, p. 217) believes that there is a “simultaneous acceptance and rejection of blackness within a biracial discourse in American popular culture.” What she means by this is that biracial celebrities normally have an aspect of their multi-cultural background that prevails over others. As an example, Dagbovie (2007, p.217) discusses how Tiger Woods is perceived as more black than Asian. She believes that Woods “cannot escape blackness,” and yet he “also represents a multicultural posterboy, one whose blackness pales next to his much-celebrated multi-otherness”. Woods, like many other mixed-race celebrities, is a race transcendent . Such mixed-race celebrities are no longer seen as minorities, rather as “a different kind of white person” (Hall, 2002. p.A2).

This point leads to the interesting inclination within popular culture to define blackness. “In contemporary popular culture, advertisers and media attempt to define blackness. For mixed-race celebrities this means blackness is deemed acceptable only when it upholds stereotypical white preconceptions and desires” (Dagbovie, 2007. p.218). Preconceptions of blackness are more often than not negative in the mind of a white person. This is because of the history of white supremacy that is subconsciously embraced in the US. However, it has been argued that “mixed-raced individuals are used to explore, praise, or condemn the ‘racial unknown’” (Dagbovie, 2007. p.218). In the modern day, western countries are becoming more and more multi-cultural with the increase in numbers of immigrants. Mixed-race celebrities have forwarded a “modish identity that white Americans seek, desire, and fetishize” (Dagobvie, 2007. p.218). However, many white Americans still have negative preconceptions of what it means to be black. Ellis Cashmore (2006, p.138) argues that in our current culture, celebrities have “rendered whiteness plastic, melting, stretching, and shaping it in a way that accommodates new meaning.” He believes that this new breed of white person makes the “racial hierarchy invisible or at least opaque” (Cashmore, 2006. p.138). It still exists; it is just harder to see.

Dagbovie (2007, p.219) argues that “some mixed-race celebrities are read as black, even when they distance themselves from blackness. Conversely, mixed-race celebrities who claim a black heritage often get labelled as multiracial, not black.” This indicates that the white public struggle to determine whether they are comfortable or uncomfortable with mixed-race celebrities. The mixed-heritage of mixed-race celebrities is often used by them to try and appeal to a wider range of people. Often, mixed-race celebrities self-identify themselves as black. One of the possible reasons for this is that there are “associations between blackness and style” (Cashmore, 2006. p.117). Therefore, this gives the celebrity the opportunity to use their ethnicity to sell themselves, and their merchandise, to an audience. Other celebrities are also “increasingly likely to foreground their mixed ethnic background as an element in their publicity today, a sign that biraciality and multiraciality are taking on new meanings” (Beltran et al, 2008. p.2). Beltran and Fojas (2008, p.11) believe that it is clear that “mixed race imagery has been an enduring and powerful trope of U.S. culture, deployed to convey popular conceptions about national identity, social norms, and political entitlement.” This form of imagery conveys the idea that the American dream is real and attainable. It gives the message that anyone can achieve their dream if they try hard enough and that “coming from an ethnic background was no longer an impediment to progress” (Cashmore, 2006. p.122). However, it has been argued that the “multiracial craze only superficially embraces the dark ‘other’” (Dagbovie, 2007. p.232). This is backed up by Cashmore’s (2006, p.139) argument that “the conspicuous success of a few celebs from ethnic minorities may not convince everyone that racism has disappeared or that the inequality we see all around is just a vestige, a remnant of a bygone age.”

Dagbovie (2007, p.232) titles this theory “new faces, old masks.” She explains how the media use “new” celebrity faces to promote biracialism. She explains how mixed-race celebrities represent the “’multiracial neutral’ in that their images ‘sell’ the idea of racial pluralism and freedom, and yet their images remain ‘other,’ available for audiences and consumers of all racial backgrounds to ‘claim’ or ‘own’” (Dagbovie, 2007. p.232). Therefore, these celebrities aren’t challenging race issues as they are a blank canvas for the audience to create an illusionary image that they believe represents an end of discrimination and inequality. This suggests that celebrities are a mask for the inequality that still exists within America. Although it is widely celebrated that America is heading towards a multi-racial future, “old masks lurk alongside interpretations of what new faces represent, namely racial stereotypes” (Dagbovie, 2007. p.232).

Chapter Two: Key Theorists Understandings of Obama and Race

2.1. Just who is Obama?

Barack Obama was elected President of the United States on 4th November 2008. He was celebrated as the first black American President; however, he “is not only the first black American President; just as notably, he is the first biracial American President” (Smith, 2009. p.129).

Barack Obama was unique compared to other black candidates, such as Jesse Jackson, who have sought election in the past. Obama’s mother was a white American, whereas, his father was a Kenyan immigrant. Initially it was thought that this heritage would cause a negative effect on Obama’s campaign for two reasons. Firstly, “the fact remains that the United States is an imperialistic, racist, sexist, capitalist power that is intent on maintaining its white, global dominance” (Harlow, 2009. p.164). It was believed that white Americans would not vote for a black, or mixed-race, candidate . The second negative factor was “Obama’s black ancestry is immigrant rather than U.S. – born” (Hollinger, 2008. p.1034). As Obama’s family did not experience the horrors of America’s slave history, it was felt that he would not be able to empathise and connect with African Americans. However, Hollinger (2008, p.1037) believed that “the fact Obama is the son of an immigrant may prove to be almost as important as the fact that he is the son of a black man and a white mother.” This is because Obama “made a strategic move towards racelessness and adopted a post-racial persona and political stance.” (Silva et al, 2009. p.178). This stance created an image of a future free of racism and inequality. Silva and Ray (2009, p.179) discuss that “as part of his post-racial approach and appeal, Obama avoided the term racism in his campaign.” This approach was to avoid creating white guilt, and to convey the message that race wasn’t the definitive factor in his candidacy. However, although Obama rarely mentioned racism, he would “frequently cite his biracial heritage” (Wellington, 2008. p.27), suggesting that he was concerned that race may impact upon his candidacy, therefore, reminding people that he is a mixture of backgrounds. It is argued that “Obama is a key transitional between the racially divided generation of the Baby Boomers and the future generations that will see the decline of a white majority in the United States through immigration” (Smith, 2009. p.133).

2.2. Issues of Obama’s Biraciality

A key debate throughout Obama’s run to presidency was, “Is Barack Obama Black Enough?” Being very reliant on the vote of black Americans there was concern whether he would connect with them. Initially he was “dismissed as ‘too black’ to be supported by whites, and ‘not black enough’ to be supported by blacks” (Mitchell, 2009. p.127). His mixed heritage made it difficult to physically determine whether he could be described as black. This dilemma proves extremely interesting, as historically, “one could never be ‘half white’ – or even ‘15/16ths white’. If one had any African American ancestry at all, one was simply black” (Smith, 2009. p.129). Unlike the majority of mixed-race public s “Obama has maintained his ‘white half’ in the media framing of his person and life” (Smith, 2009. p.129). Working hard to maintain his “white half,” gives the impression that he didn’t want to be determined as black because of the negative preconceptions that white Americans have of black people; “For decades, the white imagination has been colonized with images of Black masculinity that have circulated as stereotypes: the Black man is depicted as hypersexual, violent, ignorant and brutish” (Walsh, 2009. p.127). Throughout his campaign he was always cautious to distance himself from “anything or anyone who makes him ‘too black’ or ‘too political’” (Bonilla-Silva et al, 2009. p.178). Although Obama distanced himself from anything that depicted him as “too black,” he still maintained awareness of his biracial heritage. Hollinger (2008, p.1037) argued that “we can expect that circumstances will push Obama back and forth between images of ‘more black than we thought’ and ‘not as black as we thought.’” This method of portraying an ambiguous identity meant that he could be perceived in whatever image the audience deemed fit. Mitchell (2009, p.126) describes Obama as “a mirror for an international community of frustrated desire for peace, hope and change.” He sees Barack Obama as a blank canvas for all the people of America to perceive him in whatever means suited them best.

2.3. Media representations

Obama’s success at effectively transcending race and gaining popularity in America has been widely agreed to be largely down to the media’s portrayal of him. It was argued by Senator John McCain that Obama was favoured by the media and that he was more of a celebrity than a politician. Castells (2009, p.397) believes “there is no conspiracy behind the obvious focus on Obama during the early stages of the primary campaign. It was a sound business decision, coupled with the professional interests of reporters and political commentators.” Obama was an interesting who gained a lot of media attention due to his uniqueness as a black candidate who was unlike any other black candidate that preceded him. Mitchell (2009, p.125) described Obama as “not just the first Black president; he is the first wired president.” Obama clearly understood the importance of the media during his campaign, and used as many resources as possible to his advantage so that his face was impossible to ignore. Cashmore (2009, p.203) believes that “Obama seemed born to the lens, whether on a TV camera or a cellphone. By turns, a charmer, a friend, a saviour, a ferocious panther and a cuddlesome pussycat, Obama was morphed into all these and many more personae by a blisteringly fast media that delivered him in all his guises.” Therefore, the representations of Obama that American’s were seeing in a range of mediums, day in day out, were almost always positive. Hollinger (2008, p.1034) describes how “press accounts of Obama’s life, as well as Obama’s own autobiographical writings, render Obama’s whiteness hard to miss.” This is because of the worry that Obama would suffer the “Bradley Effect,” which is “a voting paradox that would compel voters under cover of secrecy to choose a candidate based on racial identification instead of issue identification and professional qualifications” (Lashley, 2009. p.366). This term was named after the African-American Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in 1982 after he lost the Californian governor’s race, although he was shown to be ahead in voting polls prior to the elections. The mainstream media constantly reminded audiences of Obama’s biracial roots to give the impression that he was unlike other black people. Cashmore (2009, p.202) argues that the representations of Obama in the media created visions of “a promised deliverer, a saviour, a leader who will excite not just change but transformation to a golden age of peace, justice and prosperity.” Cashmore (2009, p.202) describes these images as “not just representations, but perpetual evocations inducing in the conscious mind a mental image of what the future will or could be like.” This inevitably benefited Obama’s campaign as it conveyed the image of a prosperous future.

However, it has been argued that during the 2008 presidential primaries, “mainstream media, in seeking to comfort its dominant white audience, engages in colorblind tactics designed to soothe those who benefit from the status quo while simultaneously trying to appear sensitive and objective to the growing audience of those who are cognizant of the racial hierarchy and unequal access to power, prestige, privilege and property” (Walsh, 2009. p.122) suggesting that the media portrayed a false image of a post-racial future. It is also believed that Obama’s high profile media attention meant he was “elevated to the stratospheric heights of celebritydom, from where the impact of racism was barely felt, if at all” (Cashmore, 2009. p.204). This is argued to have negatively affected the prospects for Obama’s future at developing race relations in the US as it meant he was detached from the realities of racism, therefore, struggling to empathise with African-Americans.

2.4. Change we can believe in?

It has been argued that “Obama’s election victory symbolizes potent possibilities for improving race relations and minority representation” (Lashley, 2009. p.372). It is widely believed that we are being led to a post-racial future now that there is a black man in the most powerful position in the world. Obama’s election is a sign of progress as it “demonstrated that American voters could abandon the polarizing politics of cognitive dissonance grounded in cultural difference, particularly race” (Lashley, 2009. p.375). Obama has produced much pride among black people, relieved white guilt, and confirmed that the US is a diverse equal country; “He is the American Dream fulfilled – he is ‘proof’ (especially for many whites, whether they vote for him or not) of the fulfilment of the promise of freedom and justice for all” (Harlow, 2009. p.166). However, it is strongly contested that “he provides the illusion of racial resolution and equal opportunity where there is none. In his effort to gain white support and win the presidency he has, in effect, chosen to reinforce the myth of the American Dream” (Harlow, 2009. p.166). Bonilla-Silva and Ray (2009, p.178) believe that none of Obama’s policies are “truly radical and likely to accomplish the slogan he has adopted the core of his campaign: change.” Critics of Obama recognised his talents as an intelligent, accomplished democrat, with the ability to lead and gain support from Americans who wouldn’t normally be interested in the presidential campaign. However, they believe that “symbolic diversity without progressive social movement politics gives us white supremacy in blackface” (Bonilla-Silva et al, 2009. p.178). They are criticising the fact that Obama is being celebrated as the first black president, and a symbol of change, when in fact he is a black face with white values, heading a dominantly white party. Bonilla-Silva and Ray (2009, p.177) believe that this forms a “new racism” – “the post civil rights system of subtle, institutionalized, and apparently non-racial practices that maintain white supremacy – and its accompanying dominant racial ideology of color-blind racism.” This “new racism” is a way of covering the underlying issues within America by using Obama as a symbol that they no longer exist. This means that Obama could actually prove to be an obstacle to progressing race relations. The acceptance of Obama’s biracial heritage among voters has led to the belief that all American’s are now equal. However, “in Obamerica, whites will still be ‘more American’ than others (Bonilla-Silva et al, 2009. p.181).

Chapter Three: Analysis and Comparison of four Time issues

3.1. Just who is Obama?

The four Time issues that I have analysed range from Obama’s election to Senate to his election as President. These issues will be referred by date of publication.

All four of the issues have similar front covers of close up images of Obama’s face. Smith (2009, p.131) says that “much media attention has been devoted to Obama’s face. Magazine covers of the Democratic candidate, President-elect, and President have often focused closely on his visage.”

The front cover of the 23rd October 2006 issue focuses on Obama’s face, untouched and unaltered. Obama displays a quiet, yet reassured smile, portraying a message that he is a confident but modest person. Time has not edited out his blemishes and he is seen to be looking straight out of the cover, directly into the reader’s eyes giving a sense of connection with Obama, and his visible blemishes convey that he has neither need nor desire to conceal his visible flaws. He is as “human” as the readers. The 10th December 2007 issue is the only one out of the four that does not focus purely on Obama’s face. It shows him on a plain background with his arms crossed in a powerful stance looking out, slightly offset of the camera. His eyes looking beyond the camera can be seen as a deliberate technique to make it seem he is looking forward to the future. The 17th November 2008 cover is of particular note and interest as even in victory, Obama is still portrayed as modest and unassuming. Once again the focus is purely on his face, and he is quietly smiling.

The 23rd October 2006 article “The Fresh Face” acts as an introduction to Obama. It describes in detail a meeting with the public at a college gymnasium in his home State. Obama’s “speaking style is quietly conversational, low in rhetoric-saturated fat; there is no harrumph to him.” This portrays that he is talking to the audience as his friends, not at them as a politician. This is reinforced when he “realizes he has been filibustering and apologizes to the crowd for ‘making a speech.’ No one seems to care, since Obama is doing something pretty rare in latter-day America politics: he is respecting their intelligence.” Drake and Higgins (2006, p.89) describe that “just as with actors, skilled politicians vary their performance according to the demands placed upon them by different media genres, and so assessment of their performances will also vary according to the context in which they appear.” In this situation, Obama has understood the relatively informal context of his appearance, therefore, adapted his ‘self’ accordingly. Through the medium of the magazine, a form of para-social interaction is confirmed as Obama is adapting his performance for his audience. It is crucial to Obama that those persons present listen to him, perceive him as their equal and not superior as it develops a greater connection and understanding between them and that their importance to him. When questioned whether he is considering running for president, Obama replies “I will think about how I can be most useful to the country and how I can reconcile that with being a good dad and a good husband.” This comment gives Obama a human face which the reader will be impressed by. It depicts him favourably as it shows that he is patriotic and is motivated by what is most important to most American families, family values.

The article says that “His parentage was the first thing he chose to tell us about himself when he delivered his knockout keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004,” and gives an overview of his upbringing. Key to this is Obama’s quote that he “believes his inability to fit neatly into any group or category explains his relentless efforts to understand and reconcile opposing views.” All of these details separate him from the archetypal politician. His mixed-race and varied upbringing separate him from the norm. He conveys the message of the American Dream, that anything is achievable whatever your background. Cashmore (2009, p.204) believes that Obama’s desire to explain his back-story means that “we are familiar with his family, his pets, his personal habits. We know him.” This in turn, should benefit him as the public feel they know him, and judge that he likes them, therefore, developing para-social interaction.

The 10th December 2007 issue focuses on Obama’s strengths and weaknesses and seems to be more balanced and neutral than the 23rd October 2006 issue. The article “Barack Obama: The Contender” follows him in the last few weeks of the race


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