Aug 17th, 2009
The summer of their discontent
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the anti-Obama T-shirts in our catalogue, all made by folks who are getting something off their minds and onto their chests (and the chests of those around them). It would seem that a T-shirt is worth 1,000 polls…
One of the more discussed designs is the Obama/Joker design, which went viral both online and as a subversive poster campaign in the real world. This image was the first real iconography to catch on in the anti-Obama movement, and it certainly got some attention from the Left. Some decried it as “racist,” (these folks apparently aren’t big Batman or circus fans), while others went on record to doubt the intelligence of the design itself.
Perhaps, under a new administration, the collective memory slate that once held notes of political outrage has been wiped clean. Indeed, those decrying the Obama/Joker image seem to have forgotten that President Bush earned himself similar artistic… er, tributes. A simple search for “Bush” reminds us that the process of Presidential policy critique via the almighty T-shirt isn’t remotely reserved for the Right.
The trend of anti-Obama merchandise is to be expected. This is, after all, the artistic cycle of political opposition; those opposed to a specific candidate spend the majority of their pre-election energies on promoting their candidate of choice, not focusing on The Other Guy (or Girl). In fact, the only candidate we’ve seen garner a big anti-following well before holding the Presidential office is Hillary Clinton, who started the whole retro communist/socialist propaganda art theme long before Obama was the target.
Which is to say that all the folks making McCain ’08 merchandise should be expected to join the new political dialogue, and that dialogue centers around President Obama and his policies. Those who made the pro-Obama T-shirts have, already, done their jobs: their candidate was elected, their merchandise is still – for the most part – relevant in supporting him.
For those interested in the trend, here’s some factoids for you:
- There are about 1 million anti-Obama products, vs. 3 million pro-Obama products
- Sales of pro vs. anti are fairly evenly split, though anti can spike if there’s a good, T-worthy catch phrase or policy that comes up (like the Great Stupidly Debate & Happy Hour)
- The anti-Obama sentiments post-election tend to focus on policy issues – socialism is a big theme, as well as generalized “I told you so” messaging. Pre-election, the anti-Obama sentiments trended more towards a generalized answer to the ubiquitous Hope/Change messaging, with “Nope” being a main theme.
Overall, the anti-Obama merchandise is, in its infancy, displaying much the same pattern as the anti-Bush merchandise. One big difference: anti-Obama merch tends to be almost exclusively about what Obama does; anti-Bush merchandise had a lot of content specifically related to what Bush said. The “acting stupidly” remark was the first Obama public gaffe to make its way as a trend to ring-spun cotton, so we’ll just have to wait it out to determine whether or not the Obama administration will go the way of Bush, inspiring designers with “Obamisms” or some such.