For most people, the White House is the realization of a lifetime’s worth of blood, sweat and tears. Countless hours spent strategizing, continuously forging and maintaining alliances, negotiating the many mazes of manipulation and motive, the stress of public accountability and being weighed and measured and tried by the press and its many implications, the ultimate sacrifice of one’s own and their family’s privacy – the road to the Presidency is just as much of a cautionary tale as it is coveted. The honour of the office and everything that comes with it, however, is unparalleled and well worth it – the pinnacle of a life most people can only dream of.
Then again, there are some to whom it’s just an audition tape and a first-class ticket (the Air Force One being otherwise engaged) to a Hollywood only too eager to welcome the like-minded in pursuit of the diversity it strives for daily.
News of Barack and Michelle Obama’s Netflix deal broke a couple of weeks ago, while the mainstream media was preoccupied with President Trump’s reaction to the unusually swift cancellation by ABC of the right-leaning smash-hit sitcom “Roseanne”, following Roseanne Barr’s unfortunate gaffe on Twitter. The 65 year old comedienne posted a tweet that contained racial undertones, supposedly under an Ambien influence, leading to the death of the reboot just as quickly as it had gained traction.
The former President made his Netflix announcement just as the current President demanded that the same treatment be meted out to political commentator/comedienne Samantha Bee, who called his daughter a ‘cunt’ live on national television. Bee, subsequently, issued an apology that was immediately accepted by the TBS network, and faced suspension. It would be prudent to state herein that one is not equating profanity with racism – they’re two separate issues with different ramifications – but seeing as only a year previously Kathy Griffin, yet another political commentator/comedienne, first had her contract terminated by CNN following a photo shoot she did of herself holding the bloodied, dismembered, severed head of the President of the United States of America which, it can be easily argued, is tantamount to a felony for threatening and inciting violence towards a sitting president, escaped with public sympathy via an apology, only to subsequently retract the apology – perhaps one can empathize with the president’s frustrations. Needless to say, The Obamas timed their announcement to perfection.
Michael D. Shear of the New York Times affirms in his article on the subject that ‘the former president has told associates he does not intend to use the new platform to wage a public campaign against his successor in the Oval Office, or to fight against conservative voices that populate media outlets like Fox News’.
By the sound of it, Higher Ground Productions intends to live up to its name, a name obviously inspired by Michelle Obama’s speech at the DNC in the run-up to the 2016 elections. “When they go low, we go high” she proclaimed to vociferous applause. A year later, when the Democrats and the left were still coming to terms with the fallout from the elections (as they no doubt still are and will be for the foreseeable future), the former First Lady seemed to fail to adhere to her own direction, infamously alleging “any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice”. The irony of that statement was further expounded when journalists on the right questioned not just her support for her husband, but also her campaigning and garnering for him the support of women all across America over the very same Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic Primaries: questions that went unanswered. Perhaps the higher road was a path less taken before the Obama administration.
Or more plausibly, it was a time before identity politics, which found its makings during the 8 years that followed it. Who was it that said, “Irony does not dry up the grass. It just burns off the weeds”? Renard’s assertions from over a hundred years ago, find embodiment in the former First Couple.
Netflix looks to be a good fit for the former president. In the 20 or so years of the company’s existence, its streaming service has changed the face of entertainment, especially home entertainment forever. And despite the fact that his lukewarm announcement, so befitting his time in office, was timed to perfection by his PR team to ensure it flew under the radar, Barack Obama looks to be a good fit for Netflix. After all, no matter what side of the divide you’re on, it’s clear to see, his presidency of 8 years has changed the United States, if not forever, then certainly for a period of time long enough that it sure feels like it.
Much like his 8 years in office felt to many.
It is anyone’s guess how posterity will record these events. One thing’s for certain – Netflix will release a glowing tribute/documentary on the Obama presidency any day now or in the days leading up to their first joint release.
If the previous presidency is any indicator, expect ineffectual and seemingly-innocuous yet highly insidious content.
Note: The article was slated to be published in May, but fell out of the news cycle owing to other pressing matters.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in the article are of the author’s, and do not reflect Aawaaj’s editorial stance.