The Obama pattern

Obama_dancing Last night was the first time in a long time a President danced in public without having to issue himself an immediate pardon for his crimes against, well, style, grace and the dignity of the office. 

Presidents don't set the tone the way monarches once did, but this President has the potential for being deeply transformative of American culture.  Obama could change not just the things we care about, but the way we care about them, not just the things we do but the way we do them.

It's too early to tell what cultural differences the Obama pattern will bring. But you can already feel some changes, can't you?

As I was arguing a couple of days ago, 30 Rock feels like it will have to reinvent itself.  It can't be the "comic resistance" anymore.  

The other show that feels like it may have lost its way is 24.  This show seemed to go out of its way to make Guantanamo Bay look like a summer camp.  And those days are clearly over.  

There are also a couple of newscaster who are looking, you know, a little "lite."  If the President is going to usher in a new era of intellectual seriousness, well, there are a couple of newscasters who are going to look, er, "under resourced."  And I am not talking about Lou Dobbs.  Ok, I am, but he's not the only one.  All boats must rise with this tide.   


Thanks to Kay Hymowitz for the idea

7 thoughts on “The Obama pattern

  1. Jeremy

    Yes, I can see that Obama’s Presidency will bring some changes to our popular culture, and that’s interesting and significant in some ways. However, I’m more interested in how his presidency will affect our socio-cultural system at large. The nation is riding a wave of ecstasy after eight years of misery, but I wonder where that wave will take us. Will President Obama be able to do all of the things that he offered in his campaign? Will he renew the “American Promise” as he said in his DNC speech? What changes will come, and how? Already I hear things coming from his administration that make me feel uneasy. I’m anxious to see what happens – I think this is a great time for us anthropologists to see how change comes about and what effects it has. I will be following it very closely.

  2. Michael Powell

    What I found fascinating about Day 1, and the first executive orders, wasn’t so much the tactical things that were reported widely in the press (pay freezes, ethics), but how Obama laid the foundation for a more open style of management and access to government records. He was really making a value statement. I feel like the way Obama raised the issue of the Freedom of Information Act, for example, though a seemingly small issue (in the sense that most regular citizens don’t actually use FOIA), nonetheless sets a tone for what is actually a big cultural shift. For one, the shift is partly generational. And for two, the shift concerns how we communicate, manage information, manage people and manage crisis. In short, I’m curious to see how this will impact knowledge work as we know it, outside of those industries and companies (e.g. in Silicon Valley, etc) who haven’t been part of all the hype, up to now.

    So I have to agree with you Grant, these cultural shifts will likely be bigger than just government. Another area I bet people will start to imagine differently is relationships/romance/marriage. The recognizable bond between the first couple is captivating to a lot of people, and they want to learn more about it.

  3. Rick Liebling


    Good stuff as always. Back on Nov. 5 I discussed a similar issue in my post The Rebirth of the cool

    I think Obama will have a significant impact on culture. It might take a little while, but it will be interesting to see what new trends emerge from urban culture. How will clothing, hip hop, athletes, movies, etc. reflect and adjust to the Obama presidency? I think the pendulum is ready to swing in a lot of these areas.

  4. peter spear

    i thought that your pronouncement of 30 rock’s descendant resonance a bit premature and harsh when you first announced it, but after watching 30 rock last night, i have to admit that your cultural finger identified something true.

    i think what’s pertinent to both obama and 30 rock is something like a slow progress of revelation.

    when you pronounced them irrelevant, they had been successful in cagily bouncing themselves off the administration from the perimeter or, at least, a tangent (Alex Baldwins GOP caricature having a romance with a VT Senator/TIna Fey’s embodied critique). last night, however, they had a full shot of Alec Baldwin with Dick Cheney!

    perhaps this is just jumping the shark, but it feels more like losing what’s unsaid, or unrevealed by coming out and saying it. there must always be some level of expectation remaining to be engaging.

  5. Colleen Smith

    Many people seem to be putting together expectations for changes in society. An African friend living in NYC expects the first kids to be role models for pre-teen African-American girls, physicists (my people) have high expectations that science will become more respected and that this might help science education, a friend who is very tall is hoping that Michelle Obama’s image will make tall women cooler…

    Something remarkable is going on when a particle physicist and a two meter tall woman both have expectations for their social groups. Of course if he can’t execute in the next 6 to 12 months, this probably comes crashing down.

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