Avatar Obama in the age of liquid celebrity
journal contributionposted on 01.03.2010, 00:00 authored by Sean RedmondSean Redmond
Barak Obama, orator extraordinaire, the embodiment of the American success myth, 'global' prophet of the adoring masses and multi-media auratic figure, is the leading illustration of what is the expanded nexus of celebrity, spectacle and politics in the age of what Zygmund Bauman refers to as liquid modernity or 'the era of disembedding without re-embedding' (2001, p. 89). This is the era in which a traumatic sense of fear, uncertainty and transience defines one's relationship to the nation state, and social (media) centre, as they lose their economic singularity and cultural coherency and cohesiveness in a world system ever inter-connected and driven increasingly, incessantly by supra-corporate concerns and spectacular celebrity-based presentations. In this world of 'togetherness dismantled' (Bauman 2003, p. 119), the disenfranchised individual feels they cannot meet the trans-capital intensive, show reel-like, boundaryless world on solid ground. That adoration, or a liquefied definition of it, is key to this imagined and affective communion between Obama and those who adore him, suggests that there is a terrible wanting and simultaneous waning to those who look for such rootedness and the promise of deliverance in the celebrity political figure. This is a charismatic authority figure who promises this solidity yet streams in and out of material view, unable to fix or properly propagate their communion beyond triumphant spectacularism. Their 'lightness of being' (ibid, p. 123-9) is powerfully seductive and decidedly empty because it echoes the instantaneous (instant) way in which all lives are increasingly led. I will suggest that liquid celebrity is one of the cornerstones of liquid modernity, and Barack Obama is the epitome of this 'runniness'.