This is not a column about Michelle Obama’s bare arms. God no. It’s not going to prattle on about her clothes and shoes either because, frankly I don’t really care what the First Lady wears.
I do, however, care about this Michelle-O-mania that’s been going on lately. While the bulk of the media are busy reporting on the public’s seething outrage over federally-funded bonuses for people who tanked their companies, there are plenty of others dissecting everything the First Lady does, wears and eats and then scrounges around trying to assign meaning and message to everything. There’s a new story almost every day about Obama, whether it’s about her visit to a Washington, D.C. school or starting a vegetable garden, meeting with soldiers and their families or about the fact that she had her official White House portrait taken while wearing a scandalously sleeveless dress. Over the past two weeks, Obama’s image was on the cover of no less than four major magazines: Vogue, O, New York and the New Yorker. Looking at the avalanche of attention to the minutiae of Michelle, I started to worry that the media were overanalyzing her and providing such mammoth coverage that it’d provoke a backlash, that she’d become overexposed.
Why is she receiving so much media attention? She’s sparkly and new. After eight years of a seemingly kind, but relatively quiet, wallflower-ish First Lady, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is now home to a presidential spouse whose presence appears abundantly self-confident and honest. She’s a generation younger than the previous First Lady and has young children playing on the swingset in the backyard a stone’s throw from the Oval Office. And while Hillary Clinton broke ground as a working mom when she was First Lady, Obama is a first on other fronts, chiefly as the first African-American First Lady. Looking through the recent glut of magazine stories about her, one can appreciate the awe and sense of empowerment many people feel when they see the Obama family living in the White House and Michelle Obama as the First Lady and the self-anointed “mom-in-chief.”