Michelle does it again

People who think that Michelle O. is elegant and stylish will be awed by what she wore at the state dinner tonight, as will the respectable media in general.


But as for me, with her single shoulder strap and hulking shoulders, and most of all those bulging trapezius muscles that she loves to show off (the muscle connecting the shoulder and neck), she reminds me of the muscle-bound Victor Mature in a 1950s gladiator pic. Mature, however, lacked that ghetto scowl.

I repeat: Michelle is to female style and attractiveness what her husband’s presidency is to America—a deliberate transgression, aimed at redefining it as something else.

- end of initial entry -

Paul K. writes:

That’s a great photo. The juxtaposition of the FLOTUS and the Marine in the background is fascinating. Her forbidding scowl reminds me of the look a Marine affects while on guard duty, or what General Patton called his “war face.”

If you review photos of Michelle at state dinners, you will see that she invariably wears a strapless or sleeveless gown. Though we may think the look is not flattering on her, she obviously does not agree, or else she is going for a different effect than “elegant”; perhaps “imposing.”

N. writes:

Good grief, this getup on the First Lady looks like something from a B-grade Roman epic movie circa 1955. The bodice reminds me of a heavy grade of dry-cleaner bag. Her eye makeup and hair resemble something from a poor knock-off of “Samson and Delilah.” I’m certainly no fashion plate, but at least I know enough to dress like an adult.

This isn’t imposing. This is embarrassing.

LA replies:

A dry cleaner bag! You’re right.

LA wrote to Roger G., who had sent the photo of Michelle:

I’ve posted something on it. Am I once again trespassing into an area where one should not speak?

Roger G. replied:

A certain American thinker recently made the following cogent points on that very issue:

“Do you seriously expect me in the year 2010, responding to the spectacle of weird hostile aliens in the White House and the government, to write about it as would an Edwardian in 1910 or an American newspaper in 1950?

“[T]here is a place for the expression of such emotions as disgust and ridicule, especially when directed at ‘leaders’ who are involved in a hostile takeover of this country.

“[C]ommenting on the physical appearance of public figures is legitimate. A society expresses itself through the personae, the manners, the dress, of its members, particularly its leading public figures who are the models that others follow. A conservatism that declines to comment on that dimension of human society is not looking at the whole. A major problem with American conservatism is its abstractness, treating society as though it were a collection of principles. But a society is a living, organic thing, and right now the living organic thing that is our society is very sick and distorted, but conservatives are largely blind to this cultural and life-style dimension of liberal society because they themselves are a part of it.”

I’m not going to provide the link. Look it up yourself. [LA replies: Here is the VFR entry Roger is quoting.]

By the way, this intellectual, if he had been willing to compromise on his principles, to tell fashionable lies, to ignore unpleasant truths, today would be a nationally featured commentator—far too prominent to be exchanging emails with broken down patent attorneys.

He has blind spots as to Lincoln, the Civil War, Winston Churchill, WWII, and flying saucers, but generally his arguments are mighty, and in fact, unassailable.

And thank you so much for making me defend Joseph Sobran and Patrick Buchanan.

LA replied:

Thank you. You’ve very kind :-)

Actually, if I had not said what I believe, if I had compromised my principles and ignored unpleasant truths, I wouldn’t have been a nationally prominent commentator in that case either, because I wouldn’t have had anything to say. The things I have had to say ARE the prohibited things.

May 20

James P. writes:

In a previous post you said she looks like the rough beast from Yeats’s “The Second Coming.”

In the “Michelle does it again” picture, as well as many other pictures, she definitely has a gaze as blank and pitiless as the sun.

LA replies:

I’m looking again at that crinkly blue dry-cleaner bag bodice, and everything else about her, and thinking, what if I were a foreign leader and the guest of honor at that state dinner, and had to sit next to her and make conversation with her? Egad. I would prefer to be treated as Obama treated Netanyahu, than to face that.

James P. writes:

1950s / 1960s sword and sandal epics typically featured an evil queen who drugs the hero or puts him under a spell. Michelle looks perfect for the part! Barack is the weak king who is under her thumb. But where is the well-muscled hero who will save the kingdom?

LA writes:

James’s previous comment has triggered this:

Somewhere in the East Wing of the White House
A shape with Victor Mature body and the head of a ghetto queen,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Flap lips of admiring press flacks.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That one hundred years of uneasy Emancipation
Were vexed to nightmare by Affirmative Action,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Has slouched into Washington to be born?

Sage McLaughlin writes:

I always thought you were exaggerating when you described her upper body as resembling that of a male body builder, but man, you were right if this photo does not deceive me. Do you know how much work it takes to build up trapezius muscles like that? Unbelievable.

LA replies:

At the entry linked in Sage’s comment you can see Michelle’s trapezius muscles in their maximum glory.

Roger G. replies to earlier LA comment:

You’d have come up with something. Nobody’s had a thought at National Review for years and years, and they’ve all been getting paid. And you’re prettier than Jonah Goldberg.

Daniel H. writes:

Again, I don’t find her unpleasant in this photo. She has a wonderful complexion, a pleasant face and she could have used the attention of a dress maker to adjust the top. At least she isn’t showing cleavage.

Rick Darby writes:

Well, she is from Chicago, is she not? Carl Sandburg had it pegged—“the city of big shoulders.”

Richard O. writes:

Come on, guys. Enough with the “hulking shoulders and pitiless gaze” stuff, already. I admit the B-movie 1955 Roman-epic is funny but, like, this is, uh … what women DO. I admit Mamie Eisenhower would probably have made a different call on what to wear. Going out on a limb here. But whether the dress is a bit edgy or structurally sound is something I’ll leave to the experts at Vanity Fair and Popular Mechanics.

Hairdo excellent, best ever—check.

Curvy, solid shoulders from healthy work out regime—check.

Eyeshadow most fine—check.

Cool, “I’m here y’all” gaze—check.

Fine silver/blue dress—check.

Now, could we get back to the melt down of democratic socialism in Europe and out of control immigration and the destruction of liberty here at home?

LA replies:

As I have said many times before, if people have something to say about a subject, they are going to say it. The comment, “This is not the important subject, that other subject over there is the important subject,” has never once in the history of Web discussions led to the dropping of the subject that the commenter doesn’t like. If a commenter is not interested in a particular subject or thinks it doesn’t matter, the only sensible thing to do is ignore it.

Richard W. writes:

As you know I’m a huge fan of you and your site, but I have to disagree with your views of Michelle’s physique.

Yes, she is a big, black woman. In truth, other than the occasional Norwegian or Slav, white’s don’t produce woman like that. So, a big part of what you are making fun or mad about is merely that she is so different from the normal white body types for woman.

Isn’t it something we learn in grade school not to tease people over innate characteristics that are outside their control? If we had a first lady with a lot of freckles, would it be seemly to rant over how strange and ugly freckles are?

It is perhaps fair game for Saturday Night Live parody, but I don’t see it as a critique of anything meaningful. Now I’m all for taunting and joking, and as adults we should all be able to take a fair bit of teasing about our looks. I make fun of one friend with giant ears. I’m made fun of for being big and bald. But to try to embue such playground taunting with political overtones seems over wrought.

Her shoulders are impressive, in part, because she works out. Clearly she has done lots of time in the gym. Perhaps I lived in California too long, but I respect people, male or female, who take the time and energy to get into great shape like that. Again, some black woman (perhaps because of higher innate testosterone levels?) respond quite differently to weight training than do most white woman. You can see this in looking at top rank female sprinters. The black woman are extremely muscular, like a male athlete. Even the highest performing white woman lack this characteristic.

So, she is naturally big boned, has worked out a lot, and as a result has a very muscular upper body. An upper body that 9 out of 10 woman could not achieve if they wanted to. I still see nothing particularly horrible about all this.

The other direction that big black woman go (like other naturally big people) is to fat. (Trust me, I know about this being a big boned Polish fellow with lots of gym time and several years of, ahem, less gym time!) Other than some freakish Maple Syrup diet Michelle is either going to be big and fit, or big and fat.

The former is clearly the conservative ideal, in my opinion.

As for her choice of clothes, well fashion is always fair game, so bash away.

I guess I’m in a big minority of people on this site, but I really like Michelle’s awesome physique, and also enjoy her style, where she clearly finds things to show off what she considers her finer points. She has a black sense of beauty, not a white one. I’m ok with that.

As a patriotic American I also enjoy the ‘head of state’ photo ops mostly for her presence. Our First Lady can kick the stuffing out of every other first lady in attendance, and most of their husbands too! Including that puny little excuse for a Russian, Vladimir Putin. This pleases me.

The world may not fear our military, economy, or statecraft any longer, but they are all in awe of Michelle’s delts and lats. It’s a start.

LA replies:
I replied to Richard’s W.’s concerns in my reply to Richard O. in a previous entry on the same subject.

Paul K. writes:

You can see form the attached photo that Michelle takes pride in her development.

I think the trapezius muscles are more startling than the buffed shoulders and biceps; thus, Michelle looks better in a sleeveless than a strapless dress.


LA replies:

She’s definitely expressing her excess testosterone there. As I’ve already said to commenters who do not like this whole topic, while it is not Michelle’s fault that she has an extra-large, mannish, and somewhat freakish physique, it is her fault that she uses her position as First Lady to expose and emphasize her freakishness and shove it the world’s face. To Daniel H., Richard O., and Richard W.: I am a cultural critic, and this is part of our culture.

Roger G. writes:

Despite my snide comments, I agree with Patrick H., Daniel H., and Richard O. I think Michelle Obama looks perfectly fine. I like female physicality, if it’s not steroidally induced. But she’s a vile human being. and—as LA said far more eloquently—her appearance accentuates that.

Mark P. writes:

Look, Michelle is proof of a timeless truth: features that look good on a man do not look good on a woman; and features that look good on a woman do not look good on a man. A woman that looks like a male bodybuilder is, by definition, not an attractive woman. Such a woman is, for all intents and purposes, a joke.

James P. writes:

Roger G. writes:

“I like female physicality, if it’s not steroidally induced.”

Except Michelle’s physicality is neither. That’s the whole problem—she conveys male physicality, not female, and she has an aggressive, dominating male personality type as well.


Anna writes:

Roger G. quoted you: “[C]ommenting on the physical appearance of public figures is legitimate. A society expresses itself through the personae, the manners, the dress, of its members, particularly its leading public figures who are the models that others follow.”

That is so right. For example, looking at the photos you posted earlier of the three First Ladies of the West, another commentator may have noted:

Notice the shoulder pads on Mrs. Cameron’s black leather jacket; and under that floor-length dress are those high-tops? The bag she carries is more gymbag than handbag. Could she be heading for a workout designed to emulate another First Lady?

Other possible comments come to mind, so perhaps it is all in the eye of the beholder.

I think Richard O.’s comment is just that; a comment. A reader’s impression of a topic, or dislike of a topic, is a legitimate comment. A directive to drop a topic is not legitimate, but I read his last line differently, as if it were typed with a bemused smile.

In any case, no one can doubt, Mr. Auster, that you are the captain of this ship (and cultural critic as you noted) and free to sail into any port. And let us not forget those on board are here by choice and at your discretion. So, sail on, sir!

LA replies:

Of course, it is my site. But one of the things I do at this site is that I respond to sincere criticisms and seek to explain and justify what I’m doing. This is particularly necessary for me because my positions, and also my manner of expressing them, as in the present thread, are often outside the usual accepted pathways and are, understandably, challenged.

May 21

LA writes:

Re my take-off on Yeats’s “The Second Coming,” a reader writes:

This is not good, it is very harsh and ugly.

People who understand these problems very well in general terms, freak out at me when I express the same idea in personal terms.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 19, 2010 11:03 PM | Send

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