hen the First Family had their first official portrait taken in October 2009, President Obama's daughters were 8 and 11. A lot has changed since then for the White House's occupants, who had their second official portrait taken Dec. 11 with a holiday-bedecked White House as a backdrop (see both portraits below). When the new Obama family portrait was unveiled on Thursday, the commentariat was quick to seize on these five talking points:
1. This is one convincingly happy-looking family
The first thing to know about the First Family photo is that "it's basically perfect," say Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger in The Washington Post. "You could lock your own family in the Sears portrait studio for an entire weekend and not end up with anything this nice." They look "so sweet and attractive that it almost makes you angry," says Margaret Hartmann in Jezebel. Why is no one "giving her sister a dirty look" or "sprouting a gnarly zit"? Yes, they look "stunning," but "what I love the most is the sight of their hands intertwined," says Danielle Sullivan in Babble. The 2009 portrait is beautiful, too, "but not as connected."
2. But the president looks a lot older
My "immediate takeaways" are that "the first daughters are growing up quickly," while "the president's just getting grayer," says Michael Memoli in the Los Angeles Times. Yes, it's pretty striking "how much the president has... aged," says Elizabeth Snead in The Hollywood Reporter. But all presidents do, even in good times. After these past two years, "can you blame him" for his new gray hairs?
3. First Dog Bo is a no-show
We have "only one little objection" to the official portrait, say Jessica Misener and Ellie Krupnick in The Huffington Post: "Where's Bo???" The family's Portuguese water dog is "notably absent" from the photo, agrees Katherine Skiba in the Chicago Tribune, especially since his "likeness is a prominent feature of this year's Christmas decor in the Executive Mansion." Indeed, note The Washington Post's Roberts and Argetsinger, Bo is the only family member in the Obama's Christmas card, where he's photographed "snoozing by a toasty White House fireplace and a table laden with gifts."
4. The choice of photographers is recession-appropriate
"Both portraits are flattering," but 2009's image, shot by famed celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, was "more of a Hollywood spectacle," says Meghan Keneally in Britain's Daily Mail. After two years of sliding polls and "a tough economy," it's definitely "a bit of a reflection of the times" that this year's portrait was shot in-house by White House photographer Pete Souza, and "released with just as little fanfare... on the White House' Twitter feed."
5. Where did they get those dresses?
First Lady Michelle Obama's black sleeveless dress is from Byron Lars' Beauty Mark line — "it's the exact same dress she wore to the memorial dedication ceremony of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack," says The Hollywood Reporter's Snead. "We love that she wears outfits more than once, just like we do." And "we're loving Malia's navy and black frock from Anthropologie," says Misener and Krupnick in The Huffington Post. "We know it must fit the tall teen perfectly, considering we tried it on last weekend and it hung well below our knees." Sasha, meanwhile, is wearing the Clarissa dress from BB Dakota's holiday collection. Check out the official portraits — first, the latest incarnation, followed by the 2009 shot:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How my boyfriend and I learned to live on one income
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- Why the poor's investment of choice is so alarming
- Why China's Communist Party is headed for collapse
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How to make perfect fried rice in 6 easy steps
- Affirmative action is doomed. Here's what progressives should do about it.
- Why conservatives see rural America as the 'real' America
- Obama's next steps on immigration
Subscribe to the Week