RSS
Michelle Obama: Does the first lady belong at the Oscars?
To some, Mrs. Obama's cameo was the highlight of the Academy Awards. To others, it was an unwelcome intrusion of Washington politics on Hollywood's big night
 
The first lady opens the envelope holding the name of the Best Picture winner.
The first lady opens the envelope holding the name of the Best Picture winner. CC BY: The White House

Michelle Obama's surprise appearance to present the Best Picture statuette to the makers of Argo proved to be one of the most memorable moments of this year's Oscars. The first lady, decked out in a silver Naeem Khan dress she wore to a black-tie White House dinner, said via satellite that the best films of the year "made us laugh. They made us weep and made us grip our armrests just a little tighter... And they reminded us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough." A spokesperson said after the show that the first lady, "as a movie lover," was honored to present the award.

Some critics, however, think the first lady had no business taking the spotlight on Hollywood's big night. "Though I'm a great admirer of the first lady," says Richard Brody at The New Yorker, "I found Michelle Obama's appearance to open the Best Picture envelope, accompanied by the gold-braided honor guard behind her, wildly inappropriate." It affirmed "the hard power behind the soft power — the connection of real politics to the representational politics of the movies, of the peculiar and long-standing symbiosis of Washington and Hollywood — all the more so when the matter of access to inside-government information is a key issue with the making of Zero Dark Thirty."

Plenty of people, however, saw Michelle Obama's appearance as a fitting exclamation point on the 85th Academy Awards ceremony. "Her appearance makes sense," says Peter Grier at The Christian Science Monitor, "given that so many Best Picture contenders had political themes. There was Lincoln of course, which wasn't about Lincoln cars, and the search-for-Osama bin Laden movie Zero Dark Thirty, as well as Argo, about the escape of U.S. hostages from Iran." And the context wasn't the only selling point, Grier added, judging by the avalanche of rave reviews on Twitter of everything from Mrs. Obama's bangs to the "dignity of her speech."

The first lady has much higher approval ratings than her husband, and there's a reason for that. She's great at this kind of stuff and has appeared on everything from Dr. Oz to The View to Sesame Street and now the Oscars. [Christian Science Monitor]

"The First Lady looked lovely as usual," says Ruth Ferguson at the North Dallas Gazette. And the complaints about her appearance fell flat. She merely stepped into the Diplomatic Room at the White House to say a few words. She and President Obama had just hosted the Governor's Dinner, so she and the military personnel who flanked her were already "there dressed in their best — clearly there was no special effort or money spent on this guest appearance." That won't "stop critics of the Obamas from raising a ruckus" — though it should.

Actually, this was a bit much, complains Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. "It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation. Now the first lady feels entitled, with military personnel as props, to intrude on other forms of entertaining (this time for the benefit of the Hollywood glitterati who so lavishly paid for her husband's election)."

I'm sure the left will holler that once again conservatives are being grouchy and have it in for the Obamas. Seriously, if they really had their president's interests at heart, they'd steer away from encouraging these celebrity appearances. It makes both the president and the first lady seem small and grasping. In this case, it was just downright weird. [Washington Post]

"Rubin isn't the wingnut most fixated on this (that honor goes to Matt Drudge)," says Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog, "but if anyone wants to know where the Obamas learned to go pop culture, they might want" to place belongs: Right in the lap of the leader of the White House that wrote the book on mingling Hollywood glitz with Washington politics — Ronald Reagan.

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week