December 12, 2013

I predict we'll all — most of us — go to Helle.

You think she's off the norm — the gleeful, man-magnetizing Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who took the famous funeral selfie with Barack Obama and David Cameron leaning into the shot.

But I think this is where we are going. Years ago, we scoffed or cried out in horror at the man who walked down the street talking on a cell phone. Why, he seemed like those crazy people who walk and talk to phantoms. Doesn't he know how ridiculous and presumptuous and into himself he looks? Can we even remember how intensely we experienced that disapproval of walking cell-phone talkers?

Helle Thorning-Schmidt — love the name! — assures us the mood in the stadium was "festive," and it was not wrong to take a selfie, and, indeed, she thinks all the fuss is "funny."

Thorning-Schmidt declined to talk about the way Michelle Obama looked. Me, when I look at the famous photo of the photographing — the second one down at the link — I see Michelle existing in the old world — where most of us are — and the other 3 having entered the next stage. Some day, we'll look back and think we're all relaxed and free to quickly record the occasion, even if it's a funeral. After all, lots of people come together at funerals. They are great reunions and celebrations of the life that has ended. We see the life in ourselves and in each other on these occasions, and perhaps this is the last time we will be here together like this. Take the selfie!

Picture yourself in the casket and: 1. Take a selfie now before it's too late, and 2. Ask yourself if you'd like the people who showed up for your funeral to feel they need to sit stiff and grim like poor last-century Michelle or if you prefer Helle?

35 comments:

paul a'barge said...

You keep saying "we".

Who is "we"? Do you mean to say that you and your behavior is morally equivalent to that of these world leaders? That your reputation is comparable to theirs.

They were elected by a large number of other people to represent those other people. You were elected by ... no one.

You can't grok the difference? Srsly?

Archie said...

The selfie is a good start but to be really festive they should have mooned the camera. I'm sure Mr. Mandela and the South Africans wouldn't mind. They were/are well known fun hogs.

Ron said...

Put a programmed camera in the casket with you when you go, and keep taking corpseies until the battery runs out! Naturally, the camera will have wi-fi attached to it so your fam can see your rotting cadaver for a long time to come! Maybe they can auto-post onto your facebook page...

Patrick said...

There it's plenty of time, both before and street funerals to record whatever you'd like to record.During the funeral our memorial service itself, I'd like to think a modicum of dignity and reflection it's still the norm.Of course it'd no surprise that a narcissist like the President wouldn't have any notion that such rules would apply to him.

Beldar said...

I'm among the most committed critics of Barack Obama and have been since he was a baby U.S. senator. But I'm much more critical of his respectful handshake with butcher Raul Castro than his participation in the photo.

Funerals need not be funereal. I dearly hope mine won't be. My model would be my father's. He died at age 86 in 2009 after a long life that, while much less famous or internationally consequential, I consider entirely as heroic as Mandella's. In writing and delivering his funeral eulogy, I included stories designed to evoke not just fondness, but genuine levity — to celebrate a life well-lived with grace and humor. The recessional music, chosen by my older brother, was the "Navy Hymn," followed by "The Eyes of Texas" — and as we knew he would have wanted, my family and I raised our "Hook 'Em Horns!" signs and sang the words of his (and my and my siblings') school song as we filed out.

The home video I shot at the reception was of people smiling, laughing, remembering. Yes, there were tearful laughs and smiles. But as was the point of the exercise, I was among people who loved my father, many of whom I hadn't seen in decades, and we were genuinely glad of the reunion and its opportunity to remember my dad together.

There are other funerals where humor or levity is harder to muster. But Mandella's wan't one.

There's plenty enough to find fault with about Barack Obama. I'll pass on this occasion.

Mary Martha said...

I am from an American Irish Catholic family and the *wake* is when you get drunk and tell naughty stories about the deceased and have a veritable family reunion. The *funeral* is the next day and everyone is very somber and perhaps half hung over.

My father always said the thing he would regret most about dying was that he would miss the party at his wake. So for his 70th birthday party we held his wake! he sat next to the casket (seriously, we had a casket in the front room) and people brought him drinks and everyone told the funny stories of his life.

Maybe we were just ahead of the curve?

W.B. Picklesworth said...

I want people who show up to my funeral to be respectful. Not of me, but of life. And part of life is the universal experience of death. We mark this experience by treating it differently, by showing proper respect for something that is beyond our control, more powerful than us. There are many occasions for laughter and selfies, but my funeral isn't one of them.

One could well argue that this was a very different cultural experience. People were dancing after all. Perhaps they needed to be present in that particular context in order to show respect for it? This is not necessarily the case; we sometimes denigrate another culture by assuming that we can ignorantly join in with it. But assuming this not to be the case, then Obama, Cameron and Thorning-Schmidt needed to get up and dance; they needed to participate in that culture. Instead they did neither. They failed to be authentically Western or South African and they ended up being authentically gauche instead.

Sorun said...

"Put a programmed camera in the casket with you when you go...

Someone will do this. An artist, probably. Someone else will consider a cremation cam.

Sorun said...

You can't criticize Obama for the pose, but it was probably not a coincidence he was sitting next to Helle. That's what Michelle is steamed about.

Unknown said...

when i was a child both my mother and father died separate accidents 2 months apart. as an adult I now have boxes of photos of me and my brother at the funerals and memorials. photos of the flowers. photos of the caskets and newly laid wreaths. photos of mourners smiling and crying. photos of the reverend. photos of the food. photos of the churches. photos of the procession. photos of the limos. photos of the headstones. photos of the mini yellow backhoes. photos me of crying and depressed. photos of me holding my favorite stuffed animal. photos of my brother stoic.

10 years later i used one of the photos to make somethign for my grandmother in shop class. i had no idea of where the photo came from, but i found it and used it. my grandmother died this year and a month before she finally passed, we came across this item i made for her--hidden under some storage in the closet. i said, "remember this?" and she said "I never wanted to tell you but I couldn't look at it. the photo was from such a sad time and you were so depressed." and she cried and i cried.

Henry said...

American should have sent a New Orleans funeral jazz band.

Michael said...

I have no problem with Obama's selfie. He was flirting after all which is A-OK in my book. Apparently not so much for Mrs. Obama.

Brennan said...

I'm happy for the selfie. Because we are talking about that and not those insufferable vuvuzelas that were such an annoyance about the 2010 World Cup.

That memorial could have been ransacked by the sounds of bees swarming the stadium.

Balfegor said...

The thing is, even at traditional funerals, I think there are times when it is not inappropriate to take photographs, even happy grinning photographs. A funeral isn't just one event -- the bit where the deceased is eulogized, and the mourners file past the portrait of the deceased framed by white flowers, or the flag-draped casket, or whatever. Taking a happy photograph at that part would be inappropriate.

But taking a photograph at the less formal bits -- I don't know what they are at state funerals, but at private funerals, the family might gather in the side room by the mourning hall to chat and gossip and reminisce and have a bite to eat. Perhaps there are certain things that cannot be done (I have been scolded for playing music -- a violation of ritual propriety), but funerals aren't all weeping all the time. Taking a casual selfie at those times doesn't seem inappropriate. It would only seem inappropriate to me at the central rites.

n.n said...

Obama watching a video was in poor taste. I think his photographic scrapbook can be excused.

While we may defer to a progressive etiquette, there is still the question of Barack not being sensitive to Michelle's perspective; or is that also a conventional outlook?

Well, Bill and Hillary reconciled their differences. I am sure that Barack and Michelle will overcome theirs.

That said, was the arm gesticulator (aka interpreter) part of the show?

FleetUSA said...

As for funerals, just think of a traditional Irish wake or a New Orleans Jazz send off.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"Give 'em hair, Helle." --Iowahawk

FleetUSA said...

p.s. And the Quakers have rememberance services with participants telling happy stories about the deceased.

dbp said...

Helle hath no fury, but Michelle more than makes up for it.

Oso Negro said...

As much as I don't like Obama, I have to say I can completely understand him flirting with Helle.

Darrell said...

Obama missed the attention. Once upon a time everyone treated him like those people sitting around him--like the world's biggest and greatest star. Now, some networks even produce the tapes that show him lying, rather than covering for him as before. That gives him the sadz.

Andy Freeman said...

Does anyone really think that Michelle was objecting to the president behaving inappropriately at a funeral?

She was torqued because he was paying attention to another woman and enjoying himself.

Valerie Jarrett seems to be the only other woman who has significant contact with the president. (Instapundit repeatedly points out the lack of women and their low pay in the Obama White House.)

I wonder what's special about VJ as far as Michelle is concerned.

George Stock said...

FLOTUS needs to work on her RBF in public

George Stock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

You know, a bunch of my friends attended my best friend's mom's funeral a few months ago. No pictures were taken at the funeral but there were some afterward. It didn't seem bad because she would have wanted those pics -- she was like a second mom to most of us in college, but also a bit surly and could hold her own in a battle of sarcastic wit.

But Obama wasn't college roommates with Mandela. He wasn't at the funeral to enjoy the reconnections that sometimes occur at funerals. He was there representing an entire country to show solemn respect for an amazingly good man who led people to freedom. NOT THE TIME FOR A SELFIE. Does that really even need to be said?!

St. George said...

Imagine Ike cuddling on stage with Marilyn while Mamie watched.

Nixon sharing a joint with Grace Slick but not with Pat.

Nancy waltzing with Frank while Ron tries and fails to cut in...

mccullough said...

It was a full day memorial in a football stadium. I would have started the wave myself.

Wilbur said...

N.N. said:
"Well, Bill and Hillary reconciled their differences. I am sure that Barack and Michelle will overcome theirs."

Yes, if you consider sleeping in separate rooms the last 30+ years to reconciling differences.

President Obama behaved in this boorish fashion because it's all about him, all the time.

Unknown said...

I have this crazy idea that if you're a world leader and you have to interact with another world leader of the appropriate sex, you flirt with them. As diplomatic currency goes, it's pure gold.

I'll also point out that funerals are for the living, and although I'm not Irish, I want a wake.

Regis 1959 said...

Nah, just continuing debasement of the culture

CWJ said...

You know. Its still boorish.

Althouse, its not like there are plenty of others who have tried to school you on how most cultures have found a way to separate the sober from the social when death is the occasion.

Publically talking loudly into a cell phone is still a really in your face I am supreme you don't count can't you see how important I am event.

Freeman Hunt said...

Aren't they seated in the memorial service waiting for it to start?

I'm with Balfegor, it's the central rites where photos would be disrespectful. Looks like that's where they are.

I do not think that selfies during memorial services will become an accepted thing.

Freeman Hunt said...

Also, when did dancing performances become an indication of anything goes?

"Twitpic.com/5555 watchin the Nutcracker ya'll #frontrowseats #omghadtouseflash #ushersnightmare #tutuandyoohoo"

SOJO said...

Or, maybe, Michelle's the only "real" black person there. Remember when black people were worried about that for a while? Well, this is what they were worried about.

Either that, or Obama should take back calling Kanye a jackass because it's the same sort of thing.

And yeah, it's still the old world, but even in a festive atmosphere celebrating someone's life, narcissism isn't welcome.

Kirk Parker said...

What's all this attention to Helle? Can't Rania get a little internet affection too?