June 10, 2021

Why do supporters of Kamala Harris portray her as faceless?!

There's some discussion this week of a ridiculous cookie Harris's people handed out:

Some people are referring to that as a cookie "with her face on" it, but it's quite distinctly a cookie depicting her with no face.

Last October, I showed you this really bad sign, which we'd seen in our neighborhood:


Why would you show a politician you support as having no face? One horrible answer would be: Oh, but it does show her face. It shows the facial trait that matters: The color of the skin of her face.

In action, Kamala Harris uses her face. She's not a blank face. She's a smiling face. Like Obama, she deploys a big smile and laughs as much as possible. Like Hillary Clinton, she seems to laugh too much and not because she's genuinely delighted. 

Perhaps her supporters default to a blank face because efforts to replicate the smile in a drawing or in cookie icing don't work. And how could they? To look like her, the smile would need to look off. So you just can't do it right.

Another idea is that people are uneasy about any sort of a caricature of a black person. Anything you do might be criticized as racist. Facelessness is the graphic design equivalent of if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all... in a world where the standards of what counts as "nice" are so high and so confusing that you feel anything you say may be used against you. So let me revise: The choice of facelessness is the graphic design equivalent of taking the 5th.

IN THE EMAIL: Omaha 1 writes: "I know it's awful but someone on FB said it looks like she has a turkey on her face. I can't un-see it now! You can see the drumsticks sticking out on both sides." That's got to be a reference to "Friends":

AND: Tubal writes: "The shadow of the metal stakes makes Biden and, more so Harris, resemble Mr. and Mrs. Thompson from South Park": 


Ann Althouse said...

William writes: "I have to say, the woman on the cookie looks a lot whiter than the woman on the sign, though that may simply be a limitation of food coloring."

There's actually no way to get the color "right."

A real human being's skin color depends entirely on how much light is reflected from it, and there are infinite light variations. Photographers control and choose the amount of light to use.

And that's not even taking into account that we have probably never seen Kamala Harris without makeup.

Ann Althouse said...

MJB Wolf writes: "I was disturbed by the smear over the face, as if there was in fact features, but then someone thought better of it and covered it up. Did NO enterprising reporter look under the smear before eating their Kamalookie?"

I think it's just where the wrapper got smushed into the icing, but I be no one even unwrapped it. I expect these mementos to be resold on eBay. I'm not seeing that yet, but you can bid on a refrigerator magnet replica of the cookie.

Ann Althouse said...

"There's actually no way to get the color "right.""

What the graphic designer is doing — in trying to get the color right — is expressing his/her own idea of what this person's color is. It's a racial thought that get depicted. And the viewer is also expressing an idea about race in seeing the sign as making her too dark or the cookie as making her too light.

And, of course, that is the way race really works. There's no real thing out there, only ideas we have inside and that we work hard to preserve or change in other people.

Ann Althouse said...

Skeptical Voter writes:

"Why the blank face on Kamala cookies? One of Kamala’s first jobs was as an assistant District Attorney in Oakland. And of course Gertrude Stein wrote of Oakland, “There is no there, there”. And a blank face on a Kamala cooky reflects the Stein observation on Oakland—which is appropriate where Ms. Harris is concerned. There simply is no there there. Faced with a challenging question or issue Kamala simply retreats to a giggle. She is truly an empty suit. The Democrat primary voters recognized that. Slow Joe didn’t."

But why would *supporters* choose to show that?

Ann Althouse said...

Marybeth writes:

The cookies were made by a Black-owned bakery. I don't know if that changes the discussion about whether giving features to the face would be seen as racist.

On her (the bakery owner's) Instagram, most of the faces are cartoon-like. There is one of Keanu Reeves that tends more towards realistic-looking, but it's the only one that I saw like that. There are also several with blank faces. It could just be a style choice or it could be she didn't have time to be more detailed. One would think she would know enough to let the royal icing dry thoroughly before packing the cookies in the wrappers. It makes me think this was a fairly short notice event and it makes me question whether this was just a gift the bakery owner decided to do.

Ann Althouse said...

nobodyknose writes:

Re: faceless campaign sign:

interesting that Kamala's featureless face has a skin color significantly darker than her face IRL. Seems to demonstrate the positivity of darker skin in today's world. A total flip from when weekly news magazines (remember those?) were darkening OJ's face...


On the other hand, the cookie seems to be going light.

Actually, the color of a person's face in a photograph is going to depend on the lighting. Question whether choosing the light level in the processing stage is different from choosing the light level when you're snapping the camera. At the time of the OJ trial, a big deal was made out of the darkening because it was done after the photo was taken, but if it had been done with lighting on the subject at the time of taking the photography, it would not have been criticized.

Ann Althouse said...

Glenn writes:

"In about 1979 I was in parochial school and I distinctly remember a pamphlet we read depicting Jesus going through the stations of the cross. The artist had chosen to not give Christ a face for some reason which confused the young me. Maybe he wanted to present Jesus as an abstraction, maybe he didn’t want to show the pain involved to the young audience… Regardless, that cookie immediately evoked the pamphlet."