December 21, 2011 By Steve Fine
Look in the eyes of the Fairey protester.
Set aside any debates about artistic merit; just take in what is gazing back at you, as if you picked up the magazine in a dental office and now have it lying on your lap. Don’t think about it: Look and flip it over, then say any words that come to mind. Chances are Jihadi will be the first one, or terrorist, or guerilla or intifada. It isn’t the combination of knit cap and bandana alone that produces this sort of association in most people; it is the addition to the mix of the eyes rendered in placard black and white with fiery red, all the detailing Photoshopped-out with extreme contrast.
|Shephard Fairey's rendition|
|Sara M's human eyes|
Had the editors decided to use his photograph instead, then they would have had a problem on their hands: a far too attractive image for the Occupy movement.
Fairey provided Time with the perfect solution: a cover that could be interpreted as heroic while stoking the viewer’s unease at the same time. And so, the hip outlaw graphic street artist with cred (for generating the iconic image of the Obama ’08 campaign) has delivered to his client, arguably a key member of the one percent, precisely the image required to undermine with praise: a stylized portrait with the subject’s all important eyes peering over the top edge of a rebel bandana with something of the fanatic about them.
She may be the person of the year and the image may be strong, too, iconographic and guaranteed to stimulate a new clothing line, but I doubt the rest of the 99% are interested in meeting her in person now. At best, they may admire her conviction and her courage from afar, but let the Global Protester take the pepper spray. Is there not something about her eyes that justifies it?
Which is a shame, because all they will find is someone just like Sarah all over the country, wherever there is an OWS gathering. Time Magazine has played its image manipulation card well: Lurking under the bandana of the Person of the Year is Public Enemy Number One: The Occupy Wall Street Protester. Fear Her. Let us kettle her and arrest her. She is “The Other.”
So, look one more time at the truth: It’s just Sarah.