Barack Obama, Bad Economy Inspire New Era of the Hustle Man/Woman

I’m still waiting on my Michelle Obama Barbie. Seriously. Where is she? I’ll buy 20. But do you want to know what I won’t buy? All this crap created in the time honored tradition of the enterprising North American “Hustle Man/Woman.”

From tacky President-Elect plates to tacky President-Elect gold plated coins, if you can slap Obama’s smiling, inspirational mug on it, you can profit from the latest piece of swag to move aspiring hustlers from rags to Obama riches.

There’s gold in them there Obamas! Whether it’s book sales (Both pro and anti-Obama books are selling like crack rock on the block!), TV ratings (Barack and Michelle gave 60 Minutes its highest ratings in nearly a decade) or magazines covers (I don’t think they’ve been on Soldier of Fortune yet, but I’m sure they’re working on it) — people are buying visages of the Obamas. Even the fashion industry is hoping Michelle Obama will become their prêt-àporter deity and keep sales going while the nation goes to the poorhouse.

From ABC News:

“We’re all obviously trying to look at the silver lining,” designer Norma Kamali told “Where do we look for hope, an opportunity to create good feelings for the customer? There is real hope with Michelle Obama. I think she can keep women interested in purchasing.”

Obama’s name surfaced at a recent meeting of The Fashion Group International, a professional organization for members of the fashion industry. The topic of discussion was the economy, and one member wondered aloud whether Obama could bolster the industry during the current economic downturn.

Networks are cobbling together half-assed documentaries. Books are being rushed to presses. Even the tabloids have put down running pictures of Brangelina (or Jennifer Aniston still upset over Brangelina) to boost their sales with Michelle and Barack. Where will the girls go to school? What is Michelle wearing? Why is Barack the “bee’s knees?” What is this “hope and change” thing he keeps talking about? People want to know and the media is willing to provide knowing it all leads to the dollars.

From The Washington Post:

Perhaps it was the announcement that NBC News is coming out with a DVD titled “Yes We Can: The Barack Obama Story.” Or that ABC and USA Today are rushing out a book on the election. Or that HBO has snapped up a documentary on Obama’s campaign.

Perhaps it was the Newsweek commemorative issue — “Obama’s American Dream” — filled with so many iconic images and such stirring prose that it could have been campaign literature. Or the Time cover depicting Obama as FDR, complete with jaunty cigarette holder.

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Each writer, each publication, seems to reach for more eye-popping superlatives. “OBAMAISM — It’s a Kind of Religion,” says New York magazine. “Those of us too young to have known JFK’s Camelot are going to have our own giddy Camelot II to enrapture and entertain us,” Kurt Andersen writes. The New York Post has already christened it “BAM-A-LOT.”

But the real stars of this effort to capitalize and monetize history are not the media or the book publishers, but the hustlers, the peddlers, the eBay specialists who are the true heroes of crass capitalism.

America is a country founded on the ability to hustle. It was the founding fathers who hustled themselves out of being a colony, hustled the Native Americans out of their land and hustled slavery until that little Civil War happened. But this has always been a place where many business people who saw opportunity where other people only saw crap.

Take the inventor of Barbie.

Former Mattel, Inc. president Ruth Handler modeled the doll off of a German doll marketed to adults as a sexually fused gag gift, explaining Barbie’s impossible waist- and bustline.

Or, Madam CJ Walker who became the first black and female millionaire through the invention of the pressing comb and creating the black hair care industry.

When others say why, the hustle man/woman says “Why not?

From poorly bootlegged DVDs of new films the same day they come out to Steve Jobs pushing iPhones you can’t afford, America is built on the backs of folks who can put up a mean hustle. It’s only natural that the hustler would celebrate our fair Hopey McChangey by pimping his message in the most garrish, ridiculous, tackilicious “hang your portrait of Barack and Michelle between the MLK/JFK/RFK memorial plates/paintings and the giant, wooden “Tiki” (or African) fork and spoon in your dining room” fashion.

Before he won, Obama had already created a hustler’s economy of buttons, jewelry, T-shirts, hats and all kinds of weirdness that I have chronicled on this blog over and over and over again. From his likeness in chocolate to indie designer label trousers, these were Obama items that sometimes came in “extremes,” but the money was always right.

Aw shizz! A shirt of Barack dunking on McCain? Order me fifty, son!

“Folks want to buy it,” recognizes the hustler, “No matter how cheesy.” From lame Obama action figures (this doll is no where as talking Ken doll-riffic as the talking George W. Bush doll I have in the basement somewhere. Lame! Give me a Barack doll worthy of making out with my old school Barbies!) to Obama themed skins for your iPhone, who knows which tchotchkes will be those Eddie Money-esque two tickets to (financial) paradise.

As a child I sat in the homes of many relatives staring at framed photos of John F. Kennedy next to Martin Luther King Jr., typically mounted near the wooden Tiki fork and spoon wondering “why?” How did these particular items become the tributes of choice for black people? I’ve moved past that wondering to now expecting gigantic, gawdy-to-gorgeous portraits of the Obamas smiling at me, symbols of both pride and the North American hustle man/woman’s entrepreneurial spirit.

In crap we trust. Some gaze at the Grand Canyon or Sierra Nevadas to understand America’s beauty. Save the money, turn on QVC and do nothing but slow claps. Bravo, hustlers. Bravo. You truly are recession proof.

16 thoughts on “Barack Obama, Bad Economy Inspire New Era of the Hustle Man/Woman

  1. You should see the street peddlers in front of the White House – shameless.Nothing wrong with a side hustle or two. I won’t say too much because my dad is getting the Time/Life Obama book for Christmas.

  2. You make me feel cheap and used, Snob. I ordered the deluxe Obama Victory Plate last week for my mama. And I went to five stores trying to buy the Obama as FDR Time magazine, before a Barnes & Noble clerk told me they were sold out weeks ago and only a few remaining copies were being offered on eBay. Then I went to the Time website and they were only selling the framed copies of the magazine cover for about 35 bucks. I nixed that offer. The magazine cover sure was cool.

  3. BTW, Barnes & Noble said there was a line of people waiting to buy the Time magazine Obama cover when it came out. Those people are sheep. They'll buy anything.

  4. I suspect there will soon be some serious Obamamania fatigue in the general public, especially if people start feeling like they’re following the Beyonce Method of Acheiving and Maintaining Relevance and mainstream media starts thinking it’s ok to stop being wowed by the fact that they are Negroes. I hope they and the media will take a breather after the inauguration. I’m already starting to get a little tired of looking at them–and part of it is because their mugs are being plastered on EVERY. CONCEIVABLE. SURFACE. POSSIBLE. And sold to the highest bidder. (A dude was trying to hustle copies of that “first family” picture Snob has on the sidebar–yes the one that is everyone’s Facebook photo and that you probably have a jpeg of in your email somewhere–at church the other day.) This of course is not the Obama family’s fault, but eventually they’ll get the blame for it. :-(Loved the piece!

  5. Its so weird to read Black blogs where people announce that the Obamas will be on that night. Did you ever hear of anyone doing that with Bush? is right, it really is a new day. I love to see them on tv and I made sure to watch 60 minutes. Whenever I look at them i dream of what my life could be. I really want some buttons and some magazines but I can’t afford them right now. But I will buy them by next year. It would be cool to actually have a collection of Obama crap because I have never collected anything before. I won’t do it, but I have thought about it lol!The action figure is cute. I just like them. Its really weird but its like I think he’s lucky or something…He makes me feel warm, happy, and dreamy…

  6. Snob,This:As a child I sat in the homes of many relatives staring at framed photos of John F. Kennedy next to Martin Luther King Jr., typically mounted near the wooden Tiki fork and spoon wondering “why?” How did these particular items become the tributes of choice for black people?is my post today – just coming across it here – do great minds think alike or what?Down here in the Deep South, it was MLK, JFK, and Jesus, three faded looking pictures in three round frames that were more or less lined up with each other.Small world.

  7. brown man: I actually forgot to give “The Last Supper” a proper shout out in the MLK, JFK, Fork and Spoon living room arrangement. Almost all my relatives are from the South. Texas and Arkansas, specifically and mostly Arkansas. And everyone had the Tiki Fork and Spoon. EVERYONE. My mom still has hers hanging on the wall somewhere in her house.

  8. I’m not going to lie – I’m about to get me a framed Obama poster with partial Election Night speech printed on it. I’ve tried to resist, but it, and the upcoming Ebony cover will be in frames on the wall.

  9. Ironically,Rush Limbaugh inked a huge deal upon the election. Limbaugh was his largest during a Clinton Presidency that began with a stacked Democratic Congress. Limbaugh was in full attack mode then.Everybody has a hustle.

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