Jul 3, 2010

Sidekick Obama

I overheard some Americans, the other day, complaining Obama "just doesn't understand the world." They were citing some diplomatic gift-giving gaffe, and then applying it to foreign policy and especially issues of war (so, can't figure out a good gift for the Queen of England = doesn't know we should bomb the shit out of Iran/invade Russia to defend Georgia's oil pipelines/etc.).

What's so mad about the argument -- and mad in the sense of angry but also uncomfortable laughter that goes on too long -- is that it was only a little while ago that the same people were saying Obama was too comfortable abroad, and the fact that a sea of people came to hear him in Germany and that people in the Arabic-speaking world were interested in what he had to say was a reason he wasn't good for America. Maybe this is just more evidence of our everyday ability to hold incompatibile opinions, but I still find it confounding because, what would they really want Obama to do?

The answer, I think, is Don Cheadle's character in Iron Man 2. Wheras Robert Downey Jr. is the brash, don't-listen-to-anyone-because-you-know-what's-right, war-privatizing hero, Cheadle inadvertantly gets in his way with his caution and respect for the rule of law. Cheadle's character isn't bad, but doesn't understand. Then Cheadle's Iron Man suit is hijacked by the bad guys, so he does what they want without being able to stop himself, until Downey saves him and says, oh, okay, you can be my (black) sidekick. At one point Donwey almost exactly echoes the Americans I overheard, saying that, as an individual, he (Cheadle/Obama) is a good person but just doesn't really understand the way the world works.

Cheadle's character, of course, is refered to by a diminutive nickname that's homonymous with "roady," because he's good at helping out and carrying the bags, though he shouldn't misunderstand and think he's the main act.

I expect this from Robert Downey Jr. -- he's great, but not known for his thoughtfulness -- but kind of wonder what happened with Cheadle that he was somehow okay with this (not quite sub) subtext.

Relevant links:
Cheadle on wikipedia, talking about Iron Man 2, talking about racism in Hollywood, Inside the Actors Studio; what is the politics of Iron Man 2?; Obama in Berlin and criticism of Obama in Berlin and abroad.