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Apr 19, 2005

Coulter and Colder

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I really had a debate with myself over giving attention to a figure like Ann Coulter.  In this case, however, the visual analyst lost out to the shrink.

Liberal pundits like to talk about the clay feet of the right-wing gods.   The major recent examples include Bill Bennett with his gambling problem and Rush Limbaugh with his drug habit.  The frustration in recounting this kind of hypocritical behavior, however, is that the public persona of these figures seem to repel the charges.

I went out and bought this issue of TIME, and read the article by John Cloud.  Or, should I say, the account of the seduction of John Cloud. 

Do you see those piercing eyes seeking you out on this cover? 

With alternately cutting and cloying expressions of violent or sexual allusions, the cunning Ms. Coulter appears to function (at least, for conservative men) as a modern day siren.  (According to the article, Vanity Fair writer James Walcott likens the essentially lightweight Coulter to Paris Hilton.)  What was the story in the Odyssey, however?  If you came too close and heard the singing, you would be warbled to death, with a strong chance of ending up in a pile of dead man's bones, the flesh still rotting off them.  If you had to pass by, you could only do so safely by stuffing your ears with wax.  Otherwise, if you chose to listen, you had to have men bind you to the ship's mast with the instructions that, if you begged to be untied, they should only bind you tighter.

If you're interested, you can seek this article out yourself, and see how Ms. Coulter put the warble on this poor reporter.  The sad account starts with the interviewer supposedly getting Ms. Coulter drunk.  From that point on, there are lines about "moistly liberal formulations"; and how talk show opinions must "come violently fast and cause as much friction as possible"; and how it's impossible to watch Ms. Coulter and not be "sluiced into rage or elation."

As I said before, it's hard to take on a hypocritical public figure when actual bad behavior is almost automatically subsumed by an iconic public identity.  In considering a written profile together with a visual portrait, however, you have a better opportunity to consider the snapshot of the person against his or her persona.

Before reading this image, however, it's instructive to pick through the data that was observed by Mr. Cloud when he wasn't riding around on his cloud.  Frankly, the picture of Ms. Coulter seems diagnostic.  What you get is someone endlessly preoccupied with sexual and physical violence, going from riff to sadistic riff tossing off one-liners dedicated to retribution and revenge.   You have someone with a history of charming and seducing men, but who seems to disavow significant emotional attachments with men and often displays flashes of hatred in response to male or female sexuality.  You have someone almost pathologically opposed to revealing any personal information, especially if it conveys humanity, femininity or compassion of any kind.  You have a person who insists her only professional motivation is personal amusement or the amusement of her friends.  Finally, you have someone hopelessly addicted to nicotine who's greatest fear is being found irrelevant.

What does the image suggest? 

Overall, it depicts someone who is not going to sit for getting her picture taken.  By leaning forward, hunching her shoulders and giving you a stare, she's declaring herself off limits.  As she does with her verbal behavior, she uses offensive maneuvers to keep you from getting near her or getting any real look at her.  (By the way, isn't there some adage about not trusting a person if you can't see their hands?  Or maybe, she's just not one to show her hand.) 

Physically too, sexuality is a big part of the picture.  The classic short black skirt and the hair dyed red at the ends -- and, of course, the in-your-face mile long legs (with shoes that suggest an evening out -- but also a little girl innocence, with the bow) is quite seductive.  On the other hand, the tightly crossed legs, the elbows pulling awkwardly close to the torso, the tense forearms, the pursed mouth and, of course, the stare, all read as cold, colorless, closed, and sexually conflicted.

There is another way to look at this, however, if you take a developmental perspective. 

As an adult, Ms. Coulter's pose couldn't be more guarded, more defensive (in which the best defense is a good offense).  The other way to understand this image, though, is if "Ms. Right" is simply a little girl.  The bow on the shoes suggests that.  The stockings that seem like tights also say so.  The overall posture reflects it as well.  As opposed to an adult who sits back and lets the camera take them in, young Ann looks like the little girl who comes into the photography studio and doesn't know how to sit, or needs to know what she should do.  To this end, the gaze can also be an intense search for direction.  The awkward scale reflects it also.  All legs and head, arched forward with her feet hanging down into white space, she might as well be perched in a high chair. 

As either an impetuous girl or a crass provocateur, it's strange to see Ms. Coulter in a chair with the Barcelona's class, designed by Mies van der Rohe for the King and Queen of Spain.  Although the rich girl from Manhattan by way of Connecticut has the popularity and income to occupy a seat as reputable as this one, she doesn't seem comfortable at all.

(image: Platon for Time Inc. April 25, 2005)


Damn liberal media never gives the right a chance to be heard, especially people like Ann Coulter. Just listen; she'll tell ya.

i see two things in the cover photo:

scrawny legs and enormous feet, and a seated posture that says, "i'm open... not really!" (okay, three things).

really, the photo of coulter makes me think of the odd camerawork focusing on tom petty in the don't come around here no more alice-in-wonderland video.

Yes -- sticks for legs. Do you guys really find this sexy??

Hello My Dear Fellow:
I wanted to pass on this tidbit about how Ms.Coulter is seen in other parts of the world. On no less than 3 occasions, when I have called relatives in Canada and mentioned her name - they laugh in a hysterical manner about her. Apparently there was some interview with her on the CBC where she insisted that Canada had gone to Vietnam with the US. When the CBC told her "No... that was Korea. We never sent Troops to Canada" she just balked and insisted she was correct. Then she said "I'll get back to you on that". To this date she has yet to acknowledge her error. If she is an example for what passes for intellect - America is in rough rough shape.

I must agree with Pooh Bear on this one-if this piece of Turret's Syndrome is considered one of the United States' greatest movers and shakers we are so screwed.

"Do you guys really find this sexy??"


Haven't you seen the disclaimer on the Viagra commercial: "If erection lasts longer than four hours, call Ann Coulter."

Here's another take on this image:

She appears as if she is waiting in a defensive position not unlike someone who thinks they are about to be found out or told that they are an addict.

Did she have control over the photo set? Did the photographer set up the scene?
She appears conflicted as she perches, joint-locked and expectant, attempting to control the image and what it will reveal. Yet, she is unwilling, or unable, to indulge in repose.

Why did TIME give her the title "Ms"?
A person like herself is given this title as a joke? Would Coulter have offered help to secure such a distinction as Ms decades ago, or would she still prefer Miss?

Looks like the scene from basic instinct to me minus the sexuality. What that means...? Puritanical provocation from a woman who wants to be sexy but without the sexuality - like a commodity....she needs you to like her so she can seduce you - a tease! all bark but no bite....that fits


oh, goody! let's post more pictures of famous / infamous women and tear them apart on the basis of their physical appearance!

catty? trivial? oh, hellno ~ we're hurling mud on this cover of Time in the name of political science!

she's a bad woman and deserves to be >SPANKED<

uh, hey lady...

...yes, little boy?

do {blush} do you mind if... if I spanked her first?

Ann Coulter: child-woman. That's all. Time magazine: slime. That's all. Tell me, why waste our time on either? Instead, maybe turn your attention to Miss Ratzinger.

How continually distressing the media is in this country. To take a venomous cretin like Anne Coulter and turn her into to a mainstream icon is just typical.

Her ideas as such are not formulated and the only currency she can deal in is hatred, which is why she finds a home in the mainsteam media today.

why would people pay attention to her? So that they can be reassured that their racism and hatred is okay.

Coulter has griped about the cover photo. It's unknown whether she was really unhappy or, even after Time's loving tongue job, had to come up with something with which to attack the Evil Liberal Media.

Also, appears that the author of the article, John Cloud, is fully out-of-the-closet gay, which makes you wonder about the whole "seduction" angle.

It's interesting to see a good deal of the comments talk about Ms. Coulter herself and not analyze the photo...which goes to show the power of the visual...automatic emotion, either good or bad.

I see a woman/child. Like a bad school girl waiting at the Principle's office...knowing that she did wrong but headstrong to defend her actions. She looks like she might take off running...slightly aggressive forward tilt to her body.

The elongation of her legs and the perportion of them to her head perhaps suggest a "sexual" over "intellectual" image. The "Basic Instinct"-ish pose again suggest an aggressive sexuality.

The dress is black. Her hose are white. Indicating visually her "black and white" "good and bad" "Republican vs. Freedom Haters" stance she takes in her thinking.

Those shoes too. Does any man like the new pointy pointy shoes women are wearing?

I sure as hell don't. All I can visualize is those points repeatedly kicked into my back.

Yeah, for as much as I considered cancelling my subscription for giving Ms. Caricature an article, let alone the cover picture, I have to admit that it's an interesting photo.

I see three distinct ages in the picture. The legs are very suggestive of childhood (real women have curves), from the neck to the legs suggests college-age youth (tight and clingy black/navy dress, dyed and styled hair), and then her face is quite frankly showing her actual age with its combination of lines, wrinkles, and attitude. It's like a study in contrasts.

The chair looks oversized. I know the Barcelona is sort of like that anyway, but the chair plus the angle really emphasizes the little-girl theme... or perhaps the I-wish-I-could-be-a-little-girl theme.

All in all I think what I get out of it is a portrait of a woman trying desperately to hang on to her lost youth. The fact that it's not working is obvious to everyone but her. I'm not surprised that she hates it.

the sexualization of Coulter is digusting. How many articles about her mention her attractiveness? How many talk about the unattractiveness of Noam Chomsky. The obsession with Coulter, both left and right, is more about her looks than her ideas, which are just recycled neo-con babble at best. Still, it is so upsetting to me that she can't be discussed without a picture of her in a skirt, that her ideas cant be critiqued without reference to the color of her hair.

I sometimes wonder how she, as the anti-feminist, feels about her career and the way the that no one can seperate her mind from its body. I would be enraged, but I have never heard her lash out at a talk show host who introduced her with a segway that included her appearance.

Coulter is a figure whose life itself seems to remind me of the need for a progressive agenda...

Her career success depends on her look(s).

PS - I'll bet the art director had a lot of fun with this cover.

I concur w/Saddened.

Firstly the reporter is gay, as I suspect she might be. Perhaps that was their bond which you referred to as seduction.

Beyond that, the questions that come to mind are wondering if she had any say over the way she was portrayed on the cover. I seriously doubt it. You can almost hear the pigs laughing they set it up. Who knows how many shots they took, if she knew what part they were photographing, what they said to her to elicit this expression... .

I find it unbelievably SEXIST that they would display her body like this. Is this somebody whose ideas one is being invited to evaluate, or whose sexual attractiveness the reader is invited to assess. This sends my blood pressure into dangerous ranges.

My automatic thought in first looking at this picture was "wicked witch of the west....and blond!" The elongation of her body accentuates the tight, dark clothes, as well as the severity of her "stick" legs and hands ending at sharp, pointed shoes and handless wrists. the face and eyes simultaneously pushes the viewer back and dares them to come closer. The distortion of the image is interesting, reminding me of films that try to portray nightmares and bummer drug trips.

Coulter might be sexually appealing to those who find remote, "teasing" narcissist types sexy but will be a turn off to those who are turned on by an open, warm persona. BTW, My friends/colleagues who look at it are mostly in the disgusted camp although a few would like to pry those legs apart with a crow bar (a conquest/objectification, maybe even domination/rape thing it seems...yes, totally sexist and shallow but explains much about her iamge appeal to right wingers).

Here I am, devoting the second paragraph to sex and sexual conflict/violence, which says a lot in and of itself about the image. That the image is made superior to the thoughts of the pundit, herself, is very revealing. The interview mostly spins her....metaprocesses her in "seduced" terms. It seems to me that any GOOD story on Coulter will simply list page after page of her venom...quotes all the way.

Final thought/personal rant; If in the end, Americans choose (because it is a choice) to be seduced by images and marketing spin over substance, then we deserve the Coulters, the O'Reilly's the Limbaughs and all the NeoCon Fundy agenda that we aquiesce to. The image itself, distortion, violence, sexuality in conflict and all, seems to hint that we are already there.

Every time I think of the phrase, "a talking head Turret's Syndrome," I burst out laughing! It is so apt for Ann.

After all, her whole schtick is simply: cute little girl-woman startles everyone with vulgar sound-bites. Apparently this is all it takes, for this female chauvinist, to stop the shout-show, shock the TV remote jock, and make it into the headline news-loop.

She's got legs. And she knows how to use them.

And even if it's infamy, who cares, if real fame is also fleeting? We don't remember so much what she said, anyway. Rather, we remember OUR emotion of outrageousness; What WE felt when she said (whatever it was that she said).

In the numbing dumbness of EmpTeeVee, She made us feel something. And yes, a lot of what we feel is plain envy, too. Who knew it could be so easy?

In the end I daresay that for Ann Coulter, and for Time magazine, too, buzz is bottom line: this story has legs.

Picture? Perfect.

"Fair and balanced she isn't". I wonder which came first, this text or the photo.

The figure is square-on and perfectly symmetrical, that's the most striking thing about the photo. Except for the legs, from the knees down. They look like they're in a knot.

The woman evidently has skinny and rather shapeless legs. Wearning (almost) opaque white tights makes them look even skinnier and more shapeless. She also opts for black shoes with pointy toes - something that makes feet look bigger. It's as if the photographer was facinated by the contrast and chose to accentuate it out of all proportion.

The woman's face looses out because the eye is irresistably drawn to the black-on-white spectacle that's her feet. Elegant, yet very awkward because there's a sense the right shoe is on the left foot and vice versa.

"I sometimes wonder how she, as the anti-feminist, feels about her career and the way the that no one can seperate her mind from its body. I would be enraged, but I have never heard her lash out at a talk show host who introduced her with a segway that included her appearance."

Because her appearance is as much a part of her schtick as her venom. Someone above nailed it; here is an attractive person who says shocking things. Think she would agree to say such things with a bad hairstyle, frumpy clothes, lesbian shoes, and tweny extra pounds? I didn't think so, either.

BTW, wouldn't the emphasis on her feet play into foot fetishists? I wonder how many issues will be sold because of the emphasis on the S&M footwear? And, bar, kicked into your BACK? Not those babies; they are reserved for a more sensitive part of the male anatomy!!

Here's to the selling of many more earplugs....

Fitting that she sits in a Barcelona Chair, designed by Mies van der Rohe. Many say that he stripped architecture of all humanity, creating cold, sterile and unlivable environments.

This website is so great, you all consistently offer the most interesting observations, particularly for those of us who aren’t so accustomed to thinking about what graphic depictions mean. All great comments, connie's in particular.

Others have already noticed the evoking of Sharon Stone and Lily Tomlin. But what strikes me most is that between those white hose and that awful diffuse white lighting (sanctity? interrogation room? nightmare drug bummer, as 1MaNLan said?) the whole image looks so cold, practically cryogenic.

It’s dreadfully bothersome how liberals of both sexes become so enraged by Coulter they’re moved to sexually abusive language. O she enrages me, too, but sexual? attractive?—is there really a shortage of garbage-mouthed, faux-shocking, spoiled, shallow, pampered, self-centered and venomous sorority sisters in the world? Indeed, I’m sure you’re right her “greatest fear is being found irrelevant,” and it can’t happen soon enough. The TIME editors should be ashamed of themselves. If only they were capable of that emotion.

This is one of the most purposefully striking magazine covers in while - no one Bagnotes is on it.

Yet, it's hard to know what to say about it, let along separate analysis of the picture from the the person.

No one has yet commented on her facial expression. Just looking at her face alone, the expression I read one of anger, pure unbridled fury.

Leaving her gender and looks aside, I wonder, did she adopt this expression, did Time sort through dozens to get this? Was she smiling in other photos?

Of course, I don't know. It is my general impression, however, and feel free to correct me, that Coulter has deliberately adopted an angry, unsmiling public persona, therefore it would not surprise me if wanted this kind of photo taken and perhaps even insisted on it.

Frankly, given her statements over the years, she has brought some these criticisms on herself.

This is a very tense thin woman with spikes for feet. She'll scream into oblivion soon.

This is a very tense thin woman with spikes for feet. She'll scream into oblivion soon.

I don't think this picture is of a she. Others have observed the stick-like legs and said real women have curves. I question that this is a real woman. Note the hands are hidden--usually a giveaway. Billmon refers to the creature as the Adam's Apple blonde and boy are there a lot of turtlenecks worn by Coulter.

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