The Real McCain?


Whoever thought Jill Greenberg’s photos of John McCain in October’s Atlantic Monthly were unflattering clearly hasn’t picked up the last—and I do mean last—issue of Radar. Radar, the entertainment slash fashion slash politics magazine, recently announced that it will soon close all print and online divisions, but not before taking jabs at the Republican presidential candidate.

Hidden toward the end of the issue, Washington editor Ana Marie Cox’s article is a two-page interview about McCain’s taste in entertainment—from his admiration for the show Dexter to his opinions of Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. Sure, anyone can get that from reading the interview. But from the photo of McCain on the feature spread? Not so much.

Beside a large red circle with the headline “The Real McCain” is a close-up, perhaps too close for comfort, image of McCain’s face, untouched and, well, a little disturbing. Not only does the circle on the opposing page make McCain’s head look like a large bowling ball, but the blatant details of his face make him look, honestly, like a “72-year-old GOP nominee,” as the article calls him. 

Every aspect of McCain’s elderly appearance is dramatically emphasized in this photo: his wrinkles, crow’s feet, white hair, scars, balding scalp, and age spots. And his red blemishes are very noticeable in this shot, as well as his chapped lips and mustache stubble. 

It’s evident retouching wasn’t a top priority for this shoot. Rather, it appears the goal of this photo was to bring out the worst of McCain’s physical features. And compared to the highly stylized and sultry photos of Shannen Doherty’s cover story or the cleverly crafted photo shoots of Bill Maher portraying a devil, McCain’s photo is bland and unappealing. Yet it still manages to stand out.

Lacking any real connection to the content of the interview that follows it, the photo was clearly a reflection of the magazine’s opinion of McCain, just as Greenberg’s own political beliefs influenced her portrayal of him in Atlantic Monthly.

Though I don’t agree with using this photo with the content of the article, I have to give props to Radar for doing this just in time, both before the election and the magazine’s demise. Looks like Radar can proudly cross “publish a horrible photo of John McCain” off its bucket list.           


                                                   -Krista Scarlett


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