Return of Aviator Joe


President Joe Biden adjusts his sunglasses (Reuters/file)

Joe the Aviator is back… just in time for his near triumphant return.

Forget the glowing eyes from the “Dark Brandon” meme. When President Joe Biden returned to Washington to sign the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, it was his Ray-Ban 3025s glasses —the dark sunglasses with metal rings and a drop shape that have characterized him— which, once again, seemed to be the hallmark of this man.

Although, in reality, this character with aviator glasses and a wide smile that indicates how wonderful the public service they represent never disappeared, they had been relegated and reserved almost exclusively for bike rides and similar appearances without much public, while the The president was dealing with COVID-19 (policies, variants, his own case), the Ukraine war, inflation, and other depressing topics. He attended the G7 souvenir photo taken outdoors in June without a tie (like everyone else) and without his glasses. Similarly, at the White House’s traditional Easter egg hunt, the first since the pandemic began, glasses were also absent.

But Since Biden came out of his COVID-19 isolation this month into sunlight, glasses have played a starring role on his face.— When he announced that he tested negative for COVID at the Rose Garden speech, on his trip to eastern Kentucky with the first lady to assess flood damage, while vacationing in South Carolina. Once again, the hallmark of a president who, as John Harwood wrote for CNN, “suddenly looks different.”

More than anything it’s attitude (even taking into account the glare of summer). Not only is he wearing dark glasses, but he is wearing shades.

(Reuters)
(Reuters)

You know Joe Biden is having a good day when he’s wearing his aviator sunglasses.” said Lis Smith, author of the recently published book “Any Given Tuesday” and a political strategist who helped build Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. For example, take Biden’s appearance in April when he, Vice President Kamala Harris and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson walked out on the South Concourse after the Senate confirmed Jackson as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

“You know the president is having a good month when we see him in his aviator sunglasses every day,” Smith added. “It’s a sign that, right now, you’re on a roll”.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that his resurgence followed the reappearance of another great character with aviator glasses and a success story, that of Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick.” After all, as Jimmy Kimmel said when he entertained the president in June, Biden “is to aviator sunglasses what Tom Cruise is to aviator sunglasses.” Both people — or rather the characters that characterize them — wear the same style of glasses (although sometimes with different frames) and have done so for decades. Since the first Top Gun movie in 1986 and, according to a White House spokesman, since Biden was a lifeguard in college.

Biden even used the glasses as a stand-in for himself in his first Instagram post in 2014, which featured not his face but his Ray-Bans on top of his desk. When he played himself (as vice president) in a “Veep”-inspired sketch at the White House Journalists’ Association dinner that same year, he did so in his Ray-Bans, a leather jacket and his Corvette, but the glasses were the protagonists.

Since Biden became president, these glasses have become part of a diplomatic gift box that he has offered to his colleagues, such as the Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida; South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol (both during Biden’s trip to Asia in May); Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (during the North American Leaders Summit in November); and Russian President Vladimir Putin (after a meeting in Geneva in 2021).

More recently, other Ray-Bans helped push “Top Gun: Maverick” to the top of the box office, ignoring common sense that COVID-19 and live streaming had buried the blockbusters of the summer and had a pivotal role in a story featuring an aging but more effective hero. Someone who is better for all that experience. Many winks of complicity.

The glasses say “I’m a great person, but responsible, I’m going to fly the American flag and keep you safe”, commented Tammy Haddad, consultant to “Veep” and founder and CEO of Haddad Media. It is a pleasant and well-known semiology that reminds us of the myths of the silent generation and the promise of Biden.

“People loved seeing Cruise in his aviator glasses again and reacted well,” Haddad said. “The president is following the same path in the hope of obtaining the same results”.

(Paramount Pictures)
(Paramount Pictures)

Above all, because of the narrative of achievement and constant energy that the West Wing of the White House is trying to convey (“steady energy” is like a synonym for “Tom Cruise”). GQ magazine noted that, in terms of style, aviators are “timeless and timeless.”

It may seem reductionist and superficial, but it is also part of the way we interpret the world.. Over the last six years, we’ve been immersed in the ever-increasing osmosis between Hollywood, social media and politics and we’ve returned to the Trump administration’s reality shows and ended in the dramatic twist of the recent congressional hearings related to January 6th; produced for television by James Goldston, former president of ABC News.

After two months of seeing Tom Cruise’s huge smile under his Ray-Bans, both in ads and on billboards, and being inundated with headlines and tweets featuring his superpowers, there’s an almost Pavlovian reaction to seeing the same sunglasses on Biden. Those images push subliminal buttons and play on associations, whether we are aware of it or not. It’s about basic human psychology.

According to Smith, it is not that they are “props”, but rather a genuine expression of a certain archetype. “He’s a classic Joe Biden”, he commented.

Plus, really, what better way for someone to hint that they’re off the charts?

© The New York Times 2022

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