The first 100 days of President Barack Obama’s presidency are coming to a close and there are plenty of opinions about the new administration, but the popularity of one facet of the presidency is pretty undeniable: memorabilia.
After the popularity of stickers, t-shirts and posters with the Shepard Fairey “Hope” design, businesses big and small are speculating that the market for these products will continue to grow.
A number of products are considered by many to be offensive, sparking debate on whether they represent racist sentiments and should be pulled from the market, or whether the products are just silly or tacky being marketed by companies unaware of the implications.
Here are a few examples of products inspired by the 44th President that run the gamut from the tame to incendiary:
Hail to the Ch-ch-ch-Chief
After denying several requests, Joseph Pedott, president of Chia Pet maker Joseph Enterprises, gave in and developed two Chia Obamas.
“How can I take this asset and make it supportive, positive for what Obama is trying to do?” Pedott says he initially asked himself about the Chia business. He wanted to develop, “not something happy-go-lucky or funny or something serious,” but to bridge the gap between those sentiments, he says.
Pedott found a photo of the President with a “determined” look on his face and came up with his first Chia Obama design. But since the President is “known for his smile,” he decided to make a happy Chia Obama as well.
After appearing on shelves at Walgreens (Stock Quote: WAG) stores which stocked about 16 Chia Obamas each starting March 23, sales rose by 50% every day for a week, Pedott says. But Walgreens pulled them from their shelves after disapproval from executives at the drug store chain, Pedott says. They’re currently only available through Amazon.com (Stock Quote: AMZN) and Drugstore.com (Stock Quote: DSCM).
“After the successful launch of our Special Edition Chia Obama, plans are in progress to roll out a complete patriotic Chia ‘Proud To Be An American’ series,” Joseph Enterprises announced on the Chia Obama Web site.
On whether the Chia Obama could be considered offensive, Pedott says, “It never even crossed my mind.”
This hand-drawn design of President Obama as a zombie was meant to be a “commentary about rabid Obama fan-mania,” says Jared Moraitis of Pop Monkey Illustration who created the design himself just after the President was elected.
“The political scene has changed to the point where Obama’s novelty had started to wear off a bit, and he'd started to make some of the ‘changes’ he'd hinted at which weren't what a lot of people were expecting or hoping for.” Says Moraitis. “In turn, the Zombama design had taken on many more potential meanings and could mean whatever you wanted it to mean, depending on your mindset.”
The design on t-shirts began to appear just recently, but Moraitis has received several responses from buyers, “some of whom love Obama - or most likely love zombies even more - and some of whom hate Obama with a passion and see this as some sort of commentary against him.”
“I originally created it as merely a wacky non-sequitur takeoff on all the parodies of the Shepard Fairey ‘Hope’ poster,” Moraitis says.