Four months ago, when the Oxford English Dictionary named “selfie” the 2013 word of the year, I had never even heard of it. In the last couple of days, it’s almost all I’ve heard. Of course, there was the selfie taken by President Obama of himself and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a comely lass, and British Prime Minister David Cameron off to the side. What healthy male would pass up that opportunity? Of course, that it was done at Nelson Mandela’s funeral prompted a flurry of criticism for being inappropriate at such a solemn occasion. But the occasion was also a celebration and at least it appeared spontaneous. What we’ve had since has been staged and, we have learned, commercial.
There followed the famous selfie taken by Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres. It showed her and a group of her nearest and dearest celeb friends, including Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts and more. It was anything but spontaneous. There’s actually footage of her rehearsing the selfie, in hopes of getting it retweeted a record number of times. Now it turns out that the whole deal was not only staged but sponsored by Samsung. (When not being paid, she uses an iPhone.)
Which brings us to David Ortiz, who, as virtually everyone now knows. took a selfie of himself and President Obama at the White House yesterday, surrounded by the Red Sox World Champions. And, yes, we now know that “selfie” was also paid for in a last-minute David Ortiz contract with Samsung. No wonder some Red Sox in the background (Jonny Gomes?) were going cha-ching as the picture was being snapped. So much for spontaneity and fun-with-photographs. The White House was not pleased to have been suckered into a commercial endorsement.
(My husband told me that because Ortiz had just signed a munificent baseball contract extension, the local icon was donating all the proceeds from Samsung to Boston charities, from One Boston to the Jimmy Fund. Then, he chuckled, “April Fool’s.”)
As Boston.com writer Eric Wilbur opined, the sooner the word “selfie” goes away, the better. Just another crass promotional deal, or, as Boston Magazine put it, we have transitioned from “amusing photo format to celebrity monetization opportunity.” Oh, well, what else should we expect?
And why should we spend another minute of print or air time on a day when Boston’s brave firefighters are being remembered and we’re learning of yet another fatal shooting at Fort Hood in Texas? Or is Samsung sponsoring “selfies” there too?
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