What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Simon Doonan – Is Mitt Romney Too Handsome To Be President?

August 28, 2012, 12:00 AM
Romney

What's the Big Idea? 

 Although we’re all focused intensely on the serious issues involved in the 2012 presidential race, and although the economy continues to limp along, making this an especially sober political season, let’s face it – presidential elections are always something of a fashion contest. The candidates’ appearances, gestures, and words are carefully curated to communicate specific messages in shorthand: Reliability. Earthiness. Honesty. Success. 

What makes the fashion aspects of this fashion show somewhat less engaging than, say, the Oscars’ red carpet is the fact that no matter the politics, the cultural background, or the gender of the politician the message is always more or less the same: Reliability. Earthiness. Honesty. Success. We get the folksy locutions (“I’m not gonna sell you a load of bull”). We get the weekend shots in jeans-and-polo-shirt and the power suits the rest of the time. 

In fact, says the redoubtable fashion critic Simon Doonan, author of Gay Men Don’t Get Fat, a unique appearance is a political liability in the United States. Mitt Romney, he observes, is “so handsome that he runs the risk of looking too “plastic...like a TV anchor.” In the 2008 race, he notes, this harmed John Edwards, whose expensive haircuts led to the public perception that he was vain. 

[VIDEO] Simon Doonan on Mitt Romney's attempts to "rough himself up a bit"

Mitt’s handlers are aware of the danger, says Doonan: “There’s a lot of shirt without a tie, there’s a lot of slightly wind-blown hair, because he doesn’t want to look like a lounge lizard for exactly the reasons that we talked about.  He can’t appear to be self-involved.”  

What's the Significance? 

Before our readers rush off to write “small think!” all over Facebook and the comment threads, we’d like to remind them that of such superficial stuff are presidential campaigns made or broken. Voters’ psychological perceptions of a candidate’s character are often shaped by their clothes or mannerisms (Gore is a robot! Bill Clinton feels our pain!) and these emotions powerfully influence our voting decisions.  

As ridiculous as it may seem to suspend discussion of taxes or the economy and focus on Mitt Romney’s hair, you’d be surprised at just how superficial sober, educated voters can be. It’s useful, therefore, if your goal is to vote for the best candidate for the best possible reasons, to step back and consider the ways politicians and their campaign advisers have learned to control our perceptions.

 

Follow Jason Gots (@jgots) on Twitter

 

 

Simon Doonan – Is Mitt Romn...

Newsletter: Share: