The Obamas signed a sweet, sweet deal with Netflix when Barack Obama left office. They set up their own production company to crank out projects friendly to their political agenda. What could be better than a documentary on the behind the scenes life of Michelle?
That’s right. Higher Ground Productions is Obama’s own production company and it is credited as the company producing Becoming. I first read about this little twist at Christian Toto’s website (which, if you don’t read on the regular, you should.) While the Washington Post and other media outlets are busy with complementary pieces about the documentary, Toto calls it as it is – a vanity project. It is essentially Michelle Obama’s narcissistic behind the scenes glance of her book tour.
As Toto points out, conservatives are documented one way and liberals in quite a different way. For example, Mrs. America on Hulu, a series on conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly portrays her as a cold, stern, joyless woman (I watch it) while liberal women are held up to be “smart, capable, kind and/or deserving of the spotlight.”
For years conservatives gritted their teeth while filmmakers fawned over a procession of progressive figures.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – “RBG,” “On the Basis of Sex”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – “Knock Down the House”
Rep. Ilhan Omar – “Time for Ilhan”
President Barack Obama – “Southside with You,” “Barry”
If you sat through any of those, you know he’s right. Now it is happening with Michelle Obama. As I’ve noted before, Michelle Obama is adored by the left. Her book Becoming was published in 2018 and quickly became a best-seller. In 2019, a journal was published in coordination with the book. The autobiography was named the best selling autobiography in 2019. It was published by Bertelsmann’s Penguin Random House division (German) and she received an advance of more than $60M. Now she’s milking it a little bit more with a documentary about herself.
“I’m figuring out, what do I want to do? What do I care about?” the former first lady says in a clip from the documentary. “It takes time to process your life and figure out what it all means.”
Streaming May 6, “Becoming” arrives at a defining moment in Obama’s life. A few years removed from the East Wing, the widely admired first lady’s influence remains evident. She’s maintained a foothold in American culture, and the presumptive Democratic nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, recently said he would choose her as his running mate “in a heartbeat.” She’s made clear that she does not want to run for office, but Biden’s remark raises the same question Obama asks of herself in the film: How will she choose to wield her power?
Michelle Obama sounds a whole lot more like Hillary Clinton than she does, say, Laura Bush, doesn’t she? Can you imagine Laura Bush sitting around trying to “figure out what it all means”? No, of course not. She left the White House and got on with her life. She sure didn’t leave with a $60M book advance, either. I don’t think she’s given to many navel-gazing moments.
The book tour from which this documentary springs was a huge hit with her supporters. Whole stadiums and arenas were sold out in a very short time and the tickets were certainly not cheap. She made a couple of revelations that readers previously didn’t know like she has never forgiven President Trump for his birther comments and she had fertility issues when she was trying to get pregnant, but other than that it is all about the greatness of Michelle’s life. As I said, she is much like Hillary.
One person from more conservative circles is happy to speak up for Michelle Obama. Anita McBride, the former chief of staff to former first lady Laura Bush, speaks favorably of Michelle, as the Bushes do. She credits Michelle’s “extraordinary use of media and pop culture and television” as a way to form a connection with her supporters, though at first, she was a reluctant first lady.
McBride, who directs programming on first ladies at American University, also noted that the transition from public service to private citizenship encourages political figures to take stock of what they’ve accomplished and determine what they hope to carry on.
The Netflix deal is a way for the Obamas to continue elevating “stories of challenge related to the programs and initiatives that were a part of their White House life,” said McBride, who added that the producing partnership is unprecedented among first couples in terms of “the reach and the impact that they want to continue to have.”
Michelle Obama has been very visible since she left the White House. She and her husband continue to live in Washington, D.C., and travel the world promoting their agendas. She isn’t bashful when it comes to doing get out the vote drives and formed an organization to do just that along with her celebrity friends. She is currently promoting mail-in voting.
When President Trump’s critics complain about his narcissistic tendencies, I often wonder why they don’t make a connection to the former president. Do they not realize that the personality trait was so strong in President Obama that it seemed almost normal for voters when Trump threw his hat in the ring. Obama normalized many things for which Trump is now criticized. Just as conservatives criticized Obama, liberals criticize Trump. The Clintons took post-presidency paydays to an extreme level. The Bushes were more modest about it but now the Obamas are going the Clinton route. You know whatever Trump does after his presidency will be criticized without irony by Michelle and Barack’s supporters. After all, the very first Netflix project the Obamas announced through their production company was one that is thought to be a diss to President Trump.