Read Jessica's bio and previous columns here
January 21, 2008
Dean Hrbacek, Carmen
Kontur-Gronquist: The Borrowed Body and the Lingerie Mayor
Two photos. One is heavily photoshopped, with the head of a man
transposed on the body of another, slimmer man. The other is a woman in
black lingerie, sitting on a fire truck. Generally,
such images are not
unusual in our visually stimulated culture.
However, these images aren’t
from light beer print ads. In fact, they are photos of politicians, and
both have sparked controversy this week.
The first – a campaign photo of Dean Hrbacek, mayor of Sugar Land, Texas
and Republican congressional candidate – was confirmed to be a photoshopped creation with Hrbacek’s head affixed to the body of a
slimmer man. His campaign manager insists that Hrbacek was simply too
busy to pose for an original photo dressed in the obligatory suit and
tie, so they found a photo of an appropriately dressed man and blended
the photos to create a complete image. Visually, they did well. At
first, it’s not obvious that the photo is doctored. However, the public
was not fooled and the mayor’s sudden slim-down raised a few eyebrows.
Somehow, this is controversial.
The second photo is controversial for a completely different reason.
Carmen Kontur-Gronquist, mayor of Arlington, Oregon (population 500),
had a photo on her MySpace profile in which she was posing at the wheel
of a fire truck in her underwear. Although Kontur-Gronquist’s profile is
now private, the image in question was leaked before it was. Her
constituents are not happy about it and are, in fact, trying to get her
removed from office.
Good or bad, photographs are that – a permanent artifact that gives
testimony to who you are as a person. Photographs also have a tendency
to not go away, and to reappear at the most inconvenient times. Those in
– or aspiring to – public office probably should take this into
consideration. However, I don’t think that either Hrbacek or
Kontur-Gronquist deserve ruined careers as a result of their
About Hrbacek, Allen Blakemore, a Republican political consultant in
Texas, says that although doctored photographs are not illegal or even
unethical, such seemingly innocuous things can have a “negative effect
on polling numbers and popularity.” It seems unbelievable that something
so inconsequential could have drastic effects on Hrbacek’s congressional
campaign. Surely there are photoshopped images out there of every
candidate running for president right now. One could perhaps argue that
a disingenuous photo might be representative of other dishonest behavior
on the part of the politician, but in this case, I think it was just an
innocent touch-up, and maybe he really did just run out of time to pose
for a photograph (although I wonder why the photo’s creator didn’t
search for a more appropriately sized body if that were the case).
for Kontur-Gronquist, her photo is a bit more scandalous and difficult
to wave away, especially because she is posed half-naked on property
belonging to the town of which she is mayor. One who aspires to
political office should probably refrain from half-naked photographs of
any sort, let alone ones that you showcase on your MySpace profile.
However, according to Kontur-Gronquist, the photo was taken before she
was appointed to her mayoral post, and I’m sure she never imagined it
being plastered on every major news outlet in America.
also can’t help but question what the reaction would be if it were a
male politician posed shirtless in front of a fire truck for a MySpace
photo. Would it cause an uproar worthy of national news? I doubt it. It
might get a 10-second spot on The Daily Show for its comedic
value. But a woman displaying that much skin is a scandal.
Kontur-Gronquist claims that the photo was taken after a day at the
beach, although the news is reporting that she was wearing lingerie as
opposed to a swimsuit. Would a swimsuit be a different story? What if
the photo was taken at the beach instead of at the firehouse?
Politicians are, after all, people too. And sometimes they take photos
they end up regretting. But they shouldn’t have to regret it for the
rest of their careers.
the end, both of these previously unknown people have gotten some time
in the national spotlight for her small town and his political campaign.
Their constituents should probably overlook these small matters and look
toward more important things, at least until someone transposes
Hrbacek’s head onto Kontur-Gronquist’s underwear-clad body for a
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
is Column # JV041.
Request permission to publish here.