Sunday, August 5, 2007
Correspondent 'dos: Tintins now rival shaved baldies
Speaking of headliners, the Feral Beast can't help but notice trends in the way foreign correspondents style themselves these days. The vain guys, that is.
Sure, for years now, the most prominent look has been the Alpha male, testosterone-heavy baldy. It's a low-maintenance look which is guaranteed to be wind-proof. Think Andre Agassi/Bruce Willis/ Yul Brynner/ Mr Clean: just shave the whole head and avoid the unattractive Friar Tuck/ George Costanza fringe that can emerge. I can count dozens of presenters, photographers, and reporters who fall into this category. The uber-snapper John Stanmeyer of VII agency, BBC presenter and former hostage, Alan Johnston, Matt Walberg of the Chicago Tribune, CNN's Karl Penhaul and NY Times Baghdad reporter, Steve Farrell, spring to mind immediately.
But if you check on-screen and scrutinize photo-bylines, you will be sure to spot the quiff, which can make younger and with-it journalists look nearly as cool as video-jockeys. Think Astro-Boy or Tintin. (Hmmm, I don't mean to imply that foreign correspondents look rather drawn these days.)
It is an utterly appropriate look, given that Tintin is the world's most enduring international comic book correspondent, except maybe for Clark Kent, Superman's alter ego. Yet Kent was on the metro desk, after all, and intentionally missed all the big scoops because Superman was on the scene instead.
Tintin, the boy reporter, began his first adventure in 1929 in the Belgian comic strip Le Petit Vingtieme. Created by illustrator Georges Remi, aka Hergé, Tintin became an icon with his trademark crested quiff, plus-four trousers and his faithful dog Snowy. Each year more than three million copies of Tintin’s adventures are sold across 50 countries in 40 different languages. Note that these days, Tintin is not considered politically correct; the US chain bookstore Borders recently pulled copies of Tintin in the Congo from its shelves because of too many racist stereotypes in the colonialist-era text. Tintin in Tehran is not there, though, because it has not been published, yet it seems pretty relevant in these dire Islamaphobic times. (See mock-up cover at right, with its alarming image of Snowy as road-kill! Not, apparently, from an IED. Read it and weep.)
Tintin wannabes we have spotted lately include CNN entertainment reporter A.J. Hammer, their news reporter Michael Holmes, the BBC's London presenter Matthew Wright, the Guardian's Middle East ace, Rory McCarthy; and the list keeps growing. Even footballer celeb David Beckham had a go. It's the bald truth: things are looking hairier for journalists abroad.
There is one exception to prove this rule: a singular old-school journo who looks like he takes his grooming tips straight from Bigfoot rather than from the Belgian cartoonist Herge. That would be NY Times' two time Pulitzer-winner, John W. Burns. The Daily Show's Jon Stewart once chortled that Burns was wearing his hair on the outside of his helmet.
But now that Burns is stationed in London, it has been noticed that he goes to his barber far more frequently. How soon before we see him in a Tintinesque quiff? His untamed mane already is snowy.