New Emissary

Mixed on Obama

Barack Obama (both real and fictional) is getting mixed reviews in Indonesia.

While there aren’t yet any major global media outlet reviews of the new Obama movie, (‘Obama the Menteng Kid,’ which I touched on last week) that has recently premiered in Indonesia, The Jakarta Post suggested this past weekend that the film is so far getting mixed reviews from audiences.

According to the Indonesian newspaper, critical movie-goers have said, amongst other things, that it has a flat storyline and in some parts is sensationalized, and they’ve raised questions about the accuracy of certain elements, such as the supposed presence of a transvestite maid hired by Obama’s family at the time. One attendee suggested that while the simplistic and sometimes borderline cheesiness of the film might not be suitable for adults, it could still be recommended for children.

Back in March, Obama cancelled his highly-anticipated trip to Indonesia due to the tumult over the health care bill in the US. At the time, Diplomat correspondent Joe Cochrane reported from Jakarta on the ‘snub,’ (in part from the Obama Bar—which was my favourite part of his piece), and overall it seemed that while the public was generally disappointed, they’d be happy to receive the well-liked leader whenever he did make it—with no grudges held.

So with the new film out, and the Obama Indonesia visit still on hold, I asked Indonesia-based journalist Hera Diani for an update on the current state of the US president’s image in Indonesia.

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At first, Diani told me something I’d expected to hear: ‘From what I read, heard and discussed with other Indonesians, they generally praise Obama for putting national interests first and foremost. They said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should follow in his footsteps in that sense.’

But Diani went on to say that: ‘Some people are thankful Obama cancelled his visit several times already. They’re getting sick of the “Obama groupies” who idolize Obama just because he once lived in Indonesia, and went as far as creating a statue of him. These people think the cancellation should teach the groupies to have some self respect, to shed their inferiority complex and finally come to their senses that Indonesia is not a priority for the US even though Obama once lived here.’

It’s interesting to hear of this Obama backlash, and the idea that there even exists the Obama ‘groupies’ label.

And Diani also mentioned, perhaps less surprisingly, the views of hard-line Islamic groups, who strongly oppose Obama’s visit to Indonesia over the Israel issue.