Hillary Clinton’s image has been the cause of a lot of conflict for several decades now, and the her efforts and struggles with the media to influence it have gone on for just as long. However, the power dynamic between Clinton and the media has changed significantly since she was just a presidential candidate’s wife.
When Bill Clinton was first running for president in 1991, the media decided to paint Hillary Clinton as the poster child of the new wave of feminism at the time. She was a far cry from the stay-at-home wife that was the norm in the 1990s, with a lot of experience practicing law and campaigning under her belt. The media portrayed her as a very volatile person and described her as a “political animal.”
This image was not helpful to Clinton, and gave the public a very negative perception of her early in her career. Hillary took steps to take her image back from the media, which can best be shown in her white house bake-off which painted Hillary as a good housewife who cooked and performed other domestic tasks. This is the first example of Hillary taking steps to control her image.
Fast forward to 2016, and Clinton has become very experienced with the media, and manipulates them very skillfully. In a recently leaked communication between a member of Hillary’s staff and journalist Marc Ambinder, Ambinder was offered prior access to one of Hillary’s speeches, under the condition that he wrote a favorable article that praised her and used certain adjectives, such as “muscular” to describe her speech. The journalist in question complied with all of these requests.
This occurrence shows that Hillary has come a long way from the time when she held a bake-off to appease the media and the public. Hillary is now very well-versed in dealing with the media, and has figured out, at least in some cases, how to make the media work for her.
In recent years Hillary has faced a new opponent in her struggle to control her image: the internet. Ironically, just as Hillary has managed to create a dominant relationship with the media, an entirely new medium comes along which is impossible to control, therefore making Hillary’s struggle to control her image similar to Sisyphus and his boulder.
The internet, and specifically media, have allowed anyone to post their opinions, which can create new narratives completely independent of traditional news media. Things such as the Bernie v Hillary meme can influence an entire generation’s perspective of Hillary, and online her foibles, such as her infamous appearance on The Ellen Show where she hit the Nae Nae, can be amplified and criticized on a scale that would be impossible on a 24-hour news channel. The irreverence of social media can also create narratives that are a lot more angry and rude than a those that a news channel would create. It’s hard to imagine an anchor on a cable news channel would insinuate that Hillary’s “failure to please” her husband would mean that she could not please America, but that’s exactly what Donald Trump did on twitter.