Tuesday, November 04, 2008

"How Disrespectful"

McCain Ad "How Disrespectful"
30 seconds


An often understated quality of political advertisements is that depending on who is watching them, they can stand on their own as powerful stories. For many people the perception of both Presidential candidates is limited to the framing device approved by the rival candidates themselves. With political ads the assumption on behalf of the party releasing the ad for television is that viewers will remember which politician is the good guy (or girl for that matter) and which is the bad guy.

This deliberately crafted antagonist v. protagonist story is often successful at motivating people to vote for their favorite story. In this particular ad, the villain is Obama. He is painted as "the world's biggest celebrity" whose "star is fading." Obama appears a cardboard cutout in the opening introduction. Each time he is framed negatively a one-frame image of him frowning, appearing disoriented, or villainously smiling is shown. These motionlesss, inanimate representations of Obama aim to establish a disconnect between viewers and Obama. The only time McCain and Palin are represented is when they are smiling and in motion.

The story's arc is logical and believable in that it frames fact (or partial fact) into story. The ad wants us to accept that since Obama's lead in national polls was being trimmed once Palin was announced as the VP candidate, that he had a kneejerk reaction of criticizing McCain's choice. The ad associates the change in polls with Obama's subsequent rhetoric. The ad frames the idea that Obama's "fading star" made Obama and Biden upset and "...so they lashed out at Sarah Palin." There is then a natural progression in the severity of Obama's rhetorical tactics which goes from dismissing Palin as good-looking (which "backfired"), said she was doing what she was told, and then "desperately called Sarah Palin a liar." These criticisms of Obama are summed up with "how disrespectful" as if the filmmakers didactically want to reinforce the ideal of human respect and dignity.

The desired effect of the McCain/Palin logo with the bright shiny star in the middle at the end of the ad can be likened to that of the G.I. Joe public service announcements which warn kids from anything to not petting stray dogs to not judging people.

It was estimated that no more than 5% of campaign financing was spent for both campaigns combined. This statistic is quite telling. It says something about the generational differences between those who rely on television for their news and those who spend most of their time on the internet. It could mean that the younger generation has a more elusive relationship with media advertisements and thus use the internet as a tool to be more selective in what they're exposed to. Television to the elder generation is almost an absolute medium. Campaigns do not discriminate between which channels you watch, but rather the fact that you are watching television. To many, television is the only voice for their candidate. The question is whether or not this voice is being heard.

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