When Politics Meets Pop Culture: The Mid-Term Election Report

I am writing this well before any election returns have come in. At the moment, I do not know for sure how well any of these candidates fared in the American mid-term elections last night (and given the likely results, I might prefer to remain in blissful ignorance for a bit.) Actually, if you are reading this it is probably because I stayed up way too late last night watching the returns.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been picking up a range of political ads which are, in one way or another, inspired by contemporary popular culture. As many of you know, I’m doing research right now on the concept of “fan activism” and the related concept of the “consumer-citizen,” both ways of getting at the blurring of the lines between politics and entertainment. This has been a key theme running through the campaign season here — especially as journalists and academics alike have come to grips with the Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert rally for sanity in Washington last weekend. I thought these spots, drawn from races around the country and a range of organizations, might spark some productive conversations on the day after the election.

Here’s one produced by the John Manchin (Democrat) campaign for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia.

Don’t blame Manchin. The title of George Lucas’s science fiction classic has been linked to missile defense systems since the Reagan era. In this case, the candidate just knows how to build on that imagery to transform the campaign in a space opera.

This spot, produced by GOP Proud, uses knowledge of reality television (in this case, Real Housewives of New Jersey) to construct a critique of three leading Democratic figures.

Here, the Pat Quinn (Dem.) for Governor campaign in Illinois borrows a few notes from Glee to try to catch voters up to what they’ve missed so far in that election cycle. Of course, Quinn took office after the previous governor Rod Blagojevich resigned (under scandal) and went on Celebrity Apprentice.

Here, Young Republicans take aim at the president who has become famous for campaigning on Facebook, representing youth voters as recovering from a bad online romance with an abusive boyfriend. This seems the logical followup to the celebrity-themed spots which the McCain campaign ran during the 2008 election campaign, though they are created by someone who knows what Facebook is and who is also no doubt aware that The Social Network has been generating buzz at the box office.

This last spot, produced by Jerry Brown, has been credited with helping turn around the Governor’s race in California. I’ve included it not because it features our Terminator governor (we’ve gotten used to that) but because in many ways, its juxtaposition of Meg Whitman and Arnold Schwartzenegger resembles one of the segments on The Daily Show which digs into the news archive to contextualize contemporary news footage.

So here are some questions to consider about these videos:

  • Which genres or forms of popular culture did they each evoke?
  • What kinds of fan knowledge or consumer interests do they tap?
  • What tone or attitude do they adopt towards the popular culture forms in question?
  • What kinds of rhetorical work are the pop culture references doing here?
  • Do the spots situate the candidate and the viewer as equally in the know about popular culture?
  • Do any of them seem pandering or patronizing in their use of pop culture images? If so, why?
  • How might we relate such spots to the “culture wars” which have long defined national politics? Is there a difference in running against popular culture as “cultural pollution” and mobilizing popular culture towards other political ends?
  • Are there differences in liberal and conservative strategies for deploying pop culture references?

I’d love to have readers send in other examples from this campaign season where candidates drew upon pop culture references to help frame their political messages.

theaskanison, one of my Twitter followers, has added this Twilight Zone themed spot to the mix:

Comments

  1. This is really a wonderful post…The the anaysis for all these videos was really appreciable….Fantastic job..

  2. IMO, ourtab .org just politicizes the issues instead of really facing up to them. Which president doesn’t fly using a helicopter or which president can control 20 years of mismanagement in 2 years? I mean let’s face it, it’s not realistic.

    The truth is: less regulation, less taxes, more hands off and allowing the businesses to grow is the real solution.

    Bonnie Smith

    COO/Director FXP

    http://www.forexpulse.com

  3. Charlote says:

    I visit this site daily to see if anything new has been added. You have a nice work in your all site! It looks that you are highly expert blogger. Your post is an excellent example of why I keep coming back after completing my 156-215.70 and 642-583 project to read your excellent quality content that is forever updated. That was exactly what I needed to read today. Now a days i m busy 646-578 and HP2-E31 final projects also.

  4. There are few things in life that are Cheap mbt footwear simply better in every way, and leave no room for argument. Mbt shoe for sale is one of them. This product, which does not depend on his appearance, but its Mbt online execution. This may be a good idea to test them on their feet.Company in thevibram MBT Chapa sale for over 70 years and is known for producing high quality footwear. MBT Fora are soft and supple nylon sole that can easily be extended to cover the contours of the legs to do. This is the only MBT Baridi, in one machine so that you keep them clean and fresh can be washed.If you have compiled one of those unfortunate set of MBT Imara shoes for long hours almost every day wear in your life, then you probably know how much load can MBT Kimondo shoes. People’s feet at least 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and MBT Kisumu Sandals ligaments in this small space. He is not without reason, of course. Our feet are capable of great strength, speed, endurance, and it alone, we need to MBT M.Walk improve their potential. Barefoot and regularly ensure that our legs carried out in order to MBT Men’s Shoes enhance MBT Moja productivity. For runners and athletes who have MBT Sandals shoes, calf muscles, finally, to take the load MBT Sapatu pressure while the feet and toes curled up in a lather.We have MBT Shoes Clearance experienced a sudden resurgence of a large number of functions that We lost MBT Sini power years, our bodies move against nature. Gradually, we begin to bring our original way of MBT Sport walking, we used a pain in the muscles of the shin or on our waistline MBT Women’s Shoes disappears suddenly feeling that we are starting to Air Max feel particularly Nike Air Max 95 happy and free.

  5. Wow, wonderful blog layout! Are you looking for Coach purses Wedges?…

    Coach purses

    Coach purses on sale

    Coach purses outlet

    Cheap coach purses

  6. Hi I found this site by mistake when i was searching Google aboutcoach bags, I must say your site is really helpful for me to learn of discount coach bags , its amazing!. I don’t have the time at the moment to fully read your site but I have bookmarked it and also signed up for your RSS feeds. I will be back in a day or two. thanks for a great site about coach designer handbags.

  7. adamantiteou.wordpress.com says:

    I can’t believe that she still sees herself as a hero and, believe it or not, she still has quite a number of followers who believe it as well.

    masini de inchiriat and masini de inchiriat.

  8. I’d been obsessed with my free porn videos younger sister’s sex life for almost two years when I finally found the courage and mobile porn the means to take a part in it. In fact, my obsession had probably been developing for quite some time before that without my noticing it free porn tube, my teenage unconscious taking in the form of her developing body, her budding breasts, her pheromones and whatnot since the onset of her puber

    ABB728019395

  9. Louis Vuitton, the world-renowned brands, but also for muxury a consideration. For these replica louis vuitton,replica Louis Vuitton Handbags absolute comw of NPK’s high quality and fashion design, but also added the popular bags for sale. There are also many copies of replica louis vuitton Handbag to sell in the market, so when you choose not to pay attention to your luggage. In addition, all of these Louis Vuitton Handbags,also used the same material,designed by replica louis vuitton of these condescending, and large bags. In short, all of these replica Louis Vuitton Handbags to provide you with the replica louis vuitton Handbag and so on. Speaking of Louis Vuitton Handbags,people know, talk, and only those women who use this wealth of high-priced bags. In the winter, it is said, the work of louis vuitton travel luggage and louis vuitton men bags in these cities on the market very well.

    CHEN

  10. Cheap Bags Handbags,Cheap Nike Air Max, Cheap Air Jordans…

    High replicas Online Store

    cheap clothes

    cheap nike max shoes

    cheap handbags

    High quality guaranteed. Wholesale Price offered.

    China Wholesale Branded Handbags,Branded handbags are usually expensive and unaffordable for us common people. While here we offer a wide range of designer handbags replicas, high quality guaranteed. Amazing cheap handbags. Cheap Fashion Coach Women’s Bags

    Coach handbags are one of the best sellers here, even around the world. Wanna be in fashion, you should own a Coach bag in your wordrobe.

    Hot Selling Gucci Women’s Handbags, Gucci bags has a lot of fans from all over the world. Top Quality Juicy Couture Tote/Shoulder Bags

    Juicy is a brand that designed for sweety girls. With it’s lovely design and it’s changeable colors, it has won a lot of favor from ladies aroung the world.

    Cheapest Designer Clothing for sale. Branded t-shirts, shirts, jeans, outerwear, suits etc. many styles for your selection. Buy Discount Jewelry Online Shiny Jewelry that you should own at least one piece. That’s one of the necessary equipment for you.

  11. discountcoachbags says:

    thanks for a great site about coach designer handbags.

    url

  12. Red Lasers are shaped like red laser pens, or red laser pointers are designed to be red laser lightportable and hand held. Red laser pointers were originally used to project a dot or point from the beam that can be used to point out itemsred Lasersor objects to an audience such as during a presentation. With theirred laser pointers increased proliferation and power, the application of red laser pointers has grown to encompass uses.

  13. Search in our wide range of purple laser pens if you want high quality lighting products at very low pricesPurple Lasers. Purple Laser pens are most preferred since their battery life is long, you have little to worry. A reliable supplier could offer you not only low price but also high qualitypurple laser pointers. All of these Purple Laser Pointers output of light is very high, at the same time, power consumption is relatively low.Blue Lasers are shaped like blue laser pens, or Blue Laser pointersare designed to be portable and hand held. Blue laser pointers were originally used to projectBlue Lasers a dot or point from the beam that can be used to point out items or objects to an audience such as during a presentation. With their increased proliferation and power, the application ofblue diode laserhas grown to encompass uses.

  14. robertmatt says:

    Dear i really want this kind of site.It is very handy 650-195 SMBEN and accommodating post. keep up the good work.we need more good statements. I really appreciate 642-072 CUDN your way of presenting such an excellent suggestion. I want more 642-681 AWLANSE and i will come back here to see more updates in future 650-251 LCSAUC as well.my best wishes for you always so keep it up.regards

    Cool site, this post includes very nice and informative 642-437 CVOICE content that I never perceive before. i want to say that please post some new information 650-568 WSFE and interesting research . I really appreciate your way of presenting such an excellent suggestion. I want more and 646-656 WAASAM i will come back here to see more updates in future 642-481 CRMC as well.my best wishes for you always so keep it up.regards

  15. PornoPixel is Seo Friendly and to improve backlinks, for sites that have purchased the pixels, their links are appears on the popular Social Network, Blog and Service. (with a single purchase) Start Advertising

  16. Great videos, really useful uggs outlet

  17. some parts made me laugh real hard! this is great post!

    zma

  18. Some really nice videos!

  19. some parts made me laugh real hard! this is great post!

  20. What a cracking post, thanks a lot.