I’ve fallen way behind on writing about political videos this month, in part because of other professional obligations, but also because much of the campaign coverage towards the end of the Democratic primary had left me feeling cold. At any rate, there are a couple of videos that I should have blogged sooner, especially since at least two people sent me a pointer to one of the videos, and the coincidence that Liz Losh blogged both of them gave me an excuse to take a closer look.
The first video, “Hillary Clinton: Mad as Hell,” is one of the powerful indictments I’ve seen of the use of misogynistic language by mainstream pundits in their coverage of the Clinton campaign. The video opens with an extended montage of some of the worst excesses of these pundits punctuated by the “Mad as Hell” scene from Sidney Lumet’s Network, and the video’s creators, Shut the Freud Up, masterfully play Keith Olbermann’s appropriation of Edward R. Murrow’s “good night and good luck” against him by contrasting one of Olbermann’s more problematic special comments with Murrow’s speech after accepting an award from the Radio Television News Directors Association (as re-enacted in Good Night and Good Luck). The video then transitions into a montage of shots of Hillary Clinton to the tune of the Meredith Brooks song, “Bitch,” in which Brooks essentially seeks to reclaim that term from its negative connotations. The images of Clinton range from shots of Hillary with her family to images of her on the campaign trail, but they all serve to remind us of the reductive–and certainly sexist–depictions of Clinton throughout the campaign. As Liz points out, there is clearly a lot of anger here (understandably so), but what makes the video work for me is the masterful, and often subversively humorous, interweaving of popular and political culture in order to make the larger point about the continued problems with cable news coverage of the 2008 election. I’ll only mention in passing that we are now seeing some of the same problems reasserting themselves in the recent depictions of Michelle Obama, particularly the references to her as Barack’s “baby mama.”
Liz also points to Synthetic Human Pictures’ (SHP) amazingly funny “I’m Voting Republican,” which depicts actors offering satirical testimonies as to why they are planning to vote Republican. A couple walking out of a Wal-Mart talks about the difficulties presented in shopping at locally-owned stores, adding “and…we just love buying cheap plastic crap from China.” Others happily describe the overcrowded classrooms their children gain from underfunded schools or the benefits of taking untested drugs. The video is reminiscent of some of the videos made by the satirical newspaper/website, The Onion, and the political edge, while softened through humor is undeniable. As Liz points out, SHP is a Phoenix-based group, and they now have about a half dozen videos on their website. In talking about these start-up video production companies, there is a bit of a habit of reading them via narratives of discovery or nascent stardom, as we saw in a recent New York Magazine article on microcelebrity, and while I’m happy for SHP to achieve as much success as possible with their videos, I’m more interested in the video rhetorically, in its ability to mock the campaign ad form while reminding us of the harmful effects of many conservative policies (one of my personal faves: “The EPA is an outmoded idea….if people want clean water, buy it in a bottle”).