The Living Room Candidate

Via GreenCine: Alessandra Stanley’s New York Times review of The Living Room Candidate, an online exhibition of the American Museum of the Moving Image. The site allows viewers to browse through a collection of TV and web advertisements for presidential candidates dating back to 1952.

As Stanley notes, it has become widely accepted that presidential campaigns are won on television (and now on the Internet), and this collection is invaluable for anyone interested in how images of candidates are constructed (Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” and “Peace” ads are particularly compelling here). These ads also have powerful implications in terms of how America views itself as a nation, as David Schwartz, the museum’s chief curator of film and a co-curator of “The Living Room Candidate,” suggests.

They can also cast new light on the 2004 election ads, including the Bush campaign’s semi-hysterical attack advertisement, “Kerry’s Coalition of the Wild-Eyed,” which I discussed a few days ago, and Bush’s more recent ad, “What If,” which William Saletan reviews in Slate. Saletan’s critique of the buzz phrase “show leadership” is quite good, and it might make for a useful discussion in my freshman composition classes this fall.

Side note: While I was watching the “What If” ad, the theme song from Barbarella came on the radio, and I discovered that I enjoyed Bush’s advertisements much more (and they made more sense) when I turned down the volume on the ad and cranked up the Barbarella theme instead.

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