Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Iterations of a Dislocated Cowboy: Reviews of Rick Perry Presidential Campaign Ads

Rick Perry’s Presidential Campaign has been characterized by controversies and public “slip-ups.” The personage of the candidate himself, broad shouldered worn copy version of former President George W. Bush’s cowboy posturing, yet prone to strangely flamboyant and uncoordinated movements lends itself to the cliche’d clown caricature leaders must manifest since Hitler mimicked Chaplin. But it could be said that the trajectory of the 20th into the 21st century has been marked by an increasing and ultimately self destructive tendency toward laughter.

The following ads demonstrate the political personage’s sometimes confident yet dislocated relationship to his own image.

“Proven Leadership”

Obama’s America rendered in post apocalyptic overcast and displayed by abandoned streets, the iconic “hope” poster is torn and bears down on the dirty streets similar to how shots of iconography populate the unpopulated by human streets of dictatorships

A distinct tonal shift is initiated when Rick Perry is invoked as the savior of this fallen grey America under Obama’s leadership. Saturated colors and motion in Michael Bay surfaces. Americana with aesthetic steroid muscles.

Perry says America is “Earth’s last hope,” coupled with a satellite image of a globe, the shot is a standard one but is given a fresh angle here, typically the shot from space diminishes the size of the Earth but the reverse happens in this case. Reminding one of the anecdote from “The Devil’s Candy” in which Director Brian De Palma’s reluctance to include a shot of an airplane taking off during the making of Bonfire of the Vanities, challenging a second unit director to make this cliche’d shot utilized for pure narrative information have a visual heft.

Helicopter camera angles swoops past a cross topped church in a sun-drenched Americana valley, the angle of the Christian cross con-vexed enough by a camera lens just before leaving the frame’s lower edge seems likely to pierce through the frame and puncture the viewer.

Last shot a slow motion walking military salute gesture from the candidate, a punctuating endnote like a gun blast.

“Romney’s Remedy”

Centering around the abstracted and vaguely understood menace of “Obamacare,” Perry levels an insidious critique of fellow Republican rival Mitt Romney’s past support of similar measures. Formalistically, the “right wing” words and personage of Mitt Romney are shown to dissipate and change shape into the devilish and hated “left wing” President. A tense and frantic montage, punctuated by lightning flashes which literally reveal Romney’s mirror image briefly be that of Obama, situates Perry’s rival as bearing a false cloak and the evil of transference itself.

“Leno Ad”

This is ad is oddly named by Perry’s campaign in reference to the comedian, whose consistent employment has largely been ascribed to his inoffensiveness, who is not shown nor referenced in the advertisement. Following the template of the direct address, separate from the dynamic montages which characterize Perry’s other ads, the candidate tries to explain his most embarrassing and public misstep, forgetting the third Government department he confidently stated that he would abolish as President.

Perry tries to humanize this foible as indicative of his authenticity above his rivals. However, the nature of this memory lapse, given the scale of the argument the candidate was intending to make coupled with the defiance in his voice prior to the dead air “oops” would suggest that this event isn’t comparable to other slip-ups characteristic of anyone who manages to survive the unreality of life-in-public, rather the boldness of claims registers more inward scrutiny than their consequences.

The candidate references his mistake also as a joke at his own expense. While amusement toward his or herself is obviously a preferable quality for a candidate or a person if compared to humorlessness, wouldn’t it be more preferable to invoke the vacuousness, fictionalizing nature of how the media treats the campaign itself? Wouldn’t this be the opportunity to remind voters about the nature of the narrative “gotcha” moments tendency to distract from what’s supposedly of value? The joke at his own expense seems like what those in public are often told to do in like situations. Self effacement is an automatism too natural for those built for public life, reaffirming the fears that to bear that harsh light, ultimately nothing must truly matter.


The titular “Momentum” is less a call to action for the viewer to help ignite as a much as a quality that the ad argues to be already attributable to Governor Perry. Moreover, the ad makes its case operating under the assumption that the viewer does not perceive the candidate as possessing the quality of “momentum.”

Newspaper headlines are inserted to tout Perry’s success in the Republican Primary and to possibly correct the overriding media perception that he has been gaffe prone (“Strongest Performance,” “Solid and Convincing”...). But these headline blurbs are abstract enough to be interpreted as being statements in praise of Governor Perry’s handshake alone, which is isolated in holy slow motion, and executed in a manner comparable to the quoting of positive lines removed from the full context typical of television spots for a major Hollywood motion picture. Some reused Americana shots from the “Proven Leadership” mixed in with new ones throughout.

The highlight arrives with excerpts from Perry’s largely criticized debate performances, here visually recontextualized from the overriding perceptions that have surfaced in the reporting by being projected off of TV screens. While Governor Perry talks about the eventual debate he will have against President Obama, shots of the President looking sad and sullen are interspersed with the Republican’s critical words against the mythologized menace of “Obamacare”, visualizing an almost too ideal future for partisan Republicans. A similar juxtaposition later in the ad uses footage of Iran’s capture of the American spy plane but is clumsily executed as shots of the plane unpopulated by jingoistic shots of a turbaned mob are blandly lifeless.

Rather than minimizing the perceived weakness of the candidate, here an ambitious yet not wholly convincing attempt is made to revise it into his greatest positive.