In today’s political climate, it’s not enough to just make the other guy look like an asshole—you have to make him look like a movie villain.
A couple months ago Ron Paul released his first big-budget campaign commercial, which played unmistakably like a big-budget Hollywood movie trailer. It even had one of those voice-over guys with the deep, stentorian voices doing the narration (the kind that prompted Tina Fey on “30 Rock” to challenge Alec Baldwin and Will Arnett to a talking like this contest).
It gave new meaning to the phrase “political theater” and underscored the reality that in our ever-more-digitized lives political theater must become actual theater—it must entertain us personally as well as shape us societally.
This morning Rick Perry upped the scales and introduced a new theme into the Hollywood political ad meme: the political super-villain.
Whereas Ron Paul’s ad made him look like the hero at the center of something resembling “Rescue Dawn,” Rick Perry’s ad focusses on making Mitt Romney look like a pure Hollywood villain.
Over an ominous score, a title card flashes the definition of “mislead” and proceeds on a one-minute rapid-fire rampage of Romney contradicting himself and admitting to such atrocities as wanting all Americans to have health insurance and having once unintentionally hired some Mexicans to mow his lawn.
It’s ridiculous—and yet it’s effective. This is probably why Hollwood movies have historically made more money than any industry except defense. When you put some scary music and dark, flashing images together with the winner of the talking like this contest, it creates quite an impact on the human sensory system. After sitting through this one-minute spot Romney does indeed seem like an insidious bastard—for a few lingering seconds, at least.
Which is probably why, from here on out, you can expect every political ad to play like a Michael Bay movie. The heroes will be aggrandized, the villains will be demonized relentlessly. With Obama having presided over the real-life assassinations of multiple top Al Qaeda leaders, his 2012 campaign ads should make for some epic blockbusters. Grab some popcorn, and check out Rick Perry’s new ad below: