Visualizing Keating

Too many ideas, too little time.

A little visual analysis, old school. Been reading the BAG again.

Here’s the first piece of compelling visual media the Obama campaign has created in a while:

This spot works because it pushes the focus onto McCain almost exclusively – it doesn’t mention Barack Obama once, and that’s fine. It tries to define McCain at a point when Mac needs an image overhaul – particularly on the issue of financial regulation

Terribly cinematic, it opens with a darkened an obscured clip of Charles Keating in a prison jumpsuit, behind a chain-linked fence, cut to Washington DC and a congressional hearing with John McCain looking younger and uncomfortably guilty, of something. He shifts awkwardly in his seat, holds his hands, then we see him taking an oath – and with the establishing shots previously, there’s a suspicion that it’s not an oath of office.

Those shots lead to our current economic downturn, represented by nervous stockbrokers, folks losing their jobs at Lehman. Another clip of nervous, shifty McCain followed by a Phil Gramm shot (Texas is the center of everything good in politics), some testimonial from economist-man, and then the ‘screen’ shatters and ‘Keating economics’ appears.

I like it because it makes a clear association between McCain and criminality, much like the association McCain is trying to make with Obama-Ayers. However, this has the visual goods: McCain on trial, performing the body language of the guilty (in his stiff, bizarre fashion of course), and the associated imagery of someone in prison fatigues. The visual tone is on point: dark, with the lined-filter that suggests we’re watching re-mediated clips of the established public record, a televised event that itself suggests scandal.

McCain’s demeanor in the spot takes him on his core quality of certainty and poise. He looks unconfortable throughout, the clips in the spot show him looking around, making jerky , quick movements with his hands, manifesting him as shifty and uncertain – quite the opposite of the straight shooting maverick he wants us to see.

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