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Hillary 1984

The races for party nomination and the Presidential election in the US always tend to bring out the most creative political media and mashups. The first great political video of the 2008 race is definitely Hillary 1984, which mashes up one of Apple’s most famous advertisements from 1984, using the imagery of 1984, with Hillary Clinton’s campaign launch speach. (Actually, the Apple ad used is the updated version released in 2004, with the sledgehammer-weilding Anya Major given an iPod to wear as she attacks the projections of an Orwellian big brother.)

An article called ‘Political video smackdown’ in San Francisco Chronicle has these sparse details:

It may be the most stunning and creative attack ad yet for a 2008 presidential candidate — one experts say could represent a watershed moment in 21st century media and political advertising. Yet the groundbreaking 74-second pitch for Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, which remixes the classic “1984” ad that introduced Apple computers to the world, is not on cable or network TV, but on the Internet. […]

The compelling “Hillary 1984” video recently introduced on YouTube represents “a new era, a new wave of politics … because it’s not about Obama,” said Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank on politics and new media. “It’s about the end of the broadcast era.” […]

That theme — reflecting a generational change in the relationship between media, politics, candidates and voters — suggests that “Hillary 1984” could have the iconic power with the 21st century political generation that another classic political ad called “Daisy” represented to Baby Boomers, says Leyden. That 1964 spot for President Lyndon Johnson — featuring images of a child plucking a daisy, which morphed ominously into a nuclear mushroom cloud — battered GOP presidential candidate Sen. Barry Goldwater because it, too, portrayed “a shattering of the whole world” in both political leadership, and media.

Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama, said he is aware of the “Hillary 1984” video and has gotten calls from reporters on it — but he insisted that the campaign is not connected to it. “It’s somebody else’s creation,” he said, declining to comment on the ad’s biting content. […]

The ad is proof that “anybody can do powerful emotional ads … and the campaigns are no longer in control,” Rosenberg said. “It will no longer be a top-down candidate message; that’s a 20th century broadcast model.”

Citizen media and participatory culture, indeed! 🙂 And the video itself:

[Via Rebecca Blood]

Update: For more on the politics on this mashup, see Chuck Tryon’s column ““Why 2008 Won’t Be Like 1984:” Viral Videos and Presidential Politics” in Flow. Also of interest is a statement in the Huffington Post by the video’s creator Phil de Vellis: I Made the “Vote Different” Ad.

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  1. I am deeply suspicious of this ad.

    The soundbites seem to be completely wrong for the ad. I realize there is a certain irony in the original, which juxtaposes “we shall prevail” with the throwing of the hammer. But in the original, the voice has an obviously evil quality to it. These soundbites are Hillary’s explicit attempt to come across as a regular person, having a “conversation” with each of us individually, whereas the original ad speaks of “one people, one will, one resolve, one cause,” and “a garden of pure ideology where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests of any contradictory thoughts.” Meanwhile, the Hillary soundbite says “I don’t want people who agree with me.” Also, the image of big brother is dark, and blends in with the dark wall in the original commercial, while the imagine of Clinton is bright white, an aberration in the monolithic room

    If I had to guess at the source of this video, I would bet it came from the Clinton campaign. Imagine seeing it without any knowledge of the original. Most people probably don’t remember the original all that well. Here is an alternative interpretation of the Clinton video: Clinton is trying to awaken people who have become used to politics as a competitive sport, or partisan war, rather than a discussion, an exchange of ideas, about how to make everyone better off. Hillary says that it’s “really good” that “so far, we haven’t stopped talking.” However, some evil forces don’t want you to keep talking. Right before the hammer is thrown, the text on the screen over Hillary reads, “this is our conversation.” The next time we see the screen, a smiling Hillary again says she “hopes to keep this conversation going,” just before the sledge hammer smashes into the screen. In the original ad, following the initial explosion as the sledgehammer crashes into the screen, we hear a light, cool breeze, suggesting freedom. This sound appears to have been slowed down in the Clinton video, lowering the pitch and suggesting the cold wind of emptiness and despair. By this point we are really wondering who would be so evil as to want to end “our conversation.” We then see a bright white screen which says, “On January 14th, the Democratic primary will begin. And you’ll see why 2008 won’t be like ‘1984.’” Note that 1984 has a significance in presidential politics quite apart from Orwell’s book. 1984 was the year Walter Mondale, running as an unabashed liberal, lost every state in the nation except Minnesota. The white screen, associated with Clinton, promises a different outcome in 2008, until it is covered over by a pitch black screen bearing Barack Obama’s web address. It must be he who wishes to end the conversation.

  2. Ben, that’s certainly a well thought-through alternative interpretation. I must admit, if the clip was trying to make Clinton look evil and Orwellian, there are probably better sounds bytes. That said, even if viewers were unfamiliar with the 1984 origins – or the original ad – I suspect the destruction of Hillary-on-the-screen makes it hard to see this clip as supporting her campaign!

  3. I doubt the intention is for people to see it as an overtly anti-Obama ad. I think it is designed meant more to hurt Obama’s likability among voters, since that is his greatest strength, and perhaps one of Hillary Clinton’s greatest weaknesses.

  4. If the last two seconds were taken off the clip (the bit with Obama’s website) then I don’t think anyone would connect this clip with his campaign at all. It also seems the least polished two seconds of the clip – I wonder if perhaps it wasn’t created by the same people who did the mashing?

    On a side note: I always find it amazing that each party has all of this dramatic in-fighting before their own primaries only to put on a unified face by the time the presidential elections begin!

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