Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The dawn of political advertising

Even though by my reckoning the next Presidential election is over a year away, the lunatics are working themselves up already, spluffing their gazillions of dollars making sure everyone's heard their crazy ideas. I generalize, but if you just skim the news like I do, this doesn't seem like an unreasonable point of view on the whole shebang. (I continue to skim the serious news because, frankly, I don't want to know any more about these weirdos than I already do.)

The whole American election machine seems to operate in soundbites and cheesy overblown adverts. When serious politicians in Britain appear with straight, white teeth and good TV presentation skills, we fret that the whole country is going to the dogs, and personality politics is holding us all in thrall. But as long as voters back people like Boris Johnson or Margaret Beckett, I think we are safe.

La Beckett

These British uglymuglies wouldn't even get on the radio in the States. Image is everything over here. And funnily enough, it has been for a long long while.

When we were in Atlanta we visited the Cyclorama, which is a big painting of the Battle of Atlanta. That's the one in the Civil War when Scarlet helped Mellie deliver her baby and then they fled to Tara against the backdrop of a burning city.

The Cyclorama is painted on a huge cylindrical canvas, about 40 feet tall - to view it, you sit in the middle in a platform which slowly rotates while Darth Vader tells the story of the Battle of Atlanta. It's pretty cool. The painting is incredibly detailed, and apparently pretty accurate too. Soldiers are advancing or fleeing over every field, bodies lie sprawled in the near ground and puffs of gun smoke show the reach of the battle across the brows of hills and far distant forests.
The creation of the cyclorama was quite an undertaking, and cost a fortune. It was originally commissioned as part of a presidential campaign. One General A Logan, commander of the Union Army of the Tennessee has himself featured very prominently, and looking ever so handsome, riding bravely into battle, with his running mate James Blaine behind him. Unfortunately Logan died in 1886. He probably never saw the finished painting, much less got to use it in his Presidential campaign.

That's right, 1886... This painting was commissioned for use as a presidential image booster over 120 years ago.

So I guess this post is a long and circuitous way of saying that the obsession with image, and the manipulation of the media that we see today has very very deep roots.

Ooh, so political! I'll be back on cocktails and food soon, don't worry.

No comments:

Post a Comment