The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Monday, November 1, 2010

Step Up

               Ron Johnson is the republican candidate running for the Senate seat in Wisconsin.  Even though Johnson is running against Russ Feingold, a powerful democrat that has held the seat for 18 years, he is currently ahead in the polls and looks to steal the seat.  Television advertisements, like “Step Up,” are a major reason for his success because they have been able to connect with Wisconsin citizens while shaping their citizenship at the same time.  In this simple 30 second clip, Johnson is able instill the values of political activism, personal accountability, work ethic, and family life through both dialogue as well as subtle imagery.
            Throughout the advertisement, it is clear that Johnson’s main purpose is to encourage political activism in voters, while stressing his own personal accountability.  The closing lines of the ad show Johnson “getting off his rear end” to act for all Americans, an action that is sure to resonate with voters and get them to question their own amount of political activity.  This clear promotion of political action not only models American citizenship, however it also is a clever campaign strategy.  The simplest form of political action is to vote, so by modeling viewers citizenship, Johnson may also be securing votes on election day.  Johnson also stresses the quality of personal accountability throughout the ad, throwing Washington under the bus.  Images of empty factories and people stressing out over money are included to show the consequences of our government’s lack of personal accountability.  Furthermore, Johnson also seems to be implying throughout the advertisement that it is our responsibility as citizens to elect officials that are accountable—officials with the same ideals that Johnson portrays himself to have.
            Another subtler ideal that the advertisement models to its viewers is the importance of work ethic.  The opening of the commercial shows Johnson actively working in the factory with fellow employees.  His safety goggles and non-formal attire combined with the factory setting that stresses simple, blue-collar values.  This imagery, when juxtaposed to the closed factories shown later in the ad, demonstrates that all citizens need to work hard to keep jobs in America and return our economy to its strength of the past decade.  Even the brightness of the advertisement echoes these same ideals, making the images of forlorn plants a dark sight of the past, while his factory acts as a bright symbol of our future—as long Americans model their citizenship after Johnson’s strong work mentality.
            A final value that Johnson is able to play at in the advertisement is that of family life.  While Johnson is talking to the camera, he sits in a crowded diner filled with families.  This image not only shows that Johnson sees merit in having dinner with family, but it also projects onto the viewer as well.  A diner like the one shown in the advertisement is a familiar sight to those who live in rural Wisconsin, making a great image to shape citizenship of those who do live in small communities.
            Overall, the advertisement is a great success in structuring the citizenship of its viewers.  Not only does it display Johnson in positive light—it also compels viewers to adhere to the values political activism, personal accountability, work ethic, as well as family life by clever use of dialogue as well as symbolic imagery.

--Zach Kadow

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