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Perry and Hollywood Politics

By Gautam S. Kumar

I loved the trailer for the recently released political thriller, “Ides of March”—it raced through quickly, it tinged with duplicity, and it was chock-full of patriotic campaign sound bytes. I thought it was only a dramatized, fictionalized depiction of reality. And then I saw Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent campaign advertisement.

Perry’s advertisement against former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was even more dramatic than the trailer for the George Clooney-directed film. With flashes of voices—I couldn’t even say that they were full sentences—the YouTube spot, which debuted last Sunday, seemed to be advertising a James Bond movie more than a potential Republican presidential candidate. I was half-expecting Perry to jump off a helicopter, belle in hand, as he deftly cuts the red wire to a bomb threatening to explode half of London—all in a dashing tuxedo. Or at least for him to zip down in an Aston Martin.

Perry even picked up on the more recent tween fascination with ghosts and vampires. Comparing the recent national healthcare reform bill to Romney’s Massachusetts state health care bill, the trailer even has Romney looking into a mirror, only to turn into—gasp—Obama. I’m suspecting that the ostensible blood-sucking part is being saved for the next trailer, when he tries to convince Independents that raising the debt ceiling is going to drain diligent taxpayers of their money for Obama’s costly plans (never mind that President George Bush raised our national debt by over $6 trillion of the current $14.8 trillion, with President Obama only increasing our debt by an equivalent of $4 trillion, when adjusted for an eight-year tenure).

The best part: The ad ends with an out-of-context quotation from Romney, keeping the first part of the line, “There are a lot of reasons not to elect me” and choosing to edit out the second part, “There are a lot of reasons not to elect other people on the stage.” The worst part: This isn’t Perry’s first thriller ad.

Perry made his first entrance into the world of Hollywood politics last September, with his ad criticizing Obama’s lackluster performance in creating jobs. This trailer is the real deal. A real summer blockbuster. Imagine if Harry Potter were to apparate into Gotham City, just in time to stop the Joker. Perry’s trailer literally flashes: “In 2012 … America will discover … A new name for leadership … An American … Who Served for Freedom … A president … Who will lead a nation.” I’m hoping in the next one, they flash, “The last of his kind … Will risk everything … For mankind.” I think they may have done that already for “The Last Airbender.” I hear that movie did really well at the box office.

You can analyze the commercials to no end: These ads’ roaring soundtracks show a want of American voters for extraordinary, theatrical heroes for leadership. Their dramatizing messages marginalize real policy discussion in favor of superficial conversation about production lighting. Their flashing one-liners demonstrate the limited attention span of most of the populace.

These commercials are fun watches but are daunting in their depiction of American politics. If the national elections do become this theatrical, I’m not really sure where the platform for discussion on policy will go. Debates are fine, but I’m concerned about the increasing importance of political ads that even got Obama into office.

I hope I haven’t gotten you too excited, though, with the coming attractions. I forgot to mention that Perry’s upcoming thriller might be a horror film.

Gautam S. Kumar ’13, a Crimson news writer, is an applied mathematics concentrator in Cabot House.

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