Defining Visual Rhetorics: Political Image Making

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0Strachan, J. Cherie and Kathleen E. Kendall. “Political Candidates’ Convention in Films: Finding the Perfect Image–An Overview of Political Image Making.” Defining Visual Rhetorics. Eds. Charles A. Hill and Marguerite Helmers. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. 2712-3125 of 6169. Ebook.

political image refers to a carefully constructed condensation of all the attributes a candidate wants to convey to the voters into easily recalled, visual and verbal symbols” (Strachan and Kendall 2715 of 6169).

“[I]mages are often intended to symbolize far more than the candidates’ most attractive traits” (Strachan and Kendall 2715 of 61669), but also add mythical standing. “In these symbolic representations, the identity of the candidate and the nation are merged” (Strachan and Kendall 2726 of 6169).

“The emotional appeal of these images to patriotic values encourages unquestioned acceptance” (Strachan and Kendall 2734 of 6169).

“{W]ith advances in communication technology, the use of visual rhetoric has expanded as visual symbols that construct meaning can be readily conveyed to a mass audience” (Strachan and Kendall 2747 of 6169); thus politicians “are increasingly apt to use powerful visual symbols” (Strachan and Kendall 2750 of 6169).

They state that “a new rhetorical genre emerges” (Strachan and Kendall 2755 of 6169).

Photo of Eisenhower WC pdCompares Eisenhower and Stevenson films 2771-2785. Then looks at multiple convention films:
Reagan’s film 2785-2802,
Clinton’s 2829-2857,
Gore’s 2857-3011–including using schema theory,
and Bush’s 3011-3080.

Patterns of convention films:
1. a narrative style w/ archetypal images (2816 of 6169) and women shown in traditional roles (2818 of 6169),
2. play on themes of the American Dream (2821 of 6169),
3. “introduce a candidate’s vision for the future” (2824 of 6169),
4. Republicans use it better than Democrats (2827 of 6169)

Schema theory:
“people abstract information from their personal or vicarious experiences to create mental constructs that organize information about situations and individuals” (Strachan and Kendall 2954 of 6169).

“experiences used to develop these expectations and judgments [that people have and make] are not treated equally” (Strachan and Kendall 2967 of 6169).

“perceptual experiences have a more dramatic, lasting impact than being told even the most vivid story” (Strachan and Kendall 2972 of 6169).

They say television is persuasive because it combines visual and auditory (Strachan and Kendall 2978 of 6169).

“[W]hen people are exposed to information that contradicts existing judgments, they often reject it” (Strachan and Kendall 2986 of 6169).

Explaining why Gore’s film was unsuccessful, they say that “a convention film introduces and image that the candidate will be capable of conveying throughout the duration of the campaign” (Strachan and Kendall 2997 of 6169), but that the film’s focus on Gore as warm was not an image that Gore could project.

They mention that Bush’s convention film used “surging music and emotional visual clues” (Strachan and Kendall 3019 of 6169).

In the film, Bush “turns to speak to the audience, creating the feeling that each viewer is part of the scene” (Strachan and Kendall 3021 of 6169).

“facial closeups are ‘exceptionally powerful in attracting and holding the viewers’ attention.’ They also stir emotions and produce ‘feelings of positive or negative identification…'” (Graber 168 qtd in Strachan and Kendall 3024 of 6169).

Bush’s film “exalts the core value of a Texas cowboy, of a rugged individualist–the value of individual responsibility tempered with compassion” (Strachan and Kendall 3052 of 6169).

Bush’s convention film “celebrates values through emotional appeals, using pictures not only to document verbal assertions, but to construct independent meaning” (Strachan and Kendall 3078 of 6169).

Convention films not accepted unreservedly (Strachan and Kendall 3094 of 6169).
Emotional responses short-circuit critical responses. (Strachan and Kendall 3097 of 6169).

computer and glasses closerRelated Readings:
Doris Graber’s Processing the News: How People Tame the Information Tide.”

Joanne Morreale’s A New Beginning: A Textual Frame Analysis of the Political Campaign.


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