Having been assailed on all sides by an overly ambitious selection of courses, it was only this Friday that I encountered Andrew Forgione’s USC election campaign video, via The Gazette‘s “Blog the Vote“.
My initial impression of it was a decidedly negative one, though I couldn’t quite make out why. Underneath its expensive veneer was lurking an unsettling undercurrent. It was only later that I discovered the reason for my aversion, when a friend raised an important counter-argument: at least the video was creative, they said.
Actually, I rebut, it isn’t. Ostensibly so, its pretensions to creativity dissolve readily when its constituent elements are analysed in isolation.
Perhaps I should check myself before I commit the irreversible sin of wrecking myself. This is by no means meant as an indiscriminate harangue of everyone involved in Forgione’s video. As a matter of fact, the production values are little short of phenomenal. The finished product is a glistening example of filmanship: the images are crisp and often endearing, and the editing is superb. Its beauty may be vapid, but it is no less beautiful for it. It is the underlying structure — a pronounced lack of inventiveness — that I find to be problematic, and even symptomatic of a larger problem.
From the outset, the cinematography in the video bears a striking resemblance to Emily Rowe’s “My Western” campaign video. Extremely striking. Rowe’s video connotes a certain ‘esprit de Western’; a spirit that Forgione’s video attempts to emulate — and largely succeeds. Forgione’s establishing shots are even ripped straight from Western’s most successful campaign video, then robed in a luxurious coat of veneer.
More importantly, however, is the soundtrack. Familiar people and places around Western are paired with the dangerously infectious hook of Ducksauce’s “Barbara Streisand“, an overwhelmingly successful track that has racked up 36 million views on YouTube to date, and enjoys regular rotation in bars and nightclubs worldwide.
The intentional choice of this particular song borrows its meanings and associates them with Forgione’s completely unrelated political campaign. “Barbara Streisand” is not only popular, it’s cool, it’s synonymous with ‘partying’, and, perhaps most importantly, it symbolizes an unrepentant spirit of fun. The video ensures that Forgione’s campaign absorbs all of the aforementioned — all the fun, all the coolness — remaining conspicuously absent of politics.
The object of the video seems to be an attempt to ride the coattails of established popular phenomena. Technical achievement aside, Forgione’s campaign video represents little more than a populist appeal to undiscerning Western students. Forgione is seen as pro-Western, pro-campus personalities, and pro-fun.
Apologies to my friend, but “creativity” has little to do with it.
Even his icon reinforces this. The Forgione “F” is an un-subtle fusion of the Twitter icon and Facebook icon. Once more, very popular websites are being connected in the abstract with Forgione’s image.
This is not to say that Forgione’s campaign is without substance. Saturday morning’s debate — which I attended strictly as a concerned student (possibly the only one), rather than for any *wink* political reasons — was the first time that I heard any of his platform. Or, at least, heard of it. Afterwards, I had a look at his website to satisfy myself that one existed.
My concern is that the more public elements of Forgione’s campaign (such as his video, or his posters around campus) carry a disproportionate amount of weight in the campaign for USC president. While the video boasts over 9500 YouTube views thus far, I doubt that Forgione’s PDF outlining his political motivations has been downloaded a corresponding number of times.
It’s worth mentioning that this might be a little unfair to Forgione. He is certainly not the first candidate to employ an assortment of successful elements from pop culture and former campaigns. Slick and uninformative YouTube videos have largely become a requirement for presidential hopefuls:
- David Basu Roy has a corresponding song on his website, as well as his own zany video.
- A third candidate, Omid Salari, is using an unexpectedly vulgar rap as his campaign video.
Videos are also being made by candidates vying for other less-prestigious USC positions. Forgione’s campaign video has been my primary focus simply because it is the crystallization of a specific ideology: one that assumes the most popular person with the most friends and the best video is perforce the best candidate. And who’s to say he’s wrong?
Forgione’s savoury message of unrepentant jubilation lathered with a copious amount of Ducksauce will surely be palatable to the majority of undergrads. The sleek, azure juggernaut that comprises Andrew Forgione will likely be propelled forward by a tidal wave of populism, and, ultimately, it will likely win him the election.
Educate yourself before voting on February 15th and 16th: