Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pop Culture Approves this Message

Mike Huckabee has been a Blackhorse candidate in the Republican presidential race, but I think he’s finally latched onto something that can propel him to the top of the litter.

Take a look at his new campaign ad:

I’ll give you a minute to realize the awesomeness of that ad.

Now, Mr. Huckabee has been no stranger to comedy in the past; once telling a whole crowd in Iowa that he doesn’t have enough money to buy them; and I myself have even discussed a few comments that the former Arkansas Governor made about stand up comedy and politics, but this…this is…wow. That’s Chuck Norris man!

The sad thing is, now the Chuck Norris joke generator is not funny anymore, because as Rob Haber has said “He’s become too self-aware of the joke.” The old rule of topical humor goes that if the subject has become a joke on Leno, Letterman, Conan and SNL already, it’s not funny anymore. Chuck Norris cracking jokes about how he has a fist under his beard is the equivalent to that. (Especially with the Writers Strike going on right now we have no other place to see topical humor. Just thinking about that is weird…on TV, it’s currently campaign ads that are the top medium for political jokes. Kinda reminds of during the 19th century when people went and watched a battle just for entertainment)

Anyway, the question is will Chuck Norris’ endorsement help Huckabee’s campaign. My answer: yes, as long as enough people see this ad. I guess it’s the frat boy demographic that really latched onto the Chuck Norris jokes. Yes, Hipsters did as well, but that was more in an ironic sense than an actual respect for Chuck Norris sense. If these ads are shown to the college crowd and the 17 through 35 demographic, then that’s it. It may not be as funny as say if one of Conan’s writers wrote the ad, but it does show that Huckabee has a sense of humor and at least some idea of what the current pop culture fixations are (even though the Chuck Norris gag is about 3 years old by now). Hillary Clinton is doing a similar thing in her campaign ads using the Sopranos and her husband, cultural icon Bill Clinton to attract votes (that’s for another post though.)

When a politician uses Pop Culture correctly it’s a surefire way for people to take notice and consider voting for them. Look at politicians in the past: Jimmie Davis used “You are my Sunshine” as his campaign song (even going so far as to buy the rights to the song so that he could claim he wrote it) in the 40s, from Kennedy on politicians cozy-ed up to pop culture icons to try and look hip (great examples include Nixon with The Carpenters and Elvis Presley), and Ronald Reagan, the former actor, used to include lines of dialogue from movies into speeches he made. On any given day Reagan could be given a speech as Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford or the Backman-Turner Overdrive.

The use of pop culture which stalls a politician’s campaign is usually if they try to create culture rather than just show they understand it. Usually this downfall occurs by participating in skits on Saturday Night Live. Every politician who has hosted SNL has lost the presidential election. George McGovern, Jesse Jackson, John McCain, Al Gore…and didn’t Barack Obama just appear? Uh oh. George H.W. Bush appeared on SNL back in 1992. I forget if it was right before or right after he had already lost his re-election bid. Either way, the winner doesn’t ever appear. The reason for this is not exactly clear, but it seems to be the same reason enough people didn’t watch “Arrested Development.” The American Public didn’t want their leaders to be creators, they wanted them to tread in the same old ideas that everyone before them treaded in. They want them to be safe. They want them to be predictable, they want them to be a line up of “Yes Dear”, “The King of Queens” and “Two and Half Men”. Originality is frowned upon, individuality is a big no-no. The monikers of Republican and Democrat are enough of a separation to the voters…any more individuality and they’ll need to start paying attention to other details…like the issues.

Now once again, I can think of exceptions…Nixon was on Laugh In before he was president and it helped him a great deal in the upcoming election (people said “He gets our culture!” all because he agreed to say “Sock it to me”), and of course Reagan added a great deal to our culture when he was a movie star, though none of it really has much value outside of “Win one for the Gipper”. Clinton did appear on Arsenio Hall, but there’s a big difference there…all candidates appeared on the late night shows, but not all candidates made late night appearances that were more than campaign stops. Clinton has turned into a culture icon since he was president, as did JFK after death, and even Nixon in some way. Mainly though all this happened after they were no longer president.

Pop culture acceptance is like walking a fine line. This ad could shot Huckabee in the foot, but I don’t think it will. People will look at the ad and probably think Chuck Norris is running as his vice-president, which even I have to admit would be awesome. Anyway, he’s not a bad candidate. I’d probably vote for him over Giuliani or McCain or Hillary or even Obama, so I wish him luck. Here’s hoping when the writers strike is over he doesn’t go on Saturday Night Live.

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