The Marketing of the President (2): The Onion’s Romney and ‘Paco’ Video

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Romney Courts Hispanic Vote With Animated Sombrero-Wearing Parrot is a short video (2:27) put out by the satirical magazine The Onion.

It takes the form of a simulated news item about Romney’s attempt to court Hispanic voters by recruiting the support of a cartoon parrot called Paco, who just happens to speak and act like a cartoon Mexican. 

It’s a slick production. The opening sequence could be that of CNN. The female host and the male expert commentator look the genuine article, which is to say shallow and insincere. The insertion of ‘Paco’ into Romney footage is seamless. For half-a-second you might think that it’s actually true. 

It seems to be construed as a satire of the all-too-serious Mitt Romney, but I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. Paco seems to humanize him by implying that he’s got a sense of humour. I think Romney comes out of it rather well. He’s no stranger to ridicule.

Let’s note some of the words amid the graphics:

‘War for the White House’

‘Believe in America’

‘Global US Election Headquarters’

‘Voting Booths to Feature “Randomize” Button for Undecided voters’

Where is the satire here?

If it’s aimed at Romney it misses the target, for reasons explained above. His treatment is almost affectionate. The effect of the humour is to bring him into the fold of popular culture. He’s as much a cartoon character as Paco is. 

Perhaps the satire is aimed at television news coverage of the election campaign. But TV news is already a parody of authentic reporting, just as the presidential election in the United States is a parody of genuine democracy. Perhaps The Onion is telling us that none of this is to be taken seriously. 

The only group being lampooned in this video is Latinos, in the person of Paco, a cartoon caricature of a Mexican illegal immigrant. They’re unlikely to find that funny. 

Now, strictly speaking, this short video is not part of the emotional marketing of the presidential candidates. It does, however, help define Brand Romney, but not, I suspect, in the way it intended.

The situation in the United States is so dire that satire and parody can show no way forward. It calls for something altogether more critical and biting.

One thought on “The Marketing of the President (2): The Onion’s Romney and ‘Paco’ Video

  1. I agree that Paco is offensive. I think that The Onion is trying to perhaps be that spark for people. Sometimes the only way to wake someone up is to show them how absolutely absurd the entire system is, which is the case here. An interesting article that defines some of the issues of illegal immigration within the United States I found here: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/Hanson-Dec09.pdf. As I am not sufficiently informed on this topic I found this article helpful in defining what the barriers are and how the United States could constructively handle the issue-Romney has stated that building a fence will stop illegal immigration and it appears has not acknowledged the benefits that unskilled illegal immigrants have brought to the United States (even if small) (http://www.azcentral.com/community/chandler/articles/2011/09/14/20110914mitt-romney-republican-presidential-candidate-chandler-immigration.html). I think sometimes there is no other outlet other than parodying the absurd. Movements that have been trying to make change have effectively been crushed (i.e. Occupy Wall Street Movement). Where the people have tried to make change the government and, by an extension of that government and those with power and money, the media have effectively crushed those movements. What would your suggestion be (this is an honest question as I am at a loss as to how to affect change here in Canada)? What is more critical and biting? How can we be more productive in affecting change when our channels of democracy are held hostage by corporations, the rich and politicians who for the most part are puppets to the former?

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