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.