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Jan 22, 2007

We're In


Recently, a friend who works for the Clinton campaign wrote to ask if I would blog about Hillary Clinton's Presidential exploratory committee announcement. 

Because my friend knows my gig is visual analysis, perhaps he and the Clinton folks will be checking in over the coming months to see how the campaign looks with the sound off.  For now, however, I offer my feedback of Hillary's kick-off "I'm in" video.  I've got two takes:

1.  I understand on-line video is currently the "bright shiny object" of internet politics.  Still, in these early days of the app, why does YouTube-ization compel candidates to pretend to talk to me personally, face-to-face, with me in their living room and/or them in mine?

If there is a definitive trend in contemporary politics and infotainment (the two being synonymous, I'm afraid), it's the demand that the performer-politician remove all distance between herself and the viewer, and destroy all sense of artifice.  If the next generation of Karl Roves want a "mentality" to study, however, they should look at the indie music biz, which is about ten years ahead of them in terms of unselfconscious "one to many" communication, as well as non-hierarchical interaction with a fan base.

Although Hilary's PR people, I'm sure, are thrilled with this video, I think Hillary's presentation is fairly stilted.  On the surface, the "living room" concept must seem like the great leap forward, but so did narrating one's every move the day the first man (or woman) brought home the first video camera.

And speaking of "way back when," part of the problem here -- and it's going to be interesting to follow -- is how '08 candidates attempt to communicate across generational lines.  Yesterday's NYT WIR feature about "Boomer Candidates" actually did a good job setting out the issue.

It's one thing if a post-Boomer (like Obama) tries a fireside cyber meet-up.  That's because he's from a generation more coded for real-time chat.  On the other hand, any Boomer candidate (or older) should think twice before supposing to engage in a virtually-personal conversation with us.  Maybe the first time, Mrs. Clinton gets by on novelty.  But, it's going to feel more and more like a device -- especially while we have AIM, Skype or iChat open, and our real friends keep interrupting.

Unfortunately, I also had a problem with the living room.  As a functional space in today's home, the living room is an anachronism.  I understand, as a metaphor, it's cozy and personal.  Again, however, it's more about "yesterday."  (Ditto, the furnishings.)  On top of that, I don't think "domesticity" is the candidate's strongest suit.

Given the web as an "authenticity medium," I think the "personal conversation" concept is also wrong for Hillary.  If she doesn't shine doing "warm and fuzzy," why push it?  Something else I might try is (far) less polished video taken from real time conversations where she is talking -- one-on-one -- with different Joes or Janes we can each identify with.  Show her (please!) with her guard down, thinking on her feet (which we know she's an ace at) with warmth that we're certain is genuine.


2.  Why was the camera slowly panning left, then right, throughout the video (except during the close ups)?

I'm sure it was inadvertent, but I'll tell you what it made me think.  On the credenza behind Hillary were three framed photos.  In the one closest to Hillary was a photo of her with Bill.  In the middle frame, I think the photo featured Hillary and Chelsea.  I couldn't make out the third.

It's probably just my projection, but I read it as the campaign going back and forth, unsure how much to focus on Bill and Hillary as a couple (versus Bill) versus Hillary alone.

Anyway, its early in the game, and I'm sure the Clinton team will quickly realize you can't just port TV to the internet.  In the meantime, I hope this helps.



This wasn't a good idea.
Senator Clinton is so obviously made up, dressed and perched on the couch as if she's going for the screen test for Gone With The Wind.
The background of the living room points out that she is a multi-millionaire.
She is in a safe setting, where no one can quiz her.
The pix isolate her from the general public. She is alone, except for the phoney family photos as everyone knows that the Clintons are the family from hell.
Usually it's behind every successful man is a woman, but in her case, it is her husband.
The "Let's chat" reminds me of, "Said the spider to the fly".
Look at how the generation behind her dresses.
She looks like their great-great-great-great grandmother.
I went to film school for 4 years.
These images look false and she looks like they dug her up out of the grave and propped her up in front of a teleprompter.
With the advent of U-Tube, natural is in.
You can't fake real.
This re-introduction of Senator Clinton won't work.
The bit about she's famous, but people don't know her is BS.
Her problem is that people do know her.
ALSO, this was done on one of the worst days for our US forces in Iraq. The contrast between the blood of our dead and the Iraqi dead and this peaceful, rich environment shows a true disconnect from reality and any sort of caring about anyone other than herself.
The fact that it was released on that date of Inaguration day minus two years leads me to suppose that on Inauguation day 2009, Senator Clinton won't be featured at all.
Sorry I went on so long, but her image stinks and her "advisors" are as sheltered, insulated and as spoiled as she is. The lack of real world knowledge is frightening to me.
This stage craft with the picture of her husband can remind folks that she indeed did "Stand By Her Man".

The camera sways even during the closeups. My guess is that it's meant to give viewers the impression they're sitting in the room with her; a real person doesn't keep their gaze fixed in one spot.

I think this room represents not a real-life setting but an idealized suburban living room, spacious with a flowered sofa and knick knack tables with family photos, the sort of formalized living area that most Americans would like to have, or have worked very hard to get. Photos as artefacts are interesting, as Susan Sontag pointed out, the family photo collection, in albums or displayed in cluttered groups, are representations of the assembled family that are disengenuous.

A group of photos can be seen as a stand-in for the real family and is often all that remains of it, so in its role as substitute we treasure it all the more. Think of Pink's song about her beloved family picture "Here's our family portrait...we look pretty happy..." and then she goes on to sing about why can't it actually be like that; it also turns out that the family in the picture doesn't live together. In this case the Clinton family photo painfully reminds us that theirs is a power marriage which (like many lesser marriages) is in some way a facade which has hidden a lot of infidelity and messiness.

Well, back to Hillary, compare this to Bush's speech in the library if you really think this looks fake and posed. I don't. It looks warm and engaging and she looks so much less psychotic than Bush does.

BAG, when you wrote "one to many" communication, I for a moment saw "one too many" communication (telling all while a bit tight). This, with the image of the sofa and its association with the confessional couch made me wonder about the Oprahization of politics, something you hinted at. We'll be seeing a lot more of this, so get used to it.

I worked on the campaign for Clinton's 1994 run and Hillary came to our campus to speak and I (briefly) met her when she acknowledged the workers. She is charismatic and comes across as sincere and above all it is clear she is highly intelligent. I really don't care what arrangements she's got with her husband in terms of the bedroom. That said, I think she is completely unelectable because she has not played up the role of the broken hearted, betrayed, outraged etc. wife. My mother spoke for Joe Average when she said, "I have no respect for her because she didn't throw her bum of a husband out when he made out with that slut". It is, in my opinion, stupid and childish to expect a powerful couple like the Clintons to break up over this issue, but that's the only outcome that Middle America understands. Reality check: he cheats, she's either learned to live with it or it is just not a deal breaker in their relationship, which clearly has so many other things going for it. It's not nice, but it's the way the world works.

Americans like their facades of normalcy, the living room in the video is one, but Hillary has not managed to maintain the facade of family life in quite the same way that, say, George and Laura Bush have. This is going to work against her, as will her pro-war stance. On both sides of the aisle a lot of people dislike a lot of things about Hillary, in fact. I feel she has too many things going against her, and Obama's relative inexperience is going to work against him. I feel it must be John Edwards for 08, and I am liking him better and better the more I hear about him.

The daylit living room with glass door in the background worked for Ned Lamont, because he was that kind of a candidate. That Sen. Clinton would take on this look for her official entry, knowing what we now know about the power of the netroots, betrays more of what we already know about her: she will do what she believes will advance her position. I couldn't sit through the whole video. The camera movement reminds me of a surveillance tape; were they edgy that someone might show up in that window back there? God knows they'd never get inside.

I hadn't bothered watching it, but since the BAG chose it, I looked at it. I wasn't terribly impressed, but in order to win over that section of voters who hate her, doesn't she have to seem kind of normal and homey, to knock down that idea of being "radical"? And she has to look "presidential".

The clip of her on "the View" was pretty good. I'm not usually interested in hairdos, but I like the way she looks with that little flip at the bottom, instead of the way it was in her campaign video; it's not so serious. (Condoleezza Rice does the same thing with her hair sometimes...) It was a little hokey, all the stuff about reminiscing over Christmas ornaments, but she seemed warm and likable.

I don't know how much she'll play up the family angle, but they seem more genuinely close to Chelsea than the Bushes to to their twins. I always remember that when Bill Clinton was running, they didn't try to push Chelsea to be the perfect looking little daughter, and I respected them for that. Has Chelsea been visible at all recently?

I also remember that one of Bush's twins had her appendix taken out... It was right after he got the nomination or something - I don't remember when exactly - but all the Bush family was supposed to be meeting up somewhere, and Dubya and Laura just went and let their daughter stay by herself in the hospital in Texas or wherever it was. Maybe it's because I live in a society where a hospital patient is always surrounded by her entire extended family, but I was amazed that her mother or someone didn't postpone the holiday to stay with her for a day or two.

Anyone who had anything to do with the production of this video should be fired.

I saw Hillary speak at a commencement years ago when Bill was campaigning. Very charismatic, energetic, attractive, intellectually impressive woman. Watching her walk by, it was easy to see her personal power.

Was the panning of the camera used to convey a sense of movement? It is terribly distracting and makes Hillary look like she's neither here nor there. Or maybe they were trying to instill an idea of Hillary as “centrist” by panning to the right, then the left, and settling back on Hillary in the center. One can only hope that much thought went into it.

BAG, as you note, she is an ace at speaking on the fly. Why then the choice to put her in a formal environment where every gesture appears contrived and rehearsed? The choice to present her in this way is as absurd as it would've been to place her in the kitchen putting a tray of cookies in the oven.

That said, my seven year old daughter cheered when she heard Hillary was running for President.

Compare this video to John Edward's video preview (UTube)of his tribute to Martin Luther Kng, Jr's anti-war speech in NY, where he stands outside in the woods of NC. Relaxed, accessible, natural.

Clinton and the other candidates should fire their advisors and be themselves.

Doesn't it hit anyone that the trees outside are blooming?...
This has been taped before the mid term elections.

It takes half-way to forever for this video to load on dial-up. Meanwhile, I can see each frame as a still, which is very interesting.

How come Hillary doesn't have any lines on her forehead, around her eyes or around her mouth? There is occasionally a little sagginess in her lower face, but all-in-all she's looking pretty firm. Is there some sort of Fountain of Youth somewhere?

Tagging on to what others have said: Can you imagine the breakfast table conversation of Laura and Dubya as compared with that of Hillary and Bill?

I wonder if Hillary's team reads the BAG - because in the adspace right next to the post at the top of the page, they are advertising a continuation of their "conversation" and this time they have a conversational counterpart. Maybe they are taking our advice.

Remember how aweful Bush's speeches used to be before his writers figured out his "voice" - pre 911, that is. They are aweful for totally different reasons after that.

I'm a luke-warm Hillary fan. I don't like her record of supporting the war. I'd like to see if she can pull off this "conversation" to the point where she actually HEARS people and makes some changes in her stance. Maybe that's what it's designed to do - allow her to "come around" to popular opinion on the war.

Living room boredom aside - I'll keep watching to see what happens. I'd love to get a few questions in, too. I could care frikin LESS about her husbands wet willy in the whitehouse at this point. LET IT GO, people!

The panning made me seasick. I think the idea was to distract really, and to induce nausea.

Regarding blooming trees that gil mentions: I think that the yellow is the sunlight on a yellow house behind the vegetation. But the vegetation does look like it is late summer or very early fall, maybe in Virgina, and so way before the November election.

I agree, most notably with the (bad) idea of the "direct gaze."

The folks with the Senators' campaign need to take a tip from the pros - I just finished watching the Scorcese-directed Dylan biography, "No Direction Home," and the contemporary Dylan interview clips (looks like they did 2 sessions) are very compelling for several reasons, one of which is that he's making off-camera eye contact.

It's like being privy to a conversation, which is very compelling (we're all voyeurs).

Of course, another reason they're compelling is because they feature Bob Dylan, but that phenomenon works for the Senator as well - she's a known entity, so what we want to hear is what she thinks about things.

The Senator has huge hurdles to overcome (like in getting me to vote for her, among other things), and her staff doesn't serve her well by erecting still more of them.

Ditto on the ham-handed (and gratuitous) use of "new media."

If the Senator really wants to honestly use these technologies and methods to her advantage, she'll make herself available at high-traffic sites like HuffPo and DailyKos, and work with those forums on their own (the sites') terms - rough/tumble warts and all.

Otherwise, it just comes across as pandering - and web-savvy folks know pandering when they see it.

I feared the Senator's campaign would be top-neavy with traditional Beltway consultants, and this initial stab simply bears that out. You really can't teach old dogs new tricks - you need new dogs.

Yeah, RubDMC, you do need new dogs but if they're selling the same old product, how new can it be?

What is making you dizzy is not the panning of the camera so much as the constant nodding and bobbing of the head that is Hillary's signature gesture, and one that must go. I think it is intended to emphasize what she says, and to subtly herd the audience on board. You see that gesture in teachers, hall monitors , and in general, people who have authority over others and must urge them on. The manner of delivery, and some of the ideas, are infantalizing of the public -- such as the thought that we ALL must be part of the solution. Hillary is at her best when she is crisp and down to earth. Less display of wealth would be good too -- enjoy it in private, like Edwards.

almost painful ignorance of new media, bordering on naïveté, rather like the folly of making the first automobiles look like "horseless carriages," or the controls of space capsules / rocket ships "look like the cockpit of an airplane" when, looking back there really is no reason to carry on these vestigial tails (as here, the fireside chat (?) when one-to-many radio, for god's sake, is nothing like what, ~5Mbps streaming video : i daresay, IM me, Hill4Prez; U B so f*ckN linear, grrrl :)

You talkin' to me?? ...'cause... i'm the only one here.

The back and forth motion of the camera made me think the cameraman was shaking his head and saying `no`. If she wanted authentic, the camera should have been handheld, like an episode of BSG, or some other documentary.

And the flowers aren`t in bloom, it`s the sun. Of course, with the funky weather this year, some flowers are starting to bloom now.

I've had a chance to see my Senator speak, "with her guard down, thinking on her feet," and I wasn't too impressed:

(Sorry in advance for the horrible youtube video, it was impossibly bad lighting)

"The daylit living room with glass door in the background worked for Ned Lamont, because he was that kind of a candidate."

How exactly did the living room set work for Lamont? He *lost*.

Unlike Lamont's video, Hillary's video isn't *for* a netroots audience. It's meant to rally the matron set: wealthy, white, well-educated, well-positioned Boomer women born in the late 1940s like Hillary. They are the ones who will be spending *their* money and time and influence and energy to win Hillary the Democratic nomination. The netroots population won't be spending a dime on Hillary, and she's "in" to raise money at this stage, so why would she appeal to the unreliable netroots? That would be wasted effort. She's in to win the nomination first. And she'll win *that* without our *self-referential* critiques of her campaign. So while I don't like the video either (because it is badly shot and edited), it doesn't matter if I don't like it because I am not the intended audience.

The surroundings look less like her living room than a room in the WH. Oh, maybe that's the whole idea, ya think? Don't have to hit me over the head with a 2x4, but then I'm not a boomer. I saw (part of) the video on TV and I thought she was stiff and patronizing. School-marmish. It's that attitude, that manner of speaking, that distances her from people. I can't help but think she wants it that way. As they ALL do. 'I want to talk to you personally about your problems and concerns, but euuuwww! don't touch me!' She is in a very protective enclave of supporters. Part of the reach of that enclave was made evident in the last election, where the DLC prevented viable candidates from getting funding and support and may have cost the democrats some seats. All for the future projection of Hillary as POTUS. She's obviously had a couple of tucks and nips, but still has that heavy TV makeup on and it shows. What it shows is that she is older than she wants us to know. She's 60 and 60 has some lines!

tina made some good points and I agree that Hillary is not electable. But in the comparison of the marriages, I see Laura as an enabler for George in a marriage with more pathology than the Clintons, whom I think have made a partnership in a political/business sense and have remained friends, whatever their married life might be like. All marriages have their messiness, but I would rather be Hillary than Laura.

As an announcement strategy, she flunked. She's been outflanked by Obama, Edwards, and even Richardson, who just looked into the camera and made a straight-forward statement that seemed to be from the heart. I didn't get that feeling from Hillary's performance. It came across AS a performance.

Ok, MY question is, when the hell was this filmed? There's full foliage in the background through those glass doors, and while I know it's been warm in New York this winter, obviously this was recorded months ago. Talk about calculated!

First off, for those of us "boomers" who began using PC's in the early 80's, I find it incredibly parochial and a bit bizarre for you to suggest that use of the internet is some foreign territory for anyone but your gifted other younger generational selves. And as someone who has worked in media since the 70's, I have to say that Clinton did a great job of talking to a camera and making it appear she was talking to real live flesh and blood. Only in her continuing "conversation" that continued today, did we begin to see some undoing; that is, she talks things to death. Still, it makes not one whit of difference whether you prefer John Edwards standing in the woods, or whether you don't like the stage craft of the living room, or whether you don't get the feeling that she's speaking from the heart. Clinton's use of the medium met or exceeded her campaign's goals, when measured by the markers released the following day. Sure, there's lots to learn as use of the medium continues to evolve, the references to Scorcese's direction of the Dylan interviews, specifically about talking to others off camera, that's some good advice whether it's broadcast online or elsewhere. And please don't give me that malarky about Obama "flanking" her. It's January '07 for heaven's sakes. And so far, Obama's not a lot more than a media created phenomena who has yet to face any real scrutiny. I'm a hold out for Al Gore, myself, but a lot of the comments here petulantly disregard the fact that Hillary Clinton is a formidable presence in the upcoming '08 Democratic Primary race, and she's tackling head-on the use of on-line technology. Constructive criticism is one thing. Puerile tantrums are quite another.

It looks awfully green and sunny for the video to have been made in January, especially since it is currently snowing and 25 degrees in Chautauqua, NY.

I've been a "lurker" on this site for quite a while now and I've never really felt like I had anything exceptional to add to the discussion but this is one area where I can help because my brother is a professional in the tv industry and I asked him what he felt about this video in his professional opinion and here's what he had to say:

I've worked with guys like this. The motion is intended to keep you interested. Like how your eyes scan from place to place when you really aren't thinking about it.

When it's done well, you don't notice the effect. That is part of the sucess behind the psuedo reality shows like American Chopper. It's all small cameras shot hand held, which somewhat mimics what your eyes would natrually do. This makes you feel that you are actually in the room. Even most of Dirty Jobs is shot this way when he is doing the crazy jobs.

They also shoot the Dirty Jobs talking stand-ups hand held, but you don't really notice. They zoom all the way out and get fairly close to him. Giving the shot motion, but on a very small scale because the camera is zoomed all they way out.

The Hillary thing was obviously shot on a tripod and this idiot is just slowly panning back and forth. Which, as you noticed, was annoying and didn't create the effect they wanted. They should have shot it hand held, but they couldn't. I guarantee there was a portable teleprompter on the front of that thing. It's like having a vertical laptop strapped on the front of the camera. Too much weight to keep on your shoulder and too hard for talent to read.

(Sure, you can put the prompter in a monitor off to the side, or bottom of the screen out of sight. But, then the talent isn't looking straight at you. This creates the feeling of distrust and suspicion because this person won't look straight at you.)

They should have taken the Barak route. Make her memorize the speech, shoot it hand held to get the effect wanted, then edit. Edit cover footage of her doing things, meeting people, looking presidential. Then you can do multiple takes, grab the best speech bits, and cover what you need to with the B-roll of her working the people.

But what do I know?

Obviously, you guys already talked about the camera moving and the housewife persona she's going for. I hope this helped a little :)

I don't know what the weather in Pittsburgh has been like this year, but up until this week, it was scary warm in New York. We had 70 degree weather in early January. I am not making this up... check an almanac.

And with that.... I would like to prompt Senator Clinton to stake out the ground that Al Gore has and speak out about climate change. Not occasionally and vaguely, but forcefully and clearly. Don't pepper your speeches with bromides about the environment. Bring it up at every opportunity; rail on it; and tell us how voting for you will not just begin to address this problem, but sieze it by the horns and take control!

Everybody remembers Gore as an underwhelming candidate in 1999 and 2000, but now many are clamboring for him to run in '08. And this is almost solely due to his forceful and unequivocal speeches and movie and book about global warming. Imagine if a new candidate with less baggage were to show the same leadership and passion!

It seems almost every political leader except Gore has underestimated just how forcefully this resonates with people. It's not a fringe issue anymore. Every person I know, conservative and liberal, is scared about the weather and depressed about Katrina. People are used to being resigned about big issues like this, but you can feel them palpably pining for someone, anyone to take the reigns and act. It is clearly the single most important issue of this generation and the next. People are yearning for some sort of political action on this front, but no one has picked up the mantle.

The days of Bush Sr. pitting the environment against the economy are long gone. Green growth is a very real possibility. From a moral standpoint there is no other tenable position. From an "electability" standpoint, this is the greatest opportunity for a leader to stake out truly new ground in a long, long time. Who wants to be the next Kennedy... Obama? Edwards? Clinton?

It's wide open... if you want my vote and that of millions of others... it's sitting right there for you. Act! Please!

the moving camera is from Robert Altman.

AnonWoman, that was a good link. I don't pay enough attention to what politicians say to be able to notice how many phrases they're recycling, so I'm glad he did it for me.

And TAJ in Ia, thanks for that. It did look to me like she was reading froma teleprompter.

I saw another new video on Hillary's website, where she was advocating universal healthcare, particularly for children. Now I wholeheartedly agree with that (in fact, it amazes me that it's never really been an issue), but it got me thinking about the "conversation with you" gimmick. It's nice for the candidate to seem interested in hearing what the voters think, but if she's already decided that she's going to fight for universal healthcare, for example, what exactly is to be gained by the "conversation" except to bolster her opinion? And if she is actually listening to the public, does that mean she doesn't have any ideas and convictions of her own? If it's done right, it could be a plus, but there's a fine line between being open-minded and caring about what the public thinks, and making decisions based on poll results.

I was also thinking that Hillary should play up all the work she's done for children, because it's praiseworthy, and who could be against it? But then maybe she needs to break out of the "woman's work" stereotypes.

Well, I'm glad I'm not one of her campaign advisors. ;)

One more thing - I hope she and her people weren't really behind the "Obama went to madrasa" crap.

It has been very warm here in Pittsburgh also, at least up until last week. But the green leaves? They were off our trees for a couple of months.

BAG wrote, "As a functional space in today's home, the living room is an anachronism". Just curious....what, in the world, does that sentence mean? As you see it. So, where do we interact today, when people come into the home? Bedroom? Bathroom? Computer room?

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