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January 14, 2005

Winning By A Landslide

 Us.Yimg.Com P Ap 20050112 Capt.Carf11001122221.Western Storm La Conchita Carf110

In analyzing a news photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I think the rules are different. 

This is because Schwarzenegger refuses to identify himself as just another politician.  Whereas most “cross over” Hollywood figures identify themselves as politicians who happen to be actors, Arnold turns it around; he’s the actor who just happens to be a Governor.  It’s audacious how he does this.  He takes every opportunity he can to invoke his Hollywood persona, including reusing lines he’s spoken and reprising characters he’s played.

According to the terms he has established, it is impossible to observe the Governor conduct business and not consider he is also acting.  Consequently, the media coverage acquires an added dimension.  For example, what would typically be a standard photo op becomes indistinguishable from a photo shoot.  And, what would typically be considered news coverage or photojournalism also becomes cinematography.

So, how does this play out in real life?  Well, say California experienced a series of severe winter storms which caused a fatal landslide.  In order to demonstrate his diligence and concern, the Governor’s production team might set up a scene in which the Governor hops in a helicopter to survey the cataclysm.  If you intend to run an administration as if it were a movie studio, however, you had better pay pretty close attention to your staging and your sets.  For example, you probably wouldn’t want to be discussing the intricacies of the disaster with an earplug in your ear — even (or especially) if it was hard to hear.  And, if you’re mantra involved always demonstrating maximum deference to your constituents, you probably wouldn’t want a big emblem of the state of California blocking the view of the houses (especially if you’ve already got a big state emblem right on the front of your bomber jacket). 

I think playing with character is profoundly risky.  The danger is, if you can’t keep your audience entertained, they can always conclude you were never real in the first place.  You know how movies can create the impression that an actor is in a moving car?  I believe it’s called a “process shot,” in which an actor is filmed in front of a screen on which a background scene is projected.  Thinking about the way Schwarzenegger insists on playing it, I had a strange impression.  For a second, I imagined that the window Arnold was sitting next to was not a window, and that he was only sitting in a piece of a helicopter.

(Image: AP/Robert Galbraith in YahooNews)

  • KZ

    But, as you yourself have pointed out, Bush already does “run his administration as if it were a movie studio, paying pretty close attention to their staging and sets.” And Reagan was widely seen as doing the same with his presidency.
    Perhaps a better point would be that Arnold is bringing this discipline to the CA governor’s mansion for the first time … but I doubt this would be accurate either, since Reagan of course was Arnold’s predecessor.
    Still, always interesting to read your comments.

  • http://britbull.blogspot.com JD

    I think you are absolutely right and, even before having read your closing remark, I felt the shot seemed entirely false, imagining Arnie sitting in a small section of a prop helicopter. Something about the contrast between inside and out, or perhaps it’s the perspective, really gives the impression that a photograph has been pasted over the outside of the window.

  • UlricII

    If only the Gropenator had just played it as a photo op.
    Instead, after he landed and surved the disaster scene, he spoke to the local residents and pulled a tough-guy act, insisting that no natural disaster should hold them back–they should rebuild and resettle La Conchita. After that he flew back to Sacramento, leaving Ventura County officials to deal with a local population that not only shouldn’t rebuild and move back, they should all have left the area after the landslide a decade ago.
    Geologists say the hill is essentially unstable. Maybe $150 million would make it more stable, but no amount of shoring up will prevent Mother Nature from moving it again when the spirit moves her.
    This just in: Relief efforts have been terminated in the landslide area. The mass just moved an additional six feet, endangering rescue workers. So much for rebuilding and moving back.

  • http://www.country2.blogspot.com Riggsveda

    “…it is impossible to observe the Governor conduct business and not consider he is also acting.”
    Yes, I had the same problem with Reagan.

  • http://167.89.225.170/2005/01/17#a353 Craig’s Manila Test Site
  • jr

    Hooray for Hollywood; that fake and falsified Hollywood……..

  • http://masoncole.typepad.com/vyblog/2005/01/celebrity_polit.html Vy Blog

    Celebrity, politics, marketing and (political) parties

    Michael Shaw has a good post about Schwarzenegger and what he means. This is interesting.

  • http://167.89.225.170/2005/01/17#a356 Craig’s Manila Test Site
  • Michael Shaw

    UlricII,

    Thanks for the additional context. Actually, I was sorely tempted to run a couple more shots of Arnold once he arrived on the scene. (I guess that meant the helicopter ride was real.) These other images showed him basking in the light seemingly set off from the rescue workers and the locals.

    It really brings an entirely new appreciation to the term “poser.”

  • atomic

    Well, uh, thats really funny, because you may recall the sceen in Running Man in which Arnold Schwarzenegger is flying a Helcopter! and the evil TV show host (played by a real TV show host) edits the video to make it look like Arnold killed a bunch of people on the street.
    Fun!

  • http://omor.com/SF/archives/2005/09/arnold_vs_w.html Stylized Facts

    Arnold vs W

    Does Arnold strikes a better pose than W as leader in charge of the situation ? W: 2005 August, New Orleans’ Katrina flood. Source: * Arnold: 2005 January, Southern Californian landslide. Source: **…

  • http://omor.com/SF/archives/2005/09/arnold_vs_w_1.html Stylized Facts

    Arnold vs W

    Does Arnold strikes a better pose than W as leader in charge of the situation ? W: 2005 August, New Orleans’ Katrina flood. Source: * Arnold: 2005 January, Southern Californian landslide. Source: ** See previous, Pitch 2004: W vs Kerry….

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