Visual Rhetoric – Fall 2008 Rotating Header Image

Welcome to Visual Rhetoric

Welcome to the blog for Comm 353: Visual Rhetoric taught by Dr. Anand Rao in Fall 2008. This blog will host course materials, student grade pages, as well as the blog entries for student comment (announced in class). The password for protected class pages will be provided in class. Student grade pages will be protected using the passwords provided to the instructor.

Check back later this week for the first comments enabled page and instructions for the first assignments. If you have an RSS reader, be sure to subscribe to hear about changes and updates.


  1. Sarah Pierson says:

    I think this is where we post… not sure?

    I think that people really see through the ad. Mccain used pop celebrity pictures as a way for the voters to see Obama as a mindless celebrity like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. I think that the ad was criticized so quickly because there was a bit of hypocrisy. Did McCain’s campain so quickly forget about all the past republicans who were also celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, and Sonny Bono. I believe this was a big mistake on the McCain campaign and probably the reason why the new ad, which does not feature the two blondes, replaced the old one.

  2. bdonohue says:

    im not sure if this is the right place to post either, but im gonna do it anyway.

    though i believe that Mccain’s use of britney spears and paris hilton in the his ad is a silly attempt at making barrack obama look bad i also can see how it is a good approach to smearing obamas image. these two celebrities particular are uniquely prone to scandal, blunders, and simply making bad decisions under the gaze of the public. what mccain and his people are doing here is sort of establishing that obama is a celebrity. then to qualify what a celebrity is they cleverly picked two celebrities which are known for their blunders as much as anything else at this point. thus he essentially establishes a mode of comparison which says spears and hilton are celebrities and they make mistakes, therefore barack obama, who is also a celebrity will be prone to the same problems.
    without this aspect the ad seems to me as if it would be useless. however, even with spears and hilton im not sure of the type of person that would be persuaded by this ad.

  3. Matt Hale says:

    Though I did get a kick out of McCain’s Ad, It definitely seemed like a reach. To try and throw Obama in the same category as two of the most famous “pop” celebrities, who are now more known for their blow ups or “tapes”, was a huge disaster. I was more amused on how Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton ended up on a campaign commercial then the facts which they were trying to get across. One good thing that did come out of this ad though was the publicity it did receive, though not all was good, people around the nation watched it and heard what McCain had to say or if you were like me didn’t hear what he had to say, just in shock of how far campaigns will go to get one up on the next.

  4. nfinney says:

    I understand the reason McCain put the images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, but I just don’t think he has a very good argument or point. Just because Obama is as famous as Paris or Britney doesn’t mean he is a bad candidate, nor is it at all relevant to any of the issues that he brings up after the “celebrity” label. Therefore, I don’t think the images are very important to his argument. In my opinion his ad would be far more effective if he left out the Paris and Britney references and focused more thoroughly on the issues he brought up (foreign oil, higher taxes, etc.) That way the American people take him more seriously.

  5. Kiernan Whitworth says:

    I believe that the McCain’s ad is a tasteless attempt to smear Obama’s image. I think the viewer of this political ad would be turned off by the comparison of man who has become famous for his political actions to that of Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton who have done nothing to improve the country in which they live. The ad also comes off with a hint of jealousy that John McCain is not as globally recognized as Obama.

  6. Matthew Treacy says:

    I believe that this message was meant to inform the public about some facts about the Obama campaign. These facts being that he wants to raise taxes and he wants to stop offshore drilling. I believe the celebrity spin was to try to make viewers see that yes Barack Obama is very famous however we should pick our President based on whether their views and opinions agree with ours and whether or not we feel that person can lead our country, not who is more popular.

  7. Casey Ridlon says:

    Despite my political affiliation, I found the McCain ad to be an extremely cheesy smear ad. The ad skews several of Obama’s positions by isolating and taking them out of context. Comparing Obama to celebrities such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton is also a low blow. I think the Republicans would have benefited more in creating a positive ad for McCain, as this ad definitely hurt McCain more than it did Obama.

  8. Emily Curtis says:

    The inclusion of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton is an important tactic for making Obama seem like just another passing trend. It tries to turn his popularity against him by equating him with mindlessness which is why the ad back fires in the end because everyone has seen how intelligent he actually is. This fact makes the ad seem silly and even petty on McCain’s part. Paris Hilton’s obvious mockery of the ad is proof of the silliness. This ad probably hurt McCain a lot more than it helped him.

  9. Kristin Mattern says:

    I found the McCain Ad to be fairly vicious and unfair to Obama. It is ridiculous that just because Obama has reached a celebrity like status in our country to assume that he is incapable of being a true leader. He has become famous due to his achievements and work in running to become president, he has not been nominated president because he was famous to begin with. Negative ads, in my opinion, do not help the candidate who is the attacker, but the one who is being attacked. McCain looks almost desperate, in my opinion, but putting out such an ad. It seems he is grabbing at anything in order to keep his head above water in this race. It is also worth mentioning, as Sarah has, that Ronald Reagan was a fantastic president, and was an actor before becoming president. So, in short, fame should have no bearing on ones capacity to be a president or presidential candidate.

    I found the Paris Hilton Ad to be very funny and witty. It is coy of her to say that she has been nominated as a presidential candidate by McCain’s ad. Her showing him as a doddering old man is also amusing, but also parallels his feeble attack on Obama nicely. I very much enjoyed her well made rebuttal of McCain’s Ad. They did use her image, after all.

  10. Liz Scott says:

    I agree with many of the posts in that this ad probably hurt McCain more than it helped him. While it may have seemed like a good idea to represent Obama as a celebrity without any substance like Paris Hilton or Britany Spears, it has no foundation. It also doesn’t look like the McCain campaign put a lot of thought into this ad, because they don’t really try to draw any connection between Obama and Hollywood celebrities. The combination of the two images just doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t get any real message across about why voters should choose McCain over Obama.

    I enjoyed the Paris Hilton ad because she pokes fun at both herself and the McCain campaign. She takes advantage of the fact that the McCain ad doesn’t really make sense by “interpreting” it to mean that she is now a candidate for president. In this instance, it’s the McCain ad that looks silly instead of her.

  11. kprobst says:

    I think that McCain used the faorms of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton to show how much Obama is like thme. He seems to look good when he talks, but he does not show the truth about him all th etime. I don’t agree that McCain should have lowered himself to that level when the ad was made. The message seems to be to smear Obama’s image. I don’t think that the photos of Britney and Paris were needed in his ad. The fact that Obama is at celebrity status should not be taken into account when the United States people vote this coming election. We have had a famious president before and that president did well when he came into office.

    I did enjoy Paris Hilton’s ad. It was funny and I do wish we could find a happy medium between the two canidates views like she was saying.

  12. Ashley says:

    McCain used Britney Spears and Paris Hilton as a way to lump Barack Obama into the category of “mindless celebrity” and take away his credibility. I think the public did not buy the ad with Spears and Hilton because it seemed over the top and a below the belt shot. McCain must have forgotten that there have been other celebrities who have run and taken over office in the past.
    I thought Paris Hilton did a good job with her come back towards McCain by promoting her own ideas on policy for the U.S.
    Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t her very wealthy family give lots of money to the McCain campaign? Doesn’t seem like a very nice way to thank them for their contributions…

  13. bcoon6zj says:

    I think that McCain’s use of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton did make the point of his ad more clear. If he had not used photos of celebrities who many people recognize to compare Obama to, it would not have been as effective. The celebrities that McCain chose to use in his ad are also important. Britney Spears and Paris Hilton appeal to the age group that Obama seems to have on his side. Those two females are also known for the mistakes that they have made and yet they are still celebrities, which could have been part of the point that McCain was trying to make.

    I don’t think that the ad was persuasive but I think that the point would not have been as clear if the images of celebrities, especially the ones that were chosen, were used.

  14. Sadie Hagberg says:

    Including the pictures of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are very important to the effectiveness of this ad’s argument. For one, because many of the young voters are supporting Obama, McCain created an argument using something that this group of voters was familiar with and something they could relate to. The images of Britney and Paris would catch the attention of the younger audience. Also just simply saying Obama was a celebrity wouldn’t necessarily be linked to him being unprepared to lead, but by showing Britney Spears and Paris people will connect their image to leading our country, leaving the viewer wondering if either of them would be fit for that responsibility.

  15. nmodly says:

    To be honest, the first time I watched the McCain ad I did not notice Britney and Paris in the ad but did find the ad to be a bit of a weak argument on his side. While Obama has been compared to a pop celebrity on many accounts the level it is presented in this ad almost takes it one step too far by comparing him to celebrities like Britany and Paris. In pop culture today, Britany Spears and Paris Hilton represent two women who have had rough times with the media and always seem to be shown negatively. Although this may have been McCain’s strategy it takes the political campaign and clashes it with the hollywood world. Two worlds that are not well represented in this ad.

    I too enjoyed the comedy of the Paris Hilton ad and appreciated her exhausted effort to find a medium between two sides.

  16. Rachel Gerstein says:

    McCain’s ad was a terrible way of making Obama look like a poor presidential candidate. Comparing Obama to two celebrities who are an embarrassment on our nation is a low blow. The amount of negative controversy surrounding the commercial is payback for grandpa’s pettiness. I find it unbelievable that someone who potentially could be our next President (and is so old) did something so juvenile.

    Paris Hilton’s response was hilarious. I was surprised she could pronounce such big words! Oh, and maybe this is a rumor but didn’t the Hilton’s donate money to the McCain campaign? Good work Bush…i mean McCain FREUDIAN SLIP FREUDIAN SLIP! haha i love Biden! Oh and Obama..if you hadn’t already guessed.

  17. Caitlin Mackay says:

    The ad was obviously trying to put Obama on the same level as Hilton and Spears simply by putting pictures of the three of them together. While Obama can be considered a celebrity, the fundamental reason WHY he is a celebrity is because of his historical presidential campaign/nomination, not because of his partying and rehab trips. I think it is unrealistic to group Obama, Hilton and Spears together and therefore think this was an ineffective ad.

    Hilton’s response was creative and witty. It was definitely good press for her and her ideas on energy renewal.