The Power of Political Parody
Maybe it’s because I had all of “Weird” Al Yankovic’s albums as a kid (and even saw him in concert…twice) but I’ve always been a fan of parodies. There’s something about a well-crafted spoof of the familiar that has always epitomized the highest degree of creativity, at least in my opinion. As I grew up, and started working in politics and advocacy, my love of parody morphed from Weird Al into more targeted political messaging. (That said, I’m still a big Weird Al fan…check out this great profile on him from Wired magazine from last year)
The thing about parodies, especially those in the political sense, is that they don’t need to do a lot of work to gain traction. They are essentially piggy-backing on something you’ve already seen or heard that’s occupying some section of gray matter between your ears. Good political parodies are like Trojan horses, using something non-threatening and accepted to deliver a targeted message about an issue, candidate, or legislation.
Of course the biggest names in political parody are seen on Saturday Night Live. It will be a long time before we forget Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin in 2008 (“I can see Alaska from my house!”) or Phil Hartman and Darrell Hammond’s classic Bill Clinton impersonations. In these cases, it’s the politicians themselves that we were already familiar with, and the actors replaced the canned speeches and behavior with comedy and exaggerated accents and mannerisms. These parodies are very powerful when it comes to a politician’s image…just ask Sarah Palin.
And of course, no discussion of political parody would be complete without a mention of the great videos done by the guys over at JibJab, especially the classics “This Land is My Land” and “Good to be in DC” pieces.
However, what really excites me about political parodies is the rise of DIY creations that have come about with ubiquitous cheap, high-quality video cameras, editing software, and bandwidth. Now anyone with a and idea, and iPhone, and a YouTube account could theoretically be in front of as many people as well-funded campaigns. Creativity is no longer bound by limitations of funding or access to “professionals”, it can now burst out onto the global scene.
For groups that are used to controlling the message, this is very scary as these parodies can come out of nowhere, and can be levied anonymously. However, smart campaigns and issue groups will recognize talent when they see it…and find ways to get the creativity working for them.
If I were Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, or anyone looking to run for the GOP nomination in 2012, I’d find a way to get the creative minds from New Hampshire that made this video working for me: