October 27, 2006

Playing With The Code



I was taking a closer look at the RNC’s racist anti-Harold Ford commercial.

Because the ad is so blatant — associating Ford with ugly stereotypes regarding the black man’s sexual appetite and hankering for white women — one tends to overlook the more subtle touches.  Those spatial, tonal or environmental elements, however, are what reinforce the coding at a more subconscious level.

For example, notice how the dress and the sighting of the two couples is so similar.

In each case, one person is wearing blue (true blue; blue collar; democratic blue; neutral blue; blue jean demin) while the other is (severe; extreme; racially suggestive) black-and-white.  As well, the vista of the sidewalk (which I sliced for emphasis) emphasizes the difference.


And then, doesn’t the hunter look a little paramilitary, or survivalist?  And if that’s not a little curious, how many people hunt in black face?


As for the main attraction, the implication is that the girl is naked, no?

I also like Josh Marshall’s structural breakdown.  His point is that, because the segment with the party girl is inconsistent with the rest of the scenes — those, done like “man-on-the-street” interviews — Miss Infidelity “wins” as much by contrast as titillation.

View ad here (via YouTube).


Update Oct. 28. 9:07 am GMT:  Thanks to the readership for drawing out the sexism, especially in the two shots leading this post.

In the scenes with the couples, the women are the silent ones, either looking on adoringly or staring goofily off into space. So there’s another underlying misogynistic message here. In the presence of men, women should be seen and not heard. And women who support Ford are either stupid and misguided (the lone black woman and the liberal-style woman) and/or sluts.

(video frames: Republican National Committee via talkingpointsmemo.com)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


A curated collection of pieces related to our most-popular subject matter.


Comments Powered by Disqus