Hillary's New Video

Hillary Clinton's campaign just released
a bizarre video
to promote, of all things, the selection of her campaign theme song.

The first video begs for some analysis. (The second one linked above is merely hilarious.) I'm not hip enough to do it justice... maybe it's enough to just point out that with this video the campaign seems to soft-launching a clever (and maybe too in-your-face) approach to the BP (Big Problem, aka Bill's Philandering). But there's more to it.

The video opens with an establishing shot of a random diner by the side of a busy road. Sunny day, pedestrians, cars. Not a city, not really a suburb. Could be anywhere, and that is the point. Cut to the diner doorway, and the music starts up -- it is the Reagan-era hair-rocker ballad "Don't Stop Believin" by Journey, which begins with an obvious invitation to view Hillary as "Just a small-town girl...living in a lonely world..."

Okay. We're supposed to see Hillary as a Woman of the People, someone who is, in basic ways, just like "us." But "Don't Stop Believin"? That's the in-your-face part. If you never heard it, the song tells a story about star-crossed lovers who can't seem to help themselves out of their existential aloneness. This is fairly edgy as a musical backdrop for Hillary -- Bill asked for her trust but didn't deserve it. Now she's asking for ours, as if to say, please don't stop believin'. Hmm.

Hillary sits down amid the kids and young couples (no Boomers here ... yet) and begins to flick through an old-fashioned table-side jukebox -- which is how we know there is going to be a lot of nostalgia in this campaign. Next we see Hillary's candidate songs, which include "Get Ready" by The Temptations. We also see another Temptations song listed in the jukebox, "Don't Look Back." Then, Bill shows up. Even playing himself way down, Bill can't seem to turn down the volume on his personality, and Hillary can't seem to stop admiring him. Oh dear. The campaign is being very proactive about Bill's peccadilloes, modeling our response for us in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

He sits down across from her.

"I ordered for the table," she says, as a bowl of carrots arrives.
"No onion rings?" Bill whines and tries to look disappointed. He is not too convincing, in my opinion. But it sets up Hillary for her big line, which is the whole point, the whole message:
"I'm looking out for you."

So here's the deal: We are like this odd character, the former-President-turned-naughty-little-boy. We need to someone to order "for the table." We need someone to take charge, and to keep us from messing around. We ought to eat our vegetables. Hillary won't force them down our collective throat but she'll be sure they get to the table. This is potent and strange. Would Bill order vegetables for Hillary, if he were the one running for President? Probably not. Because it would seem rude, infantilizing.

Then again, Hillary wasn't the one who needed bypass surgery.

"Where's Chelsea?" Hillary asks.
A screech, then cut to expensive wheels going over a curb. (Definitely not a Prius. But not an SUV either.)
"Parallel parking," Bill says.

Looks are exchanged while the music swells. This, too, is important -- it tells us that Bill and Hillary are Okay, that their marriage works on a level that we're not privy to, that is beyond words.

I'd be more convinced of this if, when they actually spoke, their conversation did not sound so stilted. They are still able to meet over the subject of their daughter's bad driving, however.

This sacrifice of Chelsea is an arrogant Boomerism, and one of the two big missteps I can see in the video -- it is signal to the Obama generation that Boomers still aren't taking anyone seriously except themselves.

Then, the second misstep: there's a cut to a shot of a laughing, happy group of African Americans, and then a solitary grumpy-looking rather sinister middle-aged white actor whom I recognize from the Sopranos gets up and gives Hillary the once-over. Bill and Hillary roll their eyes, then we cut to a kissing couple who are not especially identifiable in terms of race or class. They are definitely young, though.

This strikes me as a signal, too -- a nod to the old Sixties division, the white working class versus people of color, with an idealized fairytale happy ending. But it's complicated, because there's a famous actor representing the former, and we know him from the role he plays in a show that represents white working class people in a certain way that has nothing to do with reality, while the latter are represented by people whose names we'll never know, who are represented without irony or obvious artifice, except that they seem like a sanitized version of a racist cliché which has a distressing history in this country and elsewhere. I'm not sure what to make of all this, except to say that this part of the video seems expressive of a rather weird lack of clarity on important issues of race and class, and I think it's too easy to cut to the happy couple as if to say, "Love conquers all."

Finally Bill asks about the campaign song, expressing his preference for a song by Smash Mouth, a group that is, along with KT Tunstall, the most post-boomer of the available candidates, even if their song is, of all things, yet another piece of Boomer nostalgia, a cover of the 1966 Monkees hit "I'm a Believer." But all this interesting material is glossed over because this is actually the moment for his big line: "Everybody in America wants to know how it's going to end."

"Ready?" she says.

Not really. No.

From the NYTimes: More on the Sopranos angle, and a jab at the final selection "a candidate for our mom's playlist"