Television Screens: The Art of a President’s Advertised Candidacy

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Screens and Presidencies

The Inauguration of America’s 46th President elect is quickly approaching. In light of the pivot to new heads of administration, it is worth looking back at this country’s history of leadership. The power of media outlets on election results is priceless. Television campaigning remains as influential as any human campaigning does.  

Technology has become this society’s secret weapon of domination. It was arguably our saving grace as COVID-19 destroyed the prospects of typical election activities. As a people, we are inundated by images and sounds. From computers to phones, screens are everywhere.

Yet, the television screen has allowed presidential nominees the most freedom in manipulating feelings and opinions. To unpack the layered abilities multimedia platforms have bestowed onto our society, we must gaze backwards to the screens of our times. 

A Look Back at Television Campaigns

The Museum of Moving Image (MoMI) is unique to Long Island City. It is the site of the country’s largest collection of moving images and technological artifacts. There are currently 130,000 pieces of memorabilia and equipment on display. The pieces range in size, time period and more. From “pre-cinema optical toys to 21st-century digital technology,” the MoMI also boasts annual film screenings and education outreach programs.

The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952–2016 pays tribute to the past and present of advertising a president’s candidacy to the American people. This acclaimed body of work serves to highlight the importance of commercializing a candidate’s worth. It is an ongoing online exhibit and free research tool for people and journalists across the globe. First published online in 2000, the exhibition continues to gain traction. Currently, there are over 300 commercials on view. 

The Living Room Candidate is of utmost relevance to the turbulent presidential transition we are living through. Decades worth of presidential campaign commercial footage, dating back to 1952, is stored on the website for public viewing. The site has been updated to reflect President Donald J. Trump’s and President elect Joe Biden’s election cycle ads. Alongside the bipartisan commercials are descriptions of historical and national contexts, as well as election results. 

One can scroll through and select a number of commercials released on behalf of each candidate. Film editing, text overlay, musical scores: media manipulation is viewer manipulation. To reflect on the transition of media choices is to reflect on the ways the American people have come to be most affected. 

Access Museum of Moving Image’s Online Exhibit Videos HERE!
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Television Screens: The Art of a President’s Advertised Candidacy