Fifty years after her first Christmas address to television viewers, the Queen has broadcast her very own Christmas message on her very own YouTube channel. Yes, media has changed a lot over the century, but the art of rhetoric is as alive as it ever was.
On the other side of the Atlantic, AM reports that the 2008 presidential election has spawned a varied collection of television Christmas messages from the candidates. Someone will probably tell me this is nothing unusual but I find it endlessly fascinating to consider just how ideology shapes some of these ads.
This Christmas, I sat down with as many of these 30-second Christmas greetings as I could find: namely Obama, Clinton and Edwards on the left, and Giuliani, Huckabee, Paul, and McCain on the right. In doing so, I was reminded just how much an ad can tell us about an individual and their supporters.
Perhaps the most notable distinction between these two groups is the emphasis on religion. Of particular note, both Huckabee and McCain have played up their Christian values and emphasized their role as being central to our capitalist holiday. No other candidates place as much emphasis on faith, although Giuliani does align himself with Santa Claus.
In contrast, Democrats have tended to focus on much more concrete aspects of the season. Clinton wrapping presents labeled with election promises, Obama appearing with his family around the Christmas tree and Edwards reflecting on the homeless.
Another thing that I find particularly interesting is the presence of a family-community divide between the party candidates. Republican candidates like Ron Paul talk exclusively about family, while Democrats draw attention to the wider society. Of course, there are two slight exceptions.
Giuliani is unique in in placing emphasis on the individual, and society as a collection of individuals. Declaring that he has “been having a little trouble getting my shopping done,” and that he will “be getting everyone the same gift,” he implies that he would govern for people rather than community rather than for factional interests.
Obama is a slight exception to the latter in that his family are front and centre of the presentation. However, they appear to form more of a set piece. The dialogue in his ad places more emphasis on community by his saying that “we all have a stake in each other” and thanking people for their acceptance.
These differences aside what these ads all have in common is that they try to create the impression of stopping to relax over the Christmas period. Indeed, only half of the candidates, across both parties, are dressed in professional attire. Only two, McCain and Clinton, do not feature a Christmas tree, and only the former is set outside a suburban home.