ARNOLD'S AD: POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM MEETS HOLLYWOOD CYNICISM

But Schwarzenegger's performance Isn't Half-Bad

By Published on .

Client: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Agency: Sipple Strategic Communications
Star Rating: 3

Well, well, well. It seems that Hans und Franz are running for governor of California.

Once you get into your head that an Austrian action figure is a candidate

Arnold Schwarzenegger is slick in his first campaign advertising effort.
for high office -- because he's a) keenly sensitive to political issues, and, b) like, totally super famous -- the rest of Arnold Schwarzenegger's introductory campaign ad from Sipple Strategic Communications looks like boilerplate with an accent. The debut of the would-be unfulfilled term-inator trades on rhetoric that could be (and certainly has been) uttered by any candidate for any office at any time:

We, the people
"This historic election," Arnold says, strolling necktie-less in front of some non-executive mansion, "has come about because there's a tremendous disconnect between the people of California and the leaders of California. We, the people, are doing our job, working hard, raising our families and paying taxes.

"But the politicians are not doing their job. We can do better than that. After all, we are California, always at the forefront of innovation. Our farm products feed the world and our technology is second to none.

"I am running for governor to lead a movement for change, and give California back its future. I stand for fiscally responsible government, rebuilding California's economic engine, putting the needs of children first, reforming our political system so that the public interest comes before the special interests.

"I want to be the people's governor. I will work honestly, without fear or favor, to do what's right for all Californians."

Not exactly new ideas
Subordinating special interests? Putting children first? Let's just say this is not exactly the enunciation of provocative new ideas. We happen to know that the same goals are shared by sitting Gov. Gray Davis and SpongeBob SquarePants, both of whom are at least as qualified to run America's largest state, albeit with inferior deltoids.

This commercial, however, isn't about substance; it's about illusion. Toward the end of the spot, Arnold steps from the exterior of the hacienda to a spacious office that looks very much like what you'd expect a governor's office to look like. A set, in other words, designed to look like the real thing.

Likewise, the predictable patter isn't there because his handlers are clumsy; it's there because it's exactly the kind of claptrap you expect to hear from a gubernatorial candidate. They've got a famous actor -- the most famous screen Arnold since Ziffel -- and they're simply having him act like a candidate.

Bad eye job, good performance
And his performance isn't half-bad. Arnold comes off as familiar, likeable, imposing, smooth. The eye job is dreadful, but if it hasn't hurt him at the box office, it won't hurt him at the polls.

For Arnold to succeed in this brief campaign, he will eventually have to confront some issues and broadly suggest some solutions for the California budget crisis (which will be quite a trick for an anti-tax Republican), but he needn't become a wonk or even play one on TV.

Sadly, in this convergence of political opportunism and Hollywood cynicism, he merely has to pump the electorate/audience up with cliches about leadership. More sadly still, the real-life Hans und Franz is but one red silk tie away from the governor's mansion.

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