Analyzing & Parodying Campaign Videos

This exercise set asks students to analyze the rhetorical strategies of videos and then consider responses within the genre of parody.

Part 1: Homework

Students are asked to watch at least three political campaign ads outside of class and blog on one of them.

Part 2: In Class

After a review of the rhetorical triangle and classical rhetorical appeals, the class views 2 or 3 political campaign ads.  After watching and taking notes on each video (I usually show each one twice), the class collectively, verbally analyzes the clips in terms of their audience, message, and persuasive techniques.  I’ve had success asking students to write a brief paragraph about each clip after watching it (but before discussion) and have collected these to score for an exercise grade.

Part 3: In Class (This need not be the same class period as part 1, although it can be.)

The class then watches a couple of parodies of campaign commercials.  After watching these clips, the class collectively discusses and makes an informal list of the techniques parodists use to critique arguments (e.g. calling direct attention to rhetorical strategies, hyper-performing gestures, pointing out logical fallacies, etc.). 

Part 3: In or Out of Class

After watching and discussing the parodic videos, students in groups of 4-5 will create a rough draft of a parody of a campaign commercial.  The draft should include a brief description of the content (dialogue, music, etc.) and a story board plotting out the clip.  The goal of this exercise is not to have students create a timeless parody, but rather to get them to show an awareness of how parodists respond to arguments and move them towards critical responses of their own. 

Part 4: In Class

Student groups show the campaign ad they parodied and present a brief summary of the rough draft of their parody.  This portion can be followed up with a discussion of the rhetorical situations in which parody is most/least effective.

Course Name: 
WRD 111
Assignment Type: 
Group Activity
Assignment Length: 
Multiple Class Periods
Primary Pedagogical Focus: 
Analysis
Preparation Guidance and Instructor Advice: 

The assignment set above assumes the class incorporates a blogging component, but the prompts can easilly be adapted to classes that do not. 

Campaign videos and parodies of them abound on Youtube.  I've also had success using the Dale Peterson campaign videos, the parodies of which can be found on Funny or Die.

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