I think this is a brilliant ad. It seems to be speeding into the future, with flashy visuals that remind me a little of the last episode of "6 Feet Under," when Claire drives off into the desert toward her future and the whole future of all the characters unfolds. But we aren't shown things that will happen in the future, even as futuristic music seems to tantalize us and make us a little anxious about things to come. We see images from the past (intercut with views of the galaxy). Images of Churchill and Roosevelt seem to embody a mystical sense of tradition. Even though I was trying to look at this ad with a critical eye, I kept getting chills. At one point — TR looking out onto a crowd — I thought: This is the feeling of being conservative — it is a deep emotional sense that the past matters and flows into the present and makes sense out of the future.
Time is the expressed theme of the commercial: The first words we see are "The Time Has Come." We know the candidate is old — to me, it's a big problem — but the commercial makes the long stretch of time seem profound and important. Because McCain is old, he is anchored in the past, there, where he is a young man. We see him looking dashing, but also suffering as a POW. In the voice over, he is saying that he felt that he owed more to his country than his country owed him. We hear him say that there was never a day when he was not proud of his country, and, as used in the ad, this must be heard as an allusion to Michelle Obama's statement that for the first time in her life she is really proud of her country.
We see some evocative children in the end — they are young, if he isn't. What do they have to do with him? They vaguely connect to the theme of time. We dipped back into the past, and we swirled around in outer space, but outer space isn't the future, is it? It's all of time. For the future... I believe that children are our future. But that one girl... we see a little black girl pausing over some purple wildflowers. ("I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it.") Is she there to suggest that Michelle Obama — like her husband — is a mere child? The girl plucks at the petals of one flower, so it brings to mind — it must be intentional — the famous LBJ commercial with a young girl plucking at a flower, counting down to a nuclear holocaust. We don't see a mushroom cloud, but some of those galactic images — notably the one at 0:08 — look like powerful explosions.
At 0:26, we see McCain saying "We're Americans, and we'll never surrender. They will." I confess that I first thought "they" meant the Democrats, and only in typing out the quote did I realize that, overtly, he had to mean our terrorist enemies. But to use that line in the commercial is to play with our brains and make us think — even though he didn't say it — that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are offering to surrender. If that is what Americans don't do, then, implicitly — and I know he doesn't say it — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are not Americans.
I'm just sketching out my first thoughts on the commercial. Add to this. Argue with me. I certainly think that many people — probably people who would never vote for McCain — might experience this commercial as scary warmongering and think I'm pretty creepy to get chills from it. Let's talk about all that.
IN THE COMMENTS: Revenant said...
"The Time Has Come."Yeah, I was thinking about that too. "Now the time has come (Time)/There's no place to run (Time)/I might get burned up by the sun (Time)" — explains some of those shots of the galaxy — "But I had my fun (Time)/I've been loved and put aside (Time)/I've been crushed by the tumbling tide (Time)/And my soul has been psychedelicized (Time)." A Vietnam song, isn't it?
My soul has been psychadelisized!
AND: One commenter, Sandy Shoes, sees the allusion to this, "Koyaanisqatsi"...
Which made me realize it reminded me of this: