Studying the Role of Metaphors in a Political Advertisement

Topic: Political Culture
Words: 865 Pages: 3

Although facts and statistics remain one of the major methods of persuasion used by politicians in their advertisement campaigns, the rhetorical appeal is also essential. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign Announcement is an example of using metaphors and other means of artistic expression to establish contact with potential electors. According to Lakoff and Johnsen (9), “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another”. The studied advertisement is based on quite an explicit vision of the process of running for president through numerous typical life situations of American citizens. Nevertheless, there are many other metaphors that may be not so noticeable but still important.

The video consists of many short storylines connected to each other and to the one of Clinton. To understand this connection, it is necessary to define the central metaphorical aspect, formulated by Clinton as getting ready to do something important (ABC News 00:01:32-00:01:34). The advertisement’s creators decided to choose life phenomena understandable by anyone watching the video. Some of these vivid examples are connected to the house, for instance, getting the garden ready for the spring, doing home renovations. Others are rooted in the concepts of relationship and children, such as getting married, being pregnant, moving to provide the child with a better school. The rest belong to the concept of work, for example, starting a business, applying for jobs, starting a new career, going back to work, or retiring. As it can be seen, all these situations mentioned in the video represent meaningful life moments. Thus, Clinton appearing at the end of the video seems quite logical. She is another American citizen, with her hopes and aspirations, which make the viewers trust her.

The choice of examples for the video may have another explanation, which is more implicit but still has a strong positive effect on the audience. All these situations show people who are responsible for something: raising children, taking care of a garden, being in the beginning or in the finish of their career. These people are brave and serious enough to make decisions. They strive to make the lives of their beloved better. Even the humorous phrase “but most importantly we really just want to teach our dog to quit eating the trash” shows the owners’ care for their pet (ABC News 00:01:10-00:01:14). Politicians, in their turn, are in charge of the whole country, which can be raised in a metaphorical sense like children or plants in the garden. It is their duty to support their country in tough and prospering times. Clinton emphasizes this idea by saying “when families are strong, America is strong” (ABC News 00:01:56-00:01:57). It is advantageous for her image as a candidate. It establishes a connection between the state and people and lets them know that their interests are considered, and their welfare is prioritized.

Apart from the main metaphor underlying the advertisement, there are many others also contributing to the message’s expression. Lakoff and Johnsen (8) state that metaphors are reflected in the everyday language because human ordinary conceptual system is fundamentally metaphorical. The participants of the video seem to prove this supposition. The woman who is about to retire says that it is time to “reinvent” herself in many ways, concluding that people are like mechanisms that can be altered and renovated (ABC News 00:01:04-00:01:06). Another woman claims that she has “high hopes” for the next year (ABC News 00:01:16-00:01:17). Despite being commonly used and having lost its figurativeness, this expression is still coherent with metaphors like “good is up” or “the future is up” mentioned by Lakoff and Johnsen” (21). Finally, there is a man who claims that America was founded on hard work (ABC News 00:01:26-00:01:28). He sees the country as a building that needs a solid foundation. Thus, people often use metaphors in their everyday life without even noticing it.

Clinton’s speech is also abundant with imagery because of the phrases she chooses. One of them is “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times”, which means that people have put enormous efforts to restore the country’s economics (ABC News 00:01:38-00:01:41). She also says, “the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top” (ABC News 00:01:42-00:01:44). Two metaphors create the image of those who did not deserve their richness: the stacked deck reminds of unfair card tricks, while “those at the top” represents a “high status is up” metaphor (Lakoff and Johnson 17). Finally, Clinton suggests that her voters “get ahead and stay ahead” (ABC News 00:01:52-00:01:54). This can be an example of an orientational metaphor because the nation is invited to go forward not in a physical way but in the sense of work, progress, and achievement.

The role of metaphors in the political advertisement is significant because they allow politicians to sound more convincing and be more charismatic. Although metaphors mean using the language in an unusual way, they have the ability to make things clearer. While people are watching such advertisements, it is easy for them to imagine everything that is being discussed. Metaphors in Hilary Clinton’s advertisement make her speech very comprehensible and impressive, which helps her win over the audience.

Works Cited

“Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign Announcement (Official).” YouTube, Web.

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnsen. Metaphors We Live by. London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

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