Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Total Recall, the campaign

After reading 'Polemical Afterword' I was curious as to how exactly the idea of 'total recall' in the film practically related to Governor Schwarzenegger's 'Total Recall' campaign. In other words, was it more than simply a happy accident that the procedure used to remove an elected public official from office before the end of term was called 'the recall mechanism'? Was the campaign capitalizing on the movie's title alone or was it also trying to draw on its themes?

According to a brief summary of the recall campaign, "The main charge against Gray (Davis) was that he had mismanaged the Californian economy, creating a budget deficit of over USD 30 billion and the need for large tax increases." It is possible to draw some parallels to the film: we could cast Davis as Vilos Cohaagen; the mismanagement of the economy that resulted in the deficit as the mismanagement of resources on mars that caused the oxygen deficit; and the need for large taxes as the need for the Cohaagen's method of oppression (his oxygen provisions). However, I concede that this is a bit of a stretch and is probably not what the creators of the total recall campaign intended its audience to get from its name. Does anyone disagree? Or have any other thoughts about why the campaign chose to use this particular slogan?

Undoubtedly though, the campaign was trying to draw on Arnold Schwarzenegger's filmic identities. In 'Polemical Afterword', Freedman talks about his role as the Terminator and points out that, "The visual ratio of steel to flesh in the trilogy must be something like a hundred to one. Even when human beings manage to fight back against the machines, they can do so only through other machines...” and this strikes me as crucial in terms of what the campaign was trying to do. The only way to 'fight' the larger political forces at play in contemporary American politics is through your elected representative. Freedman notes that within the Terminators there is a hierarchy, pointing to one particular female Terminator who, "the Schwarzenegger character admits to be “a more efficient killing machine” than he is." If we translate this hierarchy to the political world, attributes of 'efficiency', special terminator weapons, and abilities, could be equivalent to political assets. Let's look at Schwarzenegger in this hierarchy. On a physiological level first, he would undoubtedly rank higher than any other governor serving. He is an intimidating presence, and though not essential to the political process, appearance undoubtedly plays a role in political discourse. Physical attributes aside, casting Schwarzenegger as a tool for 'fighting back' against the other politicians would be advantageous in a number of other ways. In terms of politics, the GOP golden boy came out of Hollywood, so highlighting his role as an actor, and aligning him with Regan on that level certainly must have helped the campaign. Essentially, I think the campaign’s reliance on Schwarzenegger's fictive alter egos was designed to do a lot more than just remind the public that he was a star.


Post a Comment