Monday, March 19, 2007

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How HDTV affects campaign 2008

Megan McArdle explains:

The first thing you notice about HDTV is that some of the politicians look really awful. Studio makeup is not enough to cover up the sagging, cragging, and pitting of all those cruel years in Congress. Some of them look fine . . . John Kerry is positively handsome, if you like men who look kind of like a wrinkly old orange. (Can't his wife buy him a really convincing fake tan? Sigh. Yet another reason not to bother getting rich.) Others—and you know who you are, Senator Specter—not so much. Charles Schumer has a deep crease on the side of his forehead that looks like he slept on his glasses . . . on top of a lit stove. And Tim Russert seems to have a little rosacea problem....

Today, though, it suddenly occurred to me that this might have an impact on the 2008 election. Just as the introduction of television famously altered voter perceptions of the candidates in the 1960 election (those who listened to the debate thought that Nixon had won, but those who saw it on television overwhelmingly favoured the more telegenic Kennedy), HDTV could skew who we nominate and/or elect....

For example, though I've never met him, my understanding from those who have is that McCain's image of vitality is very carefully projected, and that when you actually meet him up close, he looks pretty frail. Will that come out on HDTV? How about Hilary? HDTV is least kind to older women; I'd bet it puts at least ten years on her. I suspect that Obama is the only candidate who will actually look good on HDTV; he's younger, and even light black skin ages better than caucasian.

I've seen Obama and met McCain -- Megan's conjectures seem sound to me.

That said, even on HDTV there are methods to conceal flaws -- see here for one example. It is possible, however, that makeup and/or other techniques to look good on HDTV would be too subtle to have an affect on normal televisions. This leads to an interesting tradeoff -- which television audience should a candidate target? Would the targeting shift between the primary season and the general election? Would it depend on the demographic being targeted by the candidate?

You known, you just know, that some candidates are going to spent a lot of money on consultants to answer this very question. And if you ask me, Megan deserves a 10% cut on all this swag to help defray her moving expenses.

posted by Dan on 03.19.07 at 12:02 PM


I've heard it said that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people. Is that not true anymore?

posted by: Joel on 03.19.07 at 12:02 PM [permalink]

I wonder which candidate will be the first to have "must be shot through gauze or vaseline" put into the conditions before they will appear in a debate?

The obvious guess would be Hillary, but I think it'll be Sam Malone. I mean, Mitt Romney.

posted by: Jon H on 03.19.07 at 12:02 PM [permalink]

Of course, this is vitally important because all of us ignorant peasants are too stupid to vote for a candidate based on their positions or qualifications.

In the immortal words of Don Martin, "blecchhh!"

posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 03.19.07 at 12:02 PM [permalink]

McCain looks positively dreadful in HD. I guess that's what 70 years old looks like up close and personal.

posted by: PoliticalCritic on 03.19.07 at 12:02 PM [permalink]

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