Writing in 1948, John L Perentesis made comment on the motion picture trailer as election propaganda (Perentesis 1948). Within an ‘analysis of the returns for a municipal election in Detroit’ Perentesis compares the campaign (and results) between David C. Vokes (16,404 votes), and Robert J. Teagan (7,550). As part of exploring such a victory Perentesis notes:
One political technique employed on behalf of Vokes, and not Teagan, was publicity in the form of motion picture trailers. shown in 29 neighborhood theaters. This motion picture trailer, of thirty seconds duration, was non-chromatic in type. It included the following data: name of candidate, picture of the candidate, and the fact that he was at present judge of Common Pleas Court. It also asserted that he was nonpartisan and fair. The election was held on Monday, April 2, 1945, and the trailer was shown to theater patrons during the Saturday and Sunday evenings preceding the election day. (Perentesis, 1948 p466)
While Perentesis sets out to explore ‘the effectiveness of this trailer as a vote-getter for Vokes’ (Ibid) it points to an interesting phenomenon: the political trailer. Here I want to diverge from the concept of the trailer as inherently linked with a film product, unlike Keith J Hamel, who observed the practices of ‘the propaganda film’.
These films sold the image of the studio to the public, but since they did not
focus on a particular film, they cannot be defined as trailers (2012: 269).
I want to follow the concept set out by Staiger (1990) and followed by Johnston (2009) that the trailer is a broad term that emerged out of all the shorts on the shorts reel.
This concept has since been explored by Hesford’s work in Frames (2013)
As this blog has previously explored, trailers can be used for a number of different purposes, notably promotion (rather than sales) features across these. Spoof trailers, and the concept of the trailer format feature heavily in discussions, even with ‘trailers’ being used within shows, as a part of meta commentary on the show’s themes as well as the format of the trailer. (as with this Family Guy ‘Trailer’ featuring in the show (season 11, episode 12)
I want to suggest that these “our country, second” videos, are in fact trailers, the use a collection of clips from a product (the country), and both position that country, in relation to a known genre (the campaign promises of the Trump team). The use of clips and overall satirical tone is similar to that of the Russian Trailers explored by Frolova and Vollans, but more explicit in these versions. It is possible that we will come to see these trailers as propaganda trailers, but for now do we consider these to be a facet of the broader body of trailers? Afterall, the work prior in aesthetics and genre suggests we have no finite trailer aesthetic, and that trailers are a format, or vernacular genre that encompass many many different elements, the trailer format is vast.
Donadio, R & Liam Stack (2017) ‘Hearing ‘America First,’ European Nations Jockey to Be Second’ New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/06/world/europe/europe-trump-parody-videos.html
Frolova, K (2015) Russian Trailers #2’ www.WatchingtheTrailer.com Blog post http://www.watchingthetrailer.com/trailers-blog/russian-trailers-2
Hamel, K. J. (2012). ‘From Advertisement to Entertainment: Early Hollywood Film Trailers.’ Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 29(3), 268–278. http://doi.org/10.1080/10509201003667218
Haralovich, M. B., & Klaprat, C. R. (1981/2). Marked Woman and Jezebel: The Spectator-In-The-Trailer. Enclitic, 66–74.
Hesford, D. (2013). ‘“Action … Suspense … Emotion !”: The Trailer as Cinematic Performance.’ Frames. http://framescinemajournal.com/article/action-suspense-emotion-the-trailer-as-cinematic-performance/
Johnston, K. M. (2009). Coming Soon. Jefferson, North Carolina: Macfarlane.
Perentesis, J. L. (1948). ‘Effectiveness of a Motion Picture Trailer as Election Propaganda.’ Public Opinion Quarterly, 12(3), 465.
Staiger, J. (1990). ‘Announcing Wares, Winning Patrons, Voicing Ideals: Thinking about the History and Theory of Film Advertising.’ Cinema Journal, 29(3), 3–31.
Vollans, E. (2015). ‘So just what is a trailer, anyway?’ Arts and the Market, 5(2), 112–125.