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Guest Thinkers

IS THE GOP STANDING IN THE WAY OF PROGRESS? Why the Fox Stem Cell Ad is Such an Effective Frame Device

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It’s been a long and very busy week on campus, with several major articles in the works, and midterm grading in full swing. Yet I had to weigh in briefly on the relevance of framing to understanding the controversy this week over the Michael J. Fox stem cell ad. Press play above.

Like many Americans, I grew up avidly following the (mis)adventures of Fox starring as Alex P. Keaton in Family Ties, Marty McFly in Back to the Future, and the title character in TeenWolf. (In fact, as a young teen I modeled myself after APK, though in my post-college political orientations I have evolved.)

Fox appeared to have bottled eternal youth. He was the symbol of boyish cleverness and charm. That’s why the televised images of a weakened and vulnerable Fox were so powerful.

The first goal of any advertising, but especially political ads, is to get your attention. Next, the goal is to get you to recall the ad, and hopefully in the process, create a buzz around the office, in the mainstream media, in blogs, and on talk radio. And the Fox advertising blitz has certainly achieved these results.

In synergy with this buzz, the ads have successfully articulated a powerful frame when it comes to the promotion of science, and stem cell research specifically. The Fox commercial boils the election race essentially down to a partisan pitch in defense of social progress.

With thirty seconds of image and just a few sentences of gripping personal testimony, Fox makes the message clear: President Bush and Congressional Republicans are standing in the way of medical cures that could save people you care about. If you support research that could save lives, you need to vote for ________ .

There’s much more about this ad to talk about, and put into context. Look for several articles in the works that highlight the use of the social progress frame in the many emerging political debates involving science.


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