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Save the Cheerleader, Vote Obama?

October 15th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

I’ve been amused by two recent political ads, one including Gossip Girl stars/adverbs Blake Lively (Serena) and Penn Badgely (Dan), and the other with Heroes’ Hayden Pannetiere. Celebrities making political appeals is hardly anything new, but both ads play quite cleverly off the shows and the characters to aid their cause.

Lively and Badgely’s ad mocks the “talk to your kids about drugs” PSAs by imploring young viewers to talk to their parents about voting McCain. Lively and Badgely are Gossip Girl’s resident good kids (well, as good as one could be in that show, I guess), and their make-believe school suffers from substance abuse aplenty. Thus, one can imagine them to be called upon to deliver the “don’t do drugs” message; instead, a more sinister behavior concerns them – voting McCain. One could imagine a more conflicted ad if the stars were replaced with Gossip Girl’s resident bad kids, Leighton Meester (Blair) and Ed Westwick (Chuck).

See more Hayden Panettiere videos at Funny or Die

Hayden Pannetiere’s piece also plays with her character. In Heroes, she’s invincible, and fighting to save the world. Moreover, as anyone aware of this thing called “popular culture” knows, Heroes’ catch-phrase in Season One was “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World,” and Pannetiere was the cheerleader in question. So, when she warns of how “we’ll all probably die,” there’s a (playful) added level of horror, as if the only thing worse than Sylar, Adam, or another Ali Larter character is McCain.

I realize now that my last post was also about stars using their characters to add weight to a political message. And, of course, the obvious other example is Martin Sheen, who got many years worth of political rallies and stump speeches out of being the beloved Jed Bartlet. All are interesting examples of how to use one’s stardom as para/inter/extratext.

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  1. October 16th, 2008 at 06:37 | #1

    wow! that’s almost enough to get me watching Heroes again!

  2. Will
    October 16th, 2008 at 08:31 | #2

    I think the second ad tends to work against Pannetiere’s star image from Heroes. As Claire Bennet, she is for the most part an earnest, clean-cut, “good-girl” character. This scathing irony is uncharacteristic of her role in the show, as is her confident awareness of her own “hotness”, or at least a moderate (30 second worth) measure of hotness — but most of all, it’s kind of shocking for this long-term Heroes viewer to hear Claire-Bear swear.

  3. October 20th, 2008 at 16:06 | #3

    I dunno, Will — I think it works with the changes in Season 3 Claire — more aware of her (voting?) powers and starting to show a dark side. I’m presuming you’ve not yet got S3 in the UK, though, so I’ll hold off on spoilers

  4. Eugene
    October 21st, 2008 at 20:34 | #4

    Now everyone is talking about the American economy and eclections, nice to read something different. Eugene

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