Archive for May, 2010
Outline: Students watch viral ad, interpret the nature of party political campaigns and explore the nature of subverted signs.
Focus: Descriptions of scenes and activities using the present continuous tense. Current affairs and vocabulary.
Level: Pre- Intermediate – Advanced
Time: 30 minutes
1 Initiate a dialogue in class on the subject of party political broadcasts. Prompt by asking a couple of questions: “What kinds of issues do these broadcasts focus on?”, etc.
2 Students in groups make a list of topics and then report back their conclusions to the rest of the class.
(Example: Issues that you could raise: unemployment, terrorism, housing, mortgages and interest rates, the health service, immigration, public safety, corruption, pensions, drugs, etc. In some countries, political campaigns often consist of outdoing or criticizing the opposition party.)
3 Show the video once through to the students, without stopping. Ask students to tick off the issues raised in the video from their lists.
4 Students consult in groups and report back their thoughts. They should refer directly to the images and how these transmit the message:
For example: the first image of the sign ‘Clean Me’ on the hospital trolley is a statement about the poor quality of the health service, this is reinforced by the dark and dismal corridor.
5 Show the video once more and freeze frame the signs as they appear. Ask the following questions as you pause:
1) What does each sign say?
2) Where would you normally find them?
3) What would they normally say?
4) What message is this rewritten sign giving about British society?
5) Are there any other elements to the sign that make the message more powerful?
Go through the first sign (‘Clean Me’) as an example:
This sign is not an official one and would usually be written by hand on a car windscreen or bodywork that needs cleaning. The fact that it hasn’t been rubbed off is a sign of the degenerate state of this particular hospital, apart from the fact that the trolley is exceedingly dirty.
(Answers: 5) There are five signs or written messages used in the film, apart from ‘Clean Me’:
Witness Appeal: This poice sign is posted where a crime has been committed and is an appeal to members of the public to come forward if they have witnessed the incident and can give the police information. In this case, the sign says that no police have been observed in the area, suggesting that the area is unpoliced and therefore dangerous. The background is a rundown housing estate only adding to the depressing spectacle.
5 Tonnes of Illegal immigrants: The vehicle sign would normally refer to whatever the lorry was carrying (for example: timber, vegetables, etc.). This refers to the illegal smuggling of immigrants into the country. It makes the point that these humans are treated in the same way as commodities, often transported in inhuman conditions.
Smoking Area: “Children’s Play Area” would normally be painted on the tarmac, although in a school there probably wouldn’t be a sign here at all. This kind of painted sign is often used for traffic or parking restrictions, e.g. “disabled vehicles”.The sign of the painted marijuana leaf would only be found outside Dutch street cafés. The message is that kids are starting to smoke at a very early age.
Teacher: It would be more usual to see the word ‘Security’ or ‘Police’ here to identify the person’s profession. The message is that to be a teacher these days you need to be able to face any kind of violence in the classroom and thus need to wear a special protective uniform.
No Go Area: This street sign would normally refer to traffic, not pedestrians, and would probably say ‘no access’ or something more formal. The message here is that city centres are dangerous places to be on Friday and Saturday nights and that it is not safe to go out then because many young people are drunk and/or violent.
6 Students comment on the power of the campaign. Do they think it is an effective one? Why / Why not?
Extension: Design your own party political broadcast.
Students design their own political campaign, choosing and ordering images using a storyboard in a similar way to the ‘Clean Me’ advert. Ask students to follow this procedure:
1 Brainstorm topics, issues and problems that would feature in a political campaign based in your country.
2 Decide which image would suit each topic or issue (e.g. drug awareness: you could show smiley faces of ecstasy tablets turned into frowns).
3 Use storyboard to organize images.
4 Write captions or messages for each of the images, explaining what your political party will do to solve each problem.
5 Think of slogan or last catchy phrase to close the advert.
Note on ‘Clean Me’
‘Clean Me’ was produced by the video makers Lee and Dan. The piece was commissioned by Channel 4 television in the UK along with two other party political broadcasts for the Liberal Democrats and the Labour parties. The adverts were not commissioned by the political parties themselves but rather are spoofs or imitations of typical party political broadcasts. Although the video seems believable, the images are perhaps stronger than a political party would use in reality. Such adverts are examples of ‘viral marketing’’: adverts not commissioned by the company itself but made by independent film makers. These film makers spread such images around the internet for various different reasons: in order to criticize a particular company, communicate a political message, raise awareness about a particular issue or as an example of social critique.