Robert Scholes On Video Texts Comparison

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According to Robert Scholes, author of On Reading a Video Text, commercials aired on television hold a dynamic power over human beings on a subconscious level. He believes that through the use of specific tools, commercials can hold the minds of an audience captive, and can control their abilities to think rationally. Visual fascination, one of the tools Scholes believes captures the minds of viewers, can take a simple video, and through the use of editing and special effects, turn it into a powerful scene which one simply cannot take his or her eyes from. Narrativity is yet another way Scholes feels commercials can take control of the thoughts of a person sitting in front of the television. Through the use of specific words, sounds, accompanying statements and or music, a television commercial can hold a viewer's mind within its grasp, just long enough to confuse someone into buying a product for the wrong reason. The most significant power over the population held by television commercials is that of cultural reinforcement, as Scholes calls it.

By offering a human relation throughout itself, a commercial can link with the masses as though it's speaking to the individual viewer on an equal level. A commercial In his essay, Scholes analyzes a Budweiser commercial in an effort to prove his statements about the aforementioned tools. The commercial described in Scholes composition is a "well-known Budweiser commercial which tells..the life story of a black man pursuing a career as a baseball umpire" (Scholes, p. 620). Scholes feels that this commercial elegantly proves his theory that video texts can hold a viewer captive and control his thought pattern through the use of visual effects, narrativity, and of course, cultural reinforcement. The commercial itself tells the story of a young black man, working as an umpire in the minor baseball leagues, risen from the provinces, having overcome great racial tension throughout his life, who "makes it" as he is accepted by a white manager after making a close call during a game

Scholes analysis of this video text references his tools of "power and pleasure" (Scholes, p. 619) many times. Throughout the commercial visual effects are placed in order to capture the audience as we are offered an "enhancement of our vision" (Scholes, p. 619) by them, according to Scholes. A key feature of the commercial, the slow motion video of the play in question allowing us to see what the right call truly is, is not only important to the story, it's important as it allows us to see something we cannot without the use of special effects.

We are simply awestruck by seeing something we cannot on our own. The Budweiser commercial in question uses narrativity throughout itself to not only tell the story of the umpire, but to tell the story of America, to tell the story of our national pastime, to tell the story of the young black man who has worked ever so hard to make it, when he finally does. While watching the young umpire working a game, we hear the narrator's voice, "In the minors you got to make all the calls, and then one day you get the call" (Scholes, p. 620), Budweiser uses this catchy phrase in order to grab our attention, to focus us on the commercial in order to look for the blossoming story. This slight play on words has a great effect on a viewer due to the fact that our minds think about the statement, and by the time we realize what is actually happening, the commercial has shown us that the black umpire has just gotten his "call." Later in the commercial, after the game has obviously ended, we see the umpire sitting in the same bar as the manager who confronted him about his "bad" call during the game.

The old white manager with "the history of [baseball] written on [his face]" (Scholes, p. 621) holds up his bottle of Budweiser to the young black umpire, and toasts him with it. All the while a chorus plays in the background, singing "You keep America working. This Bud's for you" (Scholes, p. 620). Scholes believes that this narrativity is not simply an ad for Budweiser beer, it is more of an ad selling the American way, and the aural accompaniments are in place to relate the American way with the American beer, Budweiser. Cultural reinforcement, the main tool involved in captivating an audience with a video text, is what Scholes believes to be the largest factor included in this Budweiser commercial.

Without the cultural background of living where we do, comprehending the plot pummeled upon us in this commercial would be impossible. Without knowledge of baseball and its rules, we wouldn't know that the umpire had made a close, yet correct call, we wouldn't know that a screaming old white man running out onto the field was commonplace; we wouldn't even know why the man who swung the stick at the ball was running towards a white bag on the edge of a dirt path lined by grass. All commercials rely on some amount of previous knowledge, this commercial is no different. Late in the commercial in question, while the manager is toasting the umpire, and the Budweiser music is playing in the background, the viewer realizes subconsciously that the umpire has "made it," that he will live happily ever after, however untrue this may be. Our culture has influenced us so much that we almost require happy endings, within a 28 second commercial we can see the entire life of a black man unfold before our eyes, and by the time the commercial is over, we know he will have a happy life.

The commercial doesn't actually sell beer, it simply sells the culture we live in and or wish to live in, then connects the entire story, including the happily ever after, to Budweiser in hopes of selling their products. After examining a commercial of my choice, Scholes beliefs became much more real to me as I saw all three components he described, visual fascination, narrativity, and cultural reinforcement put to use. The commercial begins through a hazy camera lens, out in the desert, next to what looks like an old military base, we see 2 men sitting in wait. Both men are dressed in black and wearing motorcycle helmets which cover their faces completely. One of the men looks down the road then waves to his partner, who is sitting on a motorcycle, letting him know that the car is approaching. A rattlesnake sees the man wave his hand and rushes away, frightened.

All of a sudden the view changes and we see a wavy reflection of a beautiful silver Nissan 300ZX Turbo cruising down this deserted highway, while we hear the narrator, a middle aged man, say "So I'm having this dream." The screen flashes again and we see the car from another angle, moving swiftly down the road as the narrator...

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