Robby the Robot Goes to Washington

By taking clips of Mitt Romney’s speeches and interviews I set out to show he flip flops on issues and acted as a corporate raider during his time at Bain Capital.

1st Reflection

Let me begin by stating this was an incredibly challenging project for me as a writer. I am accustomed to portraying my ideas through the use of text. At many points throughout the project I could visualize what I wanted to say through alphabetic text and had a much more difficult time finding visual associations to make my point. I had no prior video editing experience. I began as quite a novice not even knowing how to mute a video clip. I then began to experiment a bit more and learned how to create a movie and then import it into the original project so there could be two audio files, one on top of the other. I especially liked splitting clips after less than a second, copying the clip and then pasting it. I used this technique with Mitt Romney’s speech of “Corporations are People” to make his hand movements look robotic. Before I knew it, I was very excited when it was time to sit down and work on my .MSWMM project.

I did run into certain obstacles. One was that I wanted to match up Data’s lips with Romney’s words. This is very hard to do with Windows Movie Maker 2.6. First I had to strip a movie clip of Romney speaking and just take the audio file. I did that using audacity. What I did next was split the clips of Data speaking and mash together these shorter clips of his lips to somewhat echo Romney’s speech. Another problem that I found with Movie Maker was that once my project was complete and I tried to save it as a movie file it would not export because one of my clips was corrupted. I had to then go back and take out each clip and save each time to determine which clip was corrupted and then go back and insert my clips once again. Overall, however, this was a minor inconvience and the creative process of creating a mashup far outweighed technical difficulties.

My second draft of this mashup was heavily reliant on alphabetic text, both verbal and written. I originally had photographs with text added to illustrate ideas such as outsourcing of jobs and business practices leading to bankruptcy and job loss. Gradually I began to understand that these issues can be shown through visuals like bread lines and the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. I also found that I could illustrate greed through characters like Scrooge. I originally was going to use footage of Scrooge McDuck but found that archival footage of Scrooge from a silent film added weight to the mashup. In my opinion, traditional writing is drastically different from creating this mashup. This may be because I do not have any experience in creative writing. My undergradauate degree is in biology so most of my writing was in the form of research papers. An article or research paper is drastically different from creating a mashup because instead of telling a story you are trying to show it.  This type of storytelling relies much more heavily on the basics of semiotics. Metaphor and simile become of key importance. I find that the question of does the receiver receive the intended message to be more challenging. In my opinion it is easier to portray my thoughts through words, but that may be because I have more experience in this realm of composing. Overall, composing through visuals was stimulating and an incredibly creative process that I thoroughly enjoyed. I already have other ideas for future mashups and will hopefully use what I learned to continue composing through different media than just traditional writing.


2nd Reflection

As Richard L. Edwards and Chuck Tryon explained in “Political video mashups as allegories of citizen empowerment,” mashups are ever more frequently belonging to a class that deals with the political realm. Edwards and Tryon (2009) explained that, “this type of user–generated content might be reasonably called — in its political focus and modes of empowerment — citizen–generated content,” (Introduction section para 2). They go on to classify citizen-generated content into three categories: political advocacy, forms of political protest, and modes of political commentary. My message, with “Robby the Robot Goes to Washington” is a mode of political commentary.

Throughout the mashup is the use of simile, methaphor, synecdoche, and metonym. According to Sean Hall (2007), simile is “when we liken one thing to another we tend to highlight the features that interest us, and we ignore those that don’t interest us”(p.36) There is a picture of Mitt Romney and Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko side by side which infers they are similar. This is an example of simile that was used as foreshadowing for the footage of the “greed is good” speech used later in the mashup. There is another simile that Mitt Romney is like a robot. At one point in the mashup Mitt Romney speaking, which as Hall describes is the first object, the inking property is the robotic movement of his arms, and the second object is robot. Put together there is a simile that Mitt Romney is like a robot. This idea that Romney is like a robot is also a metaphor. Not only is he like a robot but the idea is he actually is cold and robotic. In this case the signifiers are all the images of robots (the cartoon, Dr. Doom, Data etc.), the linking notion is abstract concepts of coldness and robot likeness, and the signified is Mitt Romney. Besides metaphor and simile, metonym and synecdoche are also used in this mashup. Metonym is “when one thing is closely associated with –or directly related to –another and can be substituted to create meaning (Hall, 2007, p.40). One example of metonym in the mashup is the footage of the bread line statue which stands for unemployment. Synecdoche is using a part of something to stand for the whole group. In this mashup I used the “greed is good” speech to represent all venture capitalists like Mitt Romney who build personal wealth at the expense of the workers.

The beginning of my video superimposes Mitt Romney’s face and lips over the lyrics “Mr. Roboto” to commentate on how Romney is perceived by the public. His political rhetoric is almost robotic in the fact that he cannot seem to relate to the everyday man. I wanted to use this clip of Romney because it gives it an almost ‘big brother’ feel. He is a wealthy man who made most of his earnings in private equity, which is why I show video of Dr. Doom and factories. Dr. Doom represents a character driven by his wealth to conquer. The footage of televisions being made in a factory and gears turning represents the unrelenting machine of big business that Romney was involved with. He was CEO of Bain Capital and like Dr. Doom was set apart from the workers he employed. Next is a clip from underdog as another metaphor for not being mindful of the common American. As the clip proceeds and we see the shadow of the mechanical arm grabbing at the people in the crowd which shows Mitt Romney not being mindful of job cuts. A later clip is of a money press showing again Romney’s financial situation and how making money is comparable to a machine that ignores the little man. I’ve also inserted throughout the video a clip of Mr. Krabs doing a robot dance. I thought it would do the same as Edwards and Tryon explained and add an element of surreality to the video.

In talking about intertextuality, Jonathan Gray (2006), in his book “Watching With The Simpsons: Television, Parody, And Intertextuality” says,  “The singular text by itself and studied in a vacuum, cannot truly help us, for ‘the text itself’ is an abstract, yet ultimately non-existent entity, wished into creation by analysts. The text can only ever exist through, inside, and across other texts and through its readers.”(p. 3) By using Data from Star Trek and syncing Mitt Romney’s words I employ an interextuality that allows readers to make the leap that Mitt Romney is Data in a sense. The clip requires that readers know the character of Data and recognize Mitt Romney’s political views as flip flopping. As Tryon (2008) describes in “Pop Politics” the intertextual reference is used to comment on or criticize the original text”(p. 209) This is why I flipped the second frame of Data speaking upside down, to provide a visual text that criticizes the verbal original text.

As the video progresses I then go back to this main idea that Mitt Romney was a corporate raider due to the fact that quite a few of his business transactions, like GSI Steel Plant, Dade International, and Ampad, left many people out of work while executives like Romney at Bain took away millions in management fees. This is why I use the robot pirate clip and I purposely put this clip at this point in the song because the music plays a very robotic sound. I show a headline of Bain’s layoffs to anchor the image of the robot pirates, otherwise I felt the message would be unclear.

Next is the second verse of “Mr. Roboto” and this time I show footage of the stock market during the depression in between the clips of Romney’s face and lips. This was a time when investing was not regulated leading to the loss of millions of jobs. I wanted to use that to compare Romney’s time with the stock market. For example with one company Bain took out loans to buy the shareholders and made millions off the deal only for the company to go bankrupt because it could not withstand that much debt. It is this type of irresponsible play on Wall Street that leads to job loss not unlike during the depression. That is also why I later show a postcard of Wall Street during the 1930s. The images of the factories again are meant to show big business and private equity firms as an unrelenting machine. In the last minute of my video I try to make the comparison between Michael Douglas’s character Gordon Gekko and Mitt Romney. Intertextuality plays a role here as well because viewers must be familiar with Gekko’s speech that “greed is good.” I placed the “greed is good” speech footage around footage of Mitt Romney speaking. I used this particular footage of Romney because I thought his hand motions were robotic. Overall, I’m hoping as Tryon (2008) has said, that my video will “offer a new form of media literacy that promotes a healthy skepticism toward campaign narratives, reminding us not to listen to the “ominous narrators” anymore” (p.213).


Reference List

Edwards, R., and Tryon, C. (2009). Political video mashups as allegories of citizen empowerment. First Monday, 14(10). Retrieved from

Gray, J. (2006). Watching With The Simpsons: Television, Parody, And Intertextuality. NY: Routledge.

Hall, S. (2007) This Means This This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Tryon, C. (2008). Pop politics: Online parody videos, intertextuality, and political participation. Popular Communication, 6, 209–213. [PDF]




This entry was written by tonidibona and published on May 4, 2012 at 9:15 pm. It’s filed under Mashup, Remix, Semiotics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Robby the Robot Goes to Washington

  1. For a first-timer, you’ve done an outstanding job–even for a second or third-timer, this project is excellent. You’ve taken the conceit, “Romney is a robot,” and interpreted in wonderfully creative, meaningful, and, yes, funny ways. Parody is all (or partly) about the laughs, right, and you nail them especially with the repeated clips of Romney giving his speak toward the end. Great work on the Data portions; the mouthing is more accurate and adding Will and Diana really helps. If you were to do another draft, I would remove the remaining Gordon Gekko clips as well as the still image of the scupture. The Gekko clips done work as well as the rest of the video and moving image of bread lines would be more effective. I also strongly suggest changing the title on YouTube and here so that Mitt Romney is in the title. That will draw traffic to it, which is what we want. Overall, very well done!

    • Antonia DiBona on said:

      Thanks so much Dr. Wolff! It was a real pleasure to expand my comfort zone and try something new. Thanks for all your help!

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