Serious Direction or Serio-Ludic Indirection: Aesthetic Expression and Rhetorical Strategies of YouTube Global Warming Videos
My paper analyzes the intersection of aesthetic and rhetorical strategies in selected international short videos on global warming, all found on You Tube. These professional videos advocate awareness of the need for action on global warming, using the multiple modes of video media to move, persuade, and entertain viewers. The range of approaches, however, suggests not only a sense of composing for different audiences (younger or older, e.g.), but very different ideas about which strategies might be effective. Many videos focus on the U.S. as chiefly responsible for and resistant to facing the problem, while images are used to document effects and implicate people across the globe.
The major distinction I am concerned with is between direct/serious and indirect/ludic approaches. I argue that serio-ludic, indirect approaches are more effective because they either bypass or creatively re-purpose the exhausted clichés of environmental iconography—polar bears, melting glaciers, and so on.
• typically use now familiar images of environmental degradation,
• make direct calls for action,
• and may offer informative spoken narration on the causes and cures of global warming.
• are more literary,
• employ controlling metaphors, narratives, animation, and humor to engage viewers and to infer points obliquely,
• offer little information,
• and calls for action are typically implied rather than stated.
Although the direct examples employ sophisticated effects, indirect examples apply artistic license to offer more variety and originality. They rely less on the standard icons of the environmental movement, assuming perhaps that the effectiveness of these images is nearing exhaustion. My presentation will contrast sophisticated examples of the direct approach, such as Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Global Warning” with indirect examples such as the Blue Man Group, 2 The Ranting Gryphon, and others to demonstrate how serio-ludic approaches to serious issues can avoid the pitfalls of merely serious approaches.
Keywords: Video Art, Global Warming, Direct Approach, Indirect Approach, Serious, Serio-Ludic, Images
Associate Professor, English, Ohio University