Visual Rhetoric Rewrite

Mask Up America

The ad begins with empty spaces, much like the emptiness we can imagine businesses, venues, parks, and the like are experiencing during the pandemic. By displaying these spaces as empty, we can understand the juxtaposition without the people occupying them. These spaces are not meant to be empty, and our response to the virus made them just that.

From the get-go, it is clear that the ad is intended to bolster overall morale to mask up. The ad supposes that by masking up, we can come closer to getting back these places we know and love. The first few seconds are shots of empty concert venues, live theater, baseball games, etc. All of these shots art relatively still and the camera pans over, as if we are taking in the grandiose emptiness of these locations. By doing so, the ad reels in an ethos, allowing people to emotionally connect with the venues they love and have a reason to listen in on the ad. The ad effectively produces a mixture of nostalgia and guilt towards not having these things we love in the future. The nostalgia comes from the audience reminiscing that yes, these are things we love. The guilt comes from the audience realizing that yes, these are things we cannot actively love right now. By combining the two, the director grabs the audience’s attention by creating emotional conflict, as the guilt and nostalgia exist in the same system. The aim is to create an emotional resolve by the end of the commercial, acting as an “answer” to the conflict at hand. 

To amplify the stakes of COVID, the wide outdoor shots are met with indoor ones. The emptiness here is just as empty as the emptiness in the previous shots. There is no one, just the viewer stuck in the void. Not only are these venues inaccessible, but so are all of the small, quaint spaces. This introduction shows the desolation caused by COVID universally, appealing to audience members by showing the drastic emptiness from small to large, indoor to outdoor, that COVID has caused. The midpoint of the ad introduces the solution to problem by giving the audience a semblance of hope: a hand holding out a cup of coffee, the way coffee is meant to be served in a friendly, non-stressful manner. This image brings in a human hand, finally adding energy and humanity to the commercial. The hand pushes the coffee forward, as if offering the cup to the viewer. This could signify an offer towards progression to beat the virus, a jolt of energy to become one again. 

Immediately afterwards, we see shots of people looking optimistic while masked up. The narrator says that we need to mask up in order to get back to the things we love. We see people from various parts of the spectrum – white, black, female, male, friends, families, all united under their masks. Their composition is important, as they are all focused on with a shallow depth of field, standing center, allowing the viewer to see them unadulterated. These people face directly at the camera as if to look directly at the audience. Maybe it is to mirror the viewer’s image of what one could look like masked-up. This could also be a personal-recognition tactic, by displaying various types of races, groups, and faces, a viewer can tie the visual back into their own lives as there is almost certain likelihood that the viewer has a relationship with one or more of these people. This accents the message of needing to care for the community around us to ensure its survival through the pandemic.

After this series of shots we see shots of people at those venues, gathered before the pandemic, to bring the message home that if we mask up, we can soon become this society again. By juxtaposing the stark reality in which we currently find ourselves with a vibrant past, where these venues are filled with fun-having people, the director aims to show the world as it is intended to be enjoyed by humans. By following the shots of people in masks, the packed venues symbolize the future as much as they represent the pre-pandemic past, showing the views that there is something to look forward to just like we once did in anticipation of entertaining events. The ad ends with the logo of “Mask Up America”, bringing the ad full circle.

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