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a critical and rhetorical look at the art and artifice of the movie trailer

7.21.2006

Rhetorical Detour #2

In his Philosophy of Rhetoric (1776) George Campbell enumerates four things that he considers to be the "ends of speaking". I find them to be equally well suited to the ends of the movie trailer. Let's take a look [with my commentary added in brackets].
  1. Enlighten the understanding. [Let you know what the movie is "about".]
  2. Please the imagination. [Give you something worth seeing: some special fx, a good joke, a favorite actor in an unexpected role, etc.]
  3. Move the passions. [With the promise of exposed flesh and heavy breathing, if need be.]
  4. Influence the will. [Ultimately, convince you to part with your cash.]
Campbell noted the following expectation of a skilled orator:
"We do not argue to gain barely the assent of understanding, but, which is infinitely more important, the consent of the will."
That being said – and before tackling our next trailer – here's another look at persuasion and manipulation...

Persuade: to induce to undertake a course of action or embrace a point of view by means of argument, reasoning, or entreaty.

Manipulate: to influence or manage shrewdly or deviously; to tamper with or falsify for personal gain.

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