A Tale of Two Eastwoods: Iconographic Persona and Rhetorical Ethos in Clint Eastwood's “Halftime in America” and RNC 2012 Address

Casey R. Schmitt


In 2012, actor-director Clint Eastwood was twice the special focus of attention in America, not for his acting or directing accomplishments but for a pair of uniquely prominent and instantly memorable televised ideological statements. His scripted appearance in a two-minute Super Bowl XLVI halftime commercial for the Chrysler Group was widely lauded while his address to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, later that year remains to this day an object of pointed criticism and widespread ridicule. This essay uses side-by-side rhetorical analyses of the two examples—this tale of two Eastwoods—to demonstrate the import of expectation and rhetorical persona in an age of modern, national, and global celebrity. The comparison illustrates how a massively famous speaker whose mediated public image has achieved highly symbolically status may both benefit from and struggle with what I call “iconographic persona.” The essay argues that celebrity speakers and spokespersons in modern societies must seek congruence between iconographic persona and rhetorical ethos. In Eastwood's case, the expectations and associations met and solidified by the Chrysler ad went unmet in the RNC address, and thus two appeals by the same speaker resulted in two very different receptions. In conversation with Amossy, Halloran, and Butterworth in “connecting” contemporary discussions of rhetoric, celebrity, nationalism, and sport, this essay sheds light on the unique rhetorical position of the celebrity speaker in the political or activist spheres. 


ethos, rhetoric, Clint Eastwood, iconographic persona, RNC, Halftime in America

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.21153/ps2016vol2no1art510


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