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“Individualized Skincare”:

A Neo-Aristotelian Critique on Curology’s

That Feeling When Skincare Finally Makes Sense Advertisement

Jane Smith

Loyola Marymount University Nature of Inquiry (CMST-1700-02) Dr. Kaimikaua

February 15th, 2021




This paper analyses the use of rhetoric within a Curology skincare advertisement in order to appeal to an audience of customers. Neo-Aristotelian criticism is used in order to analyze this artifact using the five canons of rhetoric. There is a focus placed on the theme of individuality and relatability and its effectiveness in motivating, influencing, and persuading the targeted audience into buying their product. This paper also gives a detailed description of the artifact itself and what Neo-Aristotelian criticism is.

Keywords: Rhetoric, Neo-Aristotelian Criticism, Individuality, Relatability



“Individualized Skincare”:

A Neo-Aristotelian Critique on Curology’s

That Feeling When Skincare Finally Makes Sense Advertisement

A unique line of skincare meant specifically for you. Curology, the skincare brand, markets its product as being unique to each individual with a variety of options so that each product appeals to the customers skincare needs. Struggling with some type of skin problem from acne to fine lines is common among many people and working towards clear skin is a shared and universal experience. From the start of puberty, most teens begin to experience having acne, black heads, dry skin, and other skincare issues that leave them looking for solutions even into adulthood. This Curology advertisement, like many other product advertisements, circles “around the idea of financial gain” (Rath Foley & Karlsson, 2021). With the goal of profit in mind, advertisements use rhetoric in order to appeal to an audience of targeted consumers.This study relates to previous work surrounding rhetoric in advertisements because it further analyzes the effectiveness of the use of rhetoric on consumers and the targeted market of customers. Many scholars have focused research on the use of language involved with rhetoric in advertisements. According to Richard T. Torto,“it is the language of the advertisement that enables consumers to identify a product and remember it” (Torto, 2020).

Similar research has been conducted involving advertisements in the cosmetic industry such as Zhihong Bai’s article, The Characteristics of Language in Cosmetic Advertisements, that analyzed the use of linguistics in cosmetic advertisements (Bai, 2018). This paper differs from this research because it places a focus on one individual advertisement from Curology instead of analyzing multiple advertisements from a variety of companies. Similarly to Bai’s article, this paper will be analyzing the effectiveness of persuasion in advertisements for consumers.

In this essay using a Neo-Aristotelian approach of criticism, I will be analyzing Curology’s “That Feeling When Skincare Finally Makes Sense” advertisement that was posted on Curology’s youtube channel on May 5th, 2020. The key themes covered in my research is persuasion through the appeal of individuality and relatability. Neo-Aristotelian criticism concentrates on rhetoric and its impact on the audience through persuasion (Huston, 2019).

According to Huston, Rhetoric involves “learning how to identify and use the skills of speaking persuasively” (Huston, 2019). This analysis will be developed using the five canons of rhetoric along with the coding of this artifact based on multiple components. The five canons of rhetoric are used in order to study and breakdown how rhetoric was used in an effort to persuade the audience (Huston, 2019).

Description of the Artifact

Advertisement clip visual and audio description

The advertisement was created by the skincare brand, Curology, and opens up with a split screen view of roommates Zoe and Asher that are described as having many things in common and being “roommates who share a lot” (Curology, 2020). After the split view introduction of both characters, the advertisement changes to a single view of Zoe opening her house door with the audio description “Like that feeling when you’re finally home”(Curology, 2020). Then the video pans to Asher also coming home through another door and getting stuck in a clear curtain in order to add comedic effect. After this clip, the video shows both Zoe and Asher cooking with the audio description “that feeling when you’re prepared” and then shows Asher struggling while making the food with the audio “kind of” (Curology, 2020). The next clip shows Zoe working out while also creating an inspiration board and Asher working out and falling to the ground with the background audio saying “that on your grind, all the time, make it mine feeling”(Curology,

2020). After this, the video cuts to both Zoe and Asher screaming into the bathroom mirror with the audio “Then there’s that feeling”(Curology, 2020). As the two actors looked into the mirror agonizing over their flawed skin, two clips are shown of Asher picking at his acne and Zoe applying a face mask with the audio “That ‘ugh, not another breakout!’ feeling. That, ‘my skincare needs an upgrade’ feeling”(Curology, 2020). The advertisement then shows both characters frustrated with their skincare problems and them throwing all of their old products onto the floor. In the background the audio is saying “They’ve got most things under control. But when it comes to skincare, they could both do better”(Curology, 2020). Then the advertisement pans to Zoe on the couch and Asher attempting to join her but falling over in the process. This is when the focus is placed on the Curology skincare brand. The audio changes from describing the lives of Zoe and Asher to describing the appealing qualities of Curology with the introduction that “Curology mixes a custom skincare formula for you, not your roommate”(Curology, 2020). The advertisement shows Zoe and Asher both on the couch following along with the advertisement audio instructions saying “just share your skincare goals, snap some selfies”(Curology, 2020). Then the clip changes to a mailman delivering their products with the audio “and get a skincare formula prescribed by a licensed provider. Shipped right to your door”(Curology, 2020). After receiving their products, viewers are shown Zoe and Asher trying out their new products and seemingly loving them with the audio “With dermatologist approved ingredients you can’t get off the shelf. For acne, fine lines, dark spots, and beyond. It’s custom skincare, straight to your door”(Curology, 2020). Then the lights are turned off with a disco ball and streamers being revealed as Zoe and Asher dance in their bathroom to a more upbeat song in the background while looking very content with their new skincare products as the audio says “ah, that feeling when your skincare just clicks. Now that’s a good feeling”(Curology, 2020).

And finally the commercial ends with a Curology product being show with the audio “Get your first month of skincare free at Curology.com” and in the commercial there’s a writing that says “Try your first month for free” in large white letters with the phrase “Just $4.95 S&H” below in smaller letters (Curology, 2020). All the way at the bottom of the screen is the disclaimer “Curology prescription skincare products are compounded drug products and are not subject to FDA approval. Results may vary. Subject to medical consultation. Not available in all states.

Trial is 30 days with subscription. Cancel anytime”(Curology, 2020). The final clip is the brand name centered.

Multiple aspects of this advertisement as an artifact can be broken down and analysed. From the introduction of the advertisement, it can be determined that the rhetoric of the artifact are Curology and the actors who played Zoe and Asher. In addition, due to the fact that this artifact is a commercial, the genre is epideictic. According to Huston, the epiedetic genre “refers to ceremonial speeches given on special occasions to praise or blame another’s actions, to uphold an individual as virtuous, or to condemn an individual as corrupt” (Huston, 2019). It is also known that the context of the advertisement is that it is being filmed on set that features two roommates living together. Throughout the advertisement, viewers are able to see parts of Zoe and Asher’s daily lives that make them appear to be very relatable to the audience. From the visuals used and the form of vocabulary used throughout the advertisement, it can be determined that the targeted audience is teenagers and young adults. Using upbeat music, young roommates doing activities that are common among this age range, and using terminology such as “selfies” (Curology, 2020) can all be used as evidence in order to conclude that this is the targeted audience and market for their product. With the outro of the advertisement, it can be concluded that the intended message is that this product will solve a variety of skincare problems that

pertain to each individual customer. In addition, although it is not evident within the visuals or audio, this advertisement was created within the first few months of the Corona Virus pandemic on My 5th, 2020. Within the time that the advertisement was created, people were already required to wear face masks in public, oftentimes causing acne in the mouth, cheeks, and nose areas where the mask was worn. Taking care of ourselves became a priority for many individuals, and with being in quarantine, self care and skincare became an attractive activity to focus on for many people. Furthermore, within the advertisement it is mentioned that the product can be shipped to you and that customers will not have to leave the house in order to pick it up. This part is very appealing because it is a product that does not require people to leave the house in order to obtain it like other skincare brand’s products.

Description of the Rhetorical Criticism

The form of criticism used within this paper is Neo-Aristotelian and is derived from the rhetoric that was studied and analyzed by the philosopher, Aristotle, in ancient greece. Rhetoric is “described as a stream of consciousness that entails the relationship between thought and expression” and “concerns itself with the way language is employed to achieve persuasion” (Torto, 2020). It is also described by Hendrix as being “designed to produce a discrete communication operative within a specific context, and it is designed to accomplish a specific purpose or to exert a particular influence upon the behavior of the audience within that context”( Hendrix, 1968). Neo-Aristotelian “was the epitome of the modernist perspective, stressing the goals of critical interpretation in empiricism and an amoral detachment (Porrovecchio & Condit, 2016, as cited in Huston, 2019). This form of criticism is being used in order to analyze Curology’s advertisement because the purpose of the advertisement was to persuade and it falls in line with the intentions and methods used in neo-aristotelian criticism. In neo-aristotelian

criticism, five canons are used in order to determine how they worked towards persuading the audience and include invention, organization, style, delivery, and memory (Huston, 2019).

Invention is defined as “the speaker’s major ideas, lines of argument, or content” (S. K. Foss, 2018, p. 33, cited by Huston, 2019).It is used in order to analyze whether the main concept of an artifact was effective at persuading the targeted audience. The second canon, organization, refers to the order or set up of the artifact and whether it had some form of effect on the audience (Huston, 2019). The third canon, style, involves the language within the artifact and if it added towards the main intention of persuasion. Delivery involves how the rhetoric was presented by the rhetor(s) (Huston, 2019). And finally the last canon, memory, has to do with whether the artifact itself is memorable and can still apply to society in the future. Along with the five canons, inartistic and artistic proofs are also analyzed. Inartistic proofs are “external forms” of evidence and artistic proofs are those that are internally constructed that include ethos, pathos, and logos, (Huston, 2019).



An emphasis on individuality is highlighted throughout the advertisement. Individuality “consists in focusing or concentrating self-interpretation primarily on a single self-aspect that one shares with other, but not all other, people in the relevant social context” and “the critical process underlying the individual self or individualization is that of taking into account a more comprehensive set of different, nonredundant self-aspects” ( Kampmeier & Simon, 2001). This definition supports my ideas on what it means to have individuality. Within the Curology advertisement, the theme of individuality is used in order to demonstrate that the product is not made for a generalized population, but instead for each customer’s particular skincare needs. In

this way, there is similarity between the provided definition and the theme as presented in the advertising because it recognizes that there are aspects of each person that separates them from a generalized society, even if there are still some similarities. As previously mentioned, there are five canons involved in Neo-Aristotelian criticism that can be analyzed and are featured throughout this advertisement. Invention is required in any advertisement in order to come up with an effective idea to promote the product being sold. Within this advertisement, invention was effectively used throughout the advertisement by making it simultaneously entertaining for the audience to view and informational about the product while emphasizing the theme of individuality by showing aspects of Zoe and Asher’s lives and personalities that differentiate them and make them unique. Organization is used in certain parts for this theme where the creators show clips of Zoe and Asher entering their home, working out, and cooking that shows their own individual personalities and characteristics. From the arrangement of the video clips, it is seen that Zoe is much more organized and calm in the clips she is featured in. Asher is more clumsy and energetic in his clips where he is getting caught in a curtain, having trouble cooking, or falling on the ground. Within the advertisement, there is an evident comparison between both characters that separates them as individuals. In each commercial done by Curology, there is a certain style used that emphasizes that Curology is a customizable skincare line because this is their main selling point that separates them from other skincare brands. Even if subtly included, this aspect of style will always be included. In the advertisement, the delivery of the audio description further separated Zoe and Asher from each other and emphasized that this product is individualized for each customer. In this specific video, the phrase “Curology mixes a custom skin care formula for you. Not your roommate” places the most emphasis on Curology being made specifically for each customer. With this skincare brand’s selling point being its

customizability, this theme of individuality is memorable and can withstand time. Even if this brand were to end production, the selling point from this advertisement remains the same.

Throughout the advertisement, there are two evident inartistic proofs that involve individuality. Both are derived from the audio description. The first inartistic proof would be the phrase “get a skincare formula prescribed by a licensed provider” (Curology, 2020) meaning that this product needs to be specifically prescribed for the buyer. The second phrase is “ With dermatologist approved ingredients you can’t get off the shelf” (Curology, 2020) that demonstrates the uniqueness of the products being sold. Within the same phrases, there are also the artistic proofs of ethos involved because the products are both dermatologist recommended and are prescribed by someone that has a license to do so. Furthermore, the artistic proof of pathos is evident throughout because the advertisement shows Zoe and Asher having fun with each other, while simultaneously being individuals. This visual is a common desire of friend groups and attract customers who aspire to have this form of friendship with someone. Based on the information and reasoning provided, I believe that the method in which the rhetors used this strategy was effective and made their product look desirable. In addition to this, there is a constraint evident that falls in line with the individuality of the products. There is also the theme of individuality in the brand itself because unlike other skincare brands with a minimal variety of products, this company also inadvertently advertises itself as being unique and having individuality.


Within the advertisement, a theme of relatability is used in order to attract viewers.

According to Cleto and Warman, “this term is typically used to denote a text that has a ‘character or situation’ with which the reader or viewer can somehow easily identify (Mead as cited by Cleto & Warman, 2019). A text is relatable when students can recognize themselves or their own

lives in some aspect of it” (Cleto & Warman, 2019). I agree with this definition of relatability and I believe that it is reflected in the advertisement. This definition of relatability relates and applies to the advertisement because throughout the video, there is also an emphasis on the aspects of Zoe and Asher that they can both relate to. In turn, these same relatable aspects of their lives can also be relatable for the targeted audience of teens and young adults. Working out, cooking, that feeling when you finally get home, and taking care of your skin, are all very common and simultaneously relatable aspects of daily life for many people. Throughout this advertisement, the five canons of rhetoric can be recognized. Invention can be seen in this advertisement through the depiction of the daily lives of Zoe and Asher that feature many aspects of the lives of other people. The portrayal of their lives is realistic and therefore, relatable. The organization of the advertisement is also a notable feature that played a key role in the advertisement. As seen in the video, the advertisement is set up so that the audience is able to see the lives of Zoe and Asher as both individuals and friends. It shows parts of their lives that are relatable to viewers leading up to the clip of them struggling with acne and other skin problems. This demonstrates that acne and having skin problems is also an aspect of their daily lives that the audience has most likely struggled with as well. The style of language used in this theme provides the meaning of the video and the title of the advertisement. The specific phrase “Ah, that feeling when your skincare just clicks. Now that’s a good feeling” (Curology, 2020) sums up the purpose and meaning of the advertisement in showing that Curology makes skincare easier and understandable. The word “clicks” is very informal and more commonly used among younger generations, further adding support that the targeted audience is a younger demographic. Delivery is used to demonstrate the theme of relatability through the way each of the audio descriptions talk about the experiences of Zoe and Asher in an informal and simurtenelosl

comedic tone. It allows for the commercial to be enjoyable and entertaining to view. The theme of relatability is memorable in this advertisement because the activities shown within the video have been a part of most individuals daily lives for years in the past. The modernization of these activities is possible, but either way there will always be some form of activity derived from the ones featured. The inartistic proof involved within this theme is the description of the variety of skin problems that people experience including “acne, fine lines, dark spots, and beyond” (Curology, 2020) that are all advertised as being treatable in this advertisement. The artistic proof featured is pathos because this sense of reliability makes customers feel like they are not alone in their acne struggles and that this is something that many people have also experienced. It is not an unshared experience. I think that the way the creators of the advertisement effectively used the various aspects of rhetoric in order to advertise their product. In this theme, there is also the constraint of normalization. By demonstrating that both Zoe and Asher have acne problems, it shows that this is a normal experience for people to have and shows that it is not something to be ashamed of because it is something relatable.

Contribution to Rhetoric

The agent of this advertisement, Curology, properly and effectively provides an understanding of how their audience of viewers are motivated, influenced,and persuaded into purchasing their products. Through the use of the themes of indivídualoty and reliability, Curology attracts customers by making skincare something that can be made specifically for them and also relatable to other people. The appeal of individuality is being unique and having some form of specialness. With individuality and being someone separate from others, there can also be this fine line of being an individual to the point of being alone. That is where the theme of relatability comes in and demonstrates that even if these skincare products are

customizable,no one is alone in their struggle with skincare and acne. It demonstrates that it is a universal experience. This advertisement motivates their audience into buying their products because it feeds into society’s enjoyment of surveys in order to find out what Curology product is meant for each customer depending on their own skin problems. The advertisement portrays the survey as being fun and enjoyable by only having to answer a few questions and take some pictures of themselves. It makes it appear to be a more convenient experience than making an appointment at the dermatologist in order to be prescribed a product. Furthermore, it demonstrates how people are influenced by showing two characters who are enjoying their lives and having a party in the bathroom after finally finding a skincare product that works for them in comparison to all the products that they have used in the past. Teens and young adults seek the easiest parts of life that make it more enjoyable and being able to view the characters finally having a skincare product that works for them, makes the audience want to also try out the product to see if it also benefits their lives and makes at least one part easier. Finally, the most noticeable aspect of the commercial is the persuasion for the audience to buy their product. Both the motivation and influence featured in the advertisement play a role in the persuasion of buying the product because it makes it appealing for viewers to buy. With such an array of skin conditions and forms of acne, this company is able to appeal to a much larger market because their products are not as limiting as others from competing skincare lines. Furthermore, a main issue for people who struggle with acne and other skin problems is finding a product that caters to their skin care needs. That is why curology is viewed as such an attractive company, because it is advertised that everyone can take the provided survey on their website and receive personalized products.

The analysis of the rhetoric used in this advertisement has provided me with a better understanding of what rhetoric is and how to look for it in artifacts in the future. Before writing this paper, I was unaware of how to apply all these aspects of rhetoric and the complexities that are involved. Being able to learn more about it has expanded my knowledge on the topic and has exposed me to how advertisements attract customers with the goal of profit. It has also educated me on Neo-Aristotelian criticism. It is a method that i have never heard of or have been taught, so it was interesting to learn about. With this greater level of knowledge on rhetoric, I will be able to comprehend the impact and effectiveness of artifacts. I will also be able to observe the aspects of rhetoric in order to analyze them when watching an advertisement.


This paper discusses the Curology advertisement, That Feeling When Skincare Finally Makes Sense, and the appeal of the company through the themes of individuality and relatability. It also provides a description of the advertisement as an artifact and the description of what

Neo-Aristotelian criticism is. Furthermore, this paper also elaborates on what its contribution to rhetoric is and how it provides a better understanding of what rhetoric is, and more specifically on what Neo-Aristotelian criticism is. From this paper, I have come to the conclusion that the main purpose of advertisements is to make profit and sell their products. All of the rhetorical strategies implemented within commercials are used with that goal in kind and a specific intended audience. Creators of artifacts carefully construct and contemplate how to incorporate rhetoric in order to have the most beneficial effect. Even when the rhetoric is not evident from the perspective of the audience, there will always be rhetoric that can be analyzed and critiqued within an artifact. From this research, I can branch out into other artifacts related to Media

Studies and analyze how artifacts are used in order to make profit depending on the targeted audience.


Ahmad, Z. (2018). Language Use in Advertising: Creativity and Its Dimensions. Language in India18(2), 457–472.

Bai, Z. (2018). The Characteristics of Language in Cosmetic Advertisements. Theory and Practice in Language Studies8(7), 847.


Cleto, S., & Warman, B. (2019). Teaching with Stories: Empathy, Relatability , and the Fairy Tale. Marvels & Tales33(1), 102–115.

Curology. (2020, May 5). That Feeling When Skincare Finally Makes Sense [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzOrf8Y-qAw

Hendrix, J. A. (1968). In Defense of Neo-Aristotelian Rhetorical Criticism. Western Speech32(4), 246–252. https://doi-org.electra.lmu.edu/10.1080/10570316809389579

Huston, G.M. C. (2019). Communication Research Methods. [VitalSource Bookshelf]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9780190652760/

Kampmeier, C., & Simon, B. (2001). Individuality and group formation: the role of independence and differentiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology81(3), 448–462.

Rath Foley, A., & Karlsson, M. (2021). The language of non-commercial advertising: A pragmatic approach. International Journal of Language Studies15(1), 99–122.

Torto, R. T. (2020). Aristotelian Rhetorical Theory as a Framework for Analyzing Advertising Texts in the Print Media in Ghana. Theory and Practice in Language Studies10(3), 269. https://doi-org.electra.lmu.edu/10.17507/tpls.1003.02

Genre: Epideictic/Demonstrative

Artistic/Inartistic Proofs: Artistic proofs: Ethos – using professional athletes to promote the idea Pathos – showing hardships that people face, showing how everyone has challenges explicitly mention pain when showing an injury, also shows happy/positive moments (usually when with others)

Inartistic proofs: Used to show the hardships like how cold the water is

“Four basic features of Rhetoric”: Symbolic – the “go home” and saying locals only show how it is territorial, water and the ocean to show the danger of the sea and surfing, the audio when they lost people to the ocean Audience – surfers around the world – particular Rhetoric establishes what is probably true – the greater community of surfers is what makes the individual great, support from the community allows the individual to endure/overcome obstacles Rhetorical theory is analytic and inventive – be kind to each other

“6 Keys of Understanding Rhetoric”: Reliable source and part of a big corporation Uses professional athletes to gain reputation and engages the audience with relatable emotions Purpose is to gain unity among the community Believes there should be more acceptance in the world, more unity in the world between people Calling the audience to take action Epideictic/Demonstrative

Rhetorical Situation: The difference between humans in this world , (divided, separated, individualistic)

Rhetor: Samsung and World Surf League

Exigences: Support and help each other Live in the moment Don’t take anything for granted

Constraints: Everyone is human Focus on building yourself (based on how everyone is tearing you down)

Audience: Surfers around the world

Actual message: People should unite to make this world a better place

Context: Beaches all over the world

Apply Neo-Aristotelian: Invention: People should come together as a community and unite as one Arrangement: Gives examples of the highs and lows in life throughout the video Style: Uses language that has an impact on the audience Delivery: Videos to support the message, tone used to what is being presented in the video, paused to make points more dramatic Memory: the speech was given through a video, no need to remember the speech



“This is Your Movement”:

An Ideological Critique of Bernie Sanders 2016 Presidential Campaign Ideograph

Loyola Marymount University Dr. Charmaine Kaimikaua




This paper examines Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign website using the Ideological criticism. The system of meanings, related perceptions, and system of artifacts in combination with ideographs are used to critically examine the message within his campaign. The three main issues examined within the paper are wage and income inequality, racial justice, as well as college tuition and debt. This is done to help people understand Bernie Sanders’ background and why he fights for these things.

Keywords: Ideological Criticism, Ideographs, Racial Justice, Wage and Income Inequality, College, Tuition, Debt



“This is Your Movement”:

An Ideological Critique of Bernie Sanders 2016 Presidential Campaign Ideograph

Voting within the United States has been one of the biggest privileges for citizens of the country, as it does not matter how much or little money a person makes. So far, the 2016 presidential race has proved to be one of the most enticing races in recent memory. As the race comes to an end, all of the attention has been given to four candidates: Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Ted Cruz. Each candidate has implored different techniques such as taking jabs at other candidates, in order to gain the most votes and be elected the 45th president of the United States. There is a belief among many people that this has been one of the worst portrayals of how presidential candidates should hold themselves, as many of the debates have turned into nothing more than shouting matches. Along with this, the United States has lost a lot of respect in the international realm because of the comments that the current candidates have made about citizens in other countries, specifically when looking at Mexico and countries within the Middle East.

In this essay, I will examine current Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign

website. This will be done by describing his website in terms of the words, pictures, and colors displayed on the pages. After, the ideological criticism will be explained by examining what the critical approach to rhetoric is and how ideographs help unite people under a common viewpoint.

Following this, Sanders’ campaign website will be examined by exploring three issues that are centerpieces to his campaign. Finally, the effectiveness of the Ideological criticism when used to critique Bernie Sanders’ will be highlighted in the contribution to rhetoric section. By the end of the paper, the reader should be able to understand the mission and motives of Bernie Sanders and why he believes he is a good candidate.

Description of the Artifact

The article that will be examined in this essay is Bernie Sander’s campaign website for the 2016 presidential election. When the website is searched for on Google, the title of the link is “Bernie Sanders for President; Contribute to Bernie Sanders” with a description that states the link will take viewers to the official campaign website for United States Senator Bernie Sanders. When the link is clicked, viewers are taken to a donations homepage, which shows Sanders

smiling and pointing to supporters at a rally with the slogan “This is your movement” and an explanation that states thousands of people have donated and the viewer could be the next /

 contributor. This slogan can be found in the top left comer with an interactive table beneath it that allows supporters to donate money to his campaign. When scrolling to the bottom of the nage, there is a list of terms of conditions that must be met in order for people to donate money to his campaign. The terms include that donors are not federal contractors, the donor is over eighteen years old, and donors are U.S. citizens. If a viewer decides not to donate money, he or she may click on the “skip to the site” tab and is taken to the websites main homepage.

On the main homepage of the website, there are seven tabs that allow viewers to explore

the different sections further. The background of the homepage is composed of people who support Senator Sanders, showing that he reaches a large audience with diverse backgrounds. As


people scroll down the page, the slogan “This is your movement” appears again and under it, there is a statement that says “They have the money, but we have the people, if everyone who visits our website joins our movement, there’s nothing we can’t accompilsh together”. Following this, there is a question that asks, “Ready to Start a Political Revolution?” which is followed by three buttons that allow supporters to find where Senator Sanders will be, share with friends that they are supporting Sanders, and volunteer for Sanders. As viewers get near the end of the page,

there is a short bio for Bernie Sanders that introduces him and explains the roles he has had in government as well as what he has accomplished throughout his career that spans from the 1960s to 2010s. There is also a section to that allows supporters to purchase merchandise such as stickers, shirts, and magnets. At the very bottom of the page, Senator Sanders states in a small text box that his website is paid for by “Bernie 2016” and “not the billionaires”.

Description of the Rhetorical Criticism

In order to understand the ideological criticism, one must fust examine the critical approach to rhetoric. Critical studies are a group of theories that are critical in attitude, methodological, concerned with power, and interventionist (Borchers, 2011). This theory is interested in looking beneath the surface of a rhetoric text and believes that things are often

1ff ! t th n ‘1/h t th y .c:e e m on the surface. Critical theories are designed to investigate the ,,,. meaning of a rhetorical text and the complex relationship it has to its context as well as make judgments about the meanings or influences of the text (Borchers, 2011). With the critical approach, theorists aim to examine how a message influences individuals and how it benefits people. In many ways, the critical approach focuses on social justice and finding the best solution to benefit the greatest amount of people. From the critical approach, the ideological criticism was developed.

The ideological criticism centers around the concept of an ideology. According to Borchers, an ideology is an interrelated system of meanings that are generated by the systemof artifacts that compromise a culture (2011). The ideological criticism is formed from three main parts: system of meanings, system of artifacts, and culture. Meanings are based off of perceptions, which are very subjective. This means that two people can view the same event but still express it in a different way. A system of artifacts refers to a set of symbols that have

powerful meanings for a group of people (Borchers, 2011). These symbols unite people under a common purpose and help form a culture. Culture is an ideology held by a group of people who are similar in some way (Borchers, 2011). The United States is an example of an ideological

culture because there are unspoken communication rules when interacting with people. Another


aspect of the ideological criticism are ideographs which can be described as “slogan-like terms

that frequently masquerade as technical political terms, and enter everyday discourse as expressions of personal motive” (Connelly, 2012). Examples of ideographs include the American flag as well as the Statue of Liberty. Both of these objects express the freedom that is provide to each citizen within the United States.

Bernie Sanders uses ideographs through his campaign slogans such as “Feel the Bern” c1_nd “This is yonr movement”. Both of these ideographs place the power of his campaign in the hands of his supporters especially with the phrase “This is your movement”. Bernie has focused on taking down large corporations and to do this, he has expressed the importance of getting as many people together to demand that corporations show how much money they are making.


Income and Wealth Inequality

The disproportionate distribution of income has been one of the biggest issues in this years race for President. Television news has shaped an environment favorable to tax policies that exacerbate economic inequality in the United States (Bell & Entman, 2011). It is very hard for people in America to watch television and avoid hearing broadcasters talk about taxes as well as whether or not the wealthy should be taxed more. The distribution of income in America has shifted toward the very wealthy over the past thirty years (Luttig, 2013). On Sanders’ campaign website, he states that “America now has more wealth and income inequality than any major

 developed country on Earth… the gap between the very rich and everyone else is wider than the during the 1920s” (Bernie, 2016). This is an eye opening statistic for many people because Sanders is claiming that the wage gap is worse than it was during the Great Depression. To solve this issue, Sanders wants large corporations to “pay their fair share in taxes” and will not alJow companies to move overseas to avoid paying U.S. income taxes (Bernie, 2016). Sanders also believes that it is important to raise the minimum wage from $7.50/hour to $15/hour by 2020 because no person can live on such a small income. Finally, he wants to invest $1 trillion dollars to give over thirteen million Americans an opportunity to work. Sanders’ view on income and wealth inequality fits his ideology because he believes that the American people, who are working everyday should have the most power instead of large corporations that prey on people who <lo not make enough money for a living wage and are simply being greedy.

Racial Justice

The belief that America is living in a post-racial society is very far from the truth. In 2016, 319 people have been killed by police (Washington Post, 2016). This means that just under four people have been killed each month this year. This number should also be alarming considering that we have not even gotten halfway through the year. Many of these people are of color and Bernie Sanders has taken notice. On his website, he advocates for policies that advocate for “affirming the value of its people of color… it starts with addressing the five central types of violence against black, brown, and Indigenous Americans: physical, political, legal,

economic, and environmental” (Bernie, 2016). This section of Sander’s website helps supporters understand that racial injustice did not happen overnight, but rather has become ingrained in hegemonic beliefs about how America is run. Within America, discussions on diversity are filled with tensions surrounding “invisible” norms and race-based expectations about interactions



(Norander & Galanes, 2014). Sanders has come under a lot of scrutiny for advocating for racial justice in America because he has been viewed as doing it simply to gain the “black” vote.

However, there are countless amounts of videos that shows a young Sanders in many protests during the Civil Rights era. Sanders’ depth on the issue of racial justice as well as using pictures of people from multiple cultures on his website show that he is not simply doing it for the votes, but rather because he understands that for America to progress forward, each person must be given equal rights.

College Tuition and Debt

According to The Institute for College Access & Success, class of 2014 graduates from LMU averaged over thirty thousand dollars in debt with nearly sixty-percent of the class

 1Jff ring from it (2016). Bernie Sanders has always stressed the importance of getting everyone an equal education. He states, “it is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country and our future, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades” (Bernie, 2016). To deal with this issue, Sanders has proposed a six step plan that he will implement if elected president to make college affordable and debt free. The steps include making public colleges and universities free, stop the federal government from making profits off of student loans, as well as cutting student loan interest rates. He believes that public institutions can be free to students because other countries, such as Germany, Norway, and Sweden, have done this already and it has been proven to be successful. It is important to understand that the path to college starts long before students enter college and sometimes as early as kindergarten (Hirsch, 2008). With this, the wealthier the family of a child, the more likely that he/she will be given the opportunity to go to college. Overall, Sanders’ perception on



college debt and tuition fits with his ideology because he wants to take power away from large corporations and empower people who are not given the opportunity on a daily basis.

Contribution to Rhetoric

 Overall, the campaign website for Bernie Sanders was very successful with displaying the ideologies that he believed in. It is obvious that he centers his campaign around giving citizens of the United States the ability to create change by demanding that large corporations be transparent as the first three issues on his website are: income and wealth inequality, making college free and reducing debt, and getting “big money” out of the government. The three issues examined within this paper: income and wealth inequality, racial justice, and college tuition and reducing debt are all very important to Sanders as it is displayed through the amount of information g:iven as well as the potential plans that he has proposed. Each issue had its own section that was displayed through a series of numbered and bulleted lists as well as Bernie Sanders’ input on the issue. While there are over thirty issues listed on his website, I found that these were some of the most important to focus on because they affect me on a daily basis. The issue that I found most important was on the topic of racial justice because I as well as other family and friends have been victims of the inequality within this country.

The language as well as the pictures throughout the website helped me understand

Sanders’ ideograph, which is his first name written in a normal script with a star to dot the “I” in his name. Underneath are two wavy lines with 2016 written under that does not take away attention from his name. His ideograph is very simple, which allows people to focus on his message instead of his name. Another ideograph that is commonly associated with his campaign is the phrase “Feel the Bern”. This slogan connects with the idea that he wants the American

people to start a political revolution and demand more from the government by being more transparent.


This paper analyzes Bernie Sanders’ campaign website through the ideological criticism.

The criticism is interested in examining artifacts, such as his website, and the ways Bernie Sanders is trying to brand himself to the American people. To do this, the fundamental issues of wage inequality, racial justice, and college tuition and debt were examined. When on this website, it is very obvious what his goals are as he runs for president. While there is a lot of information on the website, it is user friendly as it is easy to navigate and find the information that is most important for the viewer’s needs. Overall, his website was very effective with communicating his message as well as his goals if he is elected president.



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