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Was it just a hit job?

WHEN IS a TV theme song a political weapon?

When it’s the theme from “The Sopranos” used just coincidentally by the Washington state Democratic Party in an ad against Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi. The ad is ostensibly a criticism of Rossi’s close ties to a lobbying group, the Building Industry Assn. of Washington, and Rossi’s own ads against Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The now-canonical opening tune, a menacing electro number by British group Alabama 3, is now practically synonymous with ne’er-dowelling in the American pop culture psyche and carries plenty of useful emotional associations from the first note.

“It’s a catchy song, which we thought jibed stylistically with our communication about Rossi’s designated attack squad -- the BIAW -- who continue to pour millions into false and misleading attack ads against Gov. Gregoire,” a Washington state Democratic spokesman said in a statement.

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Maybe so, but to use the “The Sopranos” theme in an ad against a guy with the name Dino Rossi rings a little suggestive of ethnic stereotypes, no?

The Washington state Democratic Party is pulling the ad, but it just goes to show how deeply a pop song once attached to a TV show can embed in our lizard-brains and suggest all sorts of connotations and memories even when divorced from its original context. Who doesn’t instinctively reach for a cocktail shaker when they hear that insidious bossa nova tune from “Sex and the City?” For Rossi’s sake, let’s hope a new version of the ad doesn’t use “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

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August Brown

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