Rhetorical Analysis

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Carole Cartwright

Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetorical Analysis – Commercial

  • Summary and discussion of audience, context, purpose (Andrea’s Section)

The Virgin Atlantic Airlines commercial is 1minute 12 seconds long. The purpose of this commercial is to inform the audience that Virgin Atlantic Airlines has run a successful business for 25 years. Ultimately, their goal is to capture our attention so that the audience remembers them whenever the audience has the need to fly, thereby booking flights through them and continuing their successful business.

The audience is anyone that would need to fly for any purpose, from the business traveler, the family vacationer, and your average Joe. The man in the beginning is obviously a business traveler; however in the airport are depicted travelers from all walks of life and ever demographic.

The ethos used is their 25 years of successful service indicating they have proven themselves. Later in the commercial police officers tip their hats to the beautiful flight attendants offering further ethos that even those in authority have respect for the airlines.

Pathos is a communication technique used most often in rhetoric . It is considered one of the three modes of persuasion, alongside ethos and logos. In literature, film and other narrative art - Pathos represents an appeal to the audience's emotions. The pathos used are the beauty queen flight attendants all dressed in hot red and the handsome and debonair captain fancied up in his dress blue uniform. Even the flight attendant that waves at the little girl provides a warm and fuzzy pathos. Another use of pathos is that this is Virgin Airlines and the background music has strong sexual undertones. This will be address further in this analysis.

Logos is an argument that is logical, and in fact the term logic derives from it. Logos normally implies numbers, polls, and other mathematical or scientific data.The logos used are that Virgin Atlantic Airlines is still in business when so many airlines have folded in this competitive industry. Additionally, in an era when flights were becoming the norm for business and pleasure (especially when airlines competed more fiercely), this ad was trying to gain the prestige of flying with this airline.

An interesting note – the seven deadly sins are all represented in this commercial – Pride (initial business man), covetousness (two flight attendants from competing airline, (envy) two men exchanging dialogue at the end), gluttony (man with Wimpy burger), anger (model), sloth (teen at the record store and teen playing Asteroids), and lust (woman in glasses store). Subtly they are saying Virgin Atlantic Airlines is better than the seven deadly sins.

  • Narrative Structure (Julie’s Section)

Ultimately what happens in the commercial is that Virgin Atlantic Airlines is celebrating their 25 years of excellence.

They accomplish this by capturing attention through titillating news in the beginning – A newspaper street vender is yelling out the headlines of “Miners Strike” in an attempt to sell newspapers. The audience takes notice because on June 18, 1984, just four days before this scene takes place, more than half of London’s 187,000 mineworkers went on strike. This is another attempt to set time period and indicate that they have been through challenging economic times and are still successfully in business.

The setting is in London. The few words spoken are with a British accent. Simultaneously, the audience sees a handsome man talking on an ancient cell phone, hurriedly heading into the airport with the date of June 22, 1984 typed across the screen. He enters the airport commenting that he needs to get off the phone and check in. Suddenly, his demeanor changes, he begins to drop the phone from his ear and his face looks like he has seen something unbelievably wonderful.
The camera pans and the audience see a vision of long blonde hair and red high-heel shoes. Then the audience sees all the other people in the airport also being drawn to this approaching image. Next the audience sees red clothing, short skirts, and slowly the audience realizes they are seeing beautiful, sexy flight attendants walking through the crowded airport.
Everyone pauses from their activities to watch the approaching flight attendants. Eventually the audience sees a woman in a gift shop lower her glasses and take a long look. She raises her eyebrows and the audience notices she is impressed. The camera pans back and the audience sees the handsome captain tip his hat to her.
Then the audience sees a group of photographers taking pictures of a model, but the photographer’s are drawn to the approaching scene, leave her standing alone and begin photographing the “attractive group”. The audience sees the captain, centered in the middle of these beauties and the flashes of photographer’s cameras.
The camera pans again and the audience sees two men. One says to the other, “I need to change my job”. The other says, “I need to change my ticket”.
Then the audience sees a logo of the airlines – a woman in a skimpy red dress, holding a British flag and winking. (She resembles an old fashioned pin-up girl.) Below her are printed the words 25 years. The camera pans out further and the audience sees she is actually a painting on the side of a Jet along with the words - Britain’s Flag Airline, Boeing 747-400 and Jersey Girl. The camera continues to pull back and the audience sees the jet fly by with Virgin Atlantic also printed in large letters on the side of the jet and then the jet fly’s off into the sky. Printed on the bottom of the screen is the Narrative line, “25 years, still red hot”.
Ultimately, the significance of the action is to sell the audience that Virgin Airlines has been “IT” for 25 years, they still have it, and we need it.
Dramatic techniques used are of alarming news of the miners’ strike, then muted lighting and muted colors contrasting with sexy women dressed in bold red sexy dresses and red high-heels, a handsome man dressed in a captain’s uniform, heavy rhythmic music in the background, everyone in the airport is dressed in gray, neutral tones, and lit with flat lighting.
Humor is limited, except that a fat man drops some of his sandwich on himself while staring at the group approaching. (This subliminally sends the message of ejaculation) Mostly, the commercial is surreal because everyone is so amazed at the vision they are seeing.
There is no narration. The only subtle conflict is flight attendants from other airlines that look disapproving, overweight and unattractive, and dressed in gray.

  • The Characters

Initially the audience sees the newspaper sales person and the man running from his car to the airport. Later the audience sees beautiful sexy women, a handsome male captain, and a variety of types of people at the airport: men, women, children that are employees or patrons.
The roles the characters play change. In the beginning the sales person distracts us from the point and the person getting out of his car is hurried. Behind him, however the audience sees the word Departures, which leads us to the airport scene. From then on the characters roles are clear. They attract our attention. People are attracted to beauty. Time stops, no one is hurried and all eyes are drawn to the flight crew of Virgin Atlantic Airlines. They are desirable.
They are light skinned, young twenty-something’s, happy, fit and smiling. They appear to have it all together. They are dressed in hot sexy red dresses and high-heel shoes with perfect bodies, makeup and hair. Their body language is one of confidence, sex appeal and class.
The characters seem to like each other, their jobs and work well as a team. The captain loves is thrilled with his being sandwiched between these lovely ladies.

  • Dialogue

The words uttered are in an English accent. They are, “Miners Strike, Miners Strike” drawing the audience in to find out the latest news. Then the audience sees the hurried handsome guy get out of his car. He utters, “Ya, but I am running out of batteries though.” He continues on with his travel plans and arrival information. This is still not the point of the commercial. It simply sets the scene and helps to emphasize the drama when he stops everything for the vision before him.
No other words are spoken until the end when two men viewing the scene comment – One says to the other, “I need to change my job”. The other says, “I need to change my ticket”.
Again the ad campaign is to send the message that excellence over 25 years is a constant at Virgin Atlantic Airlines. The pathos is the most powerful mode of persuasion in this commercial.

  • Setting

The setting is outside of an airport in London and then inside the airport. The significance of this is that they are advertising for Virgin Atlantic Airlines. The impressions viewers receive is that life is mundane and average for everyone except for those at Virgin Atlantic Airlines.
They are setting up a time period from June 22, 1984 to the present day. They are celebrating 25 years of red hot service. There are many props used throughout this commercial to sell this idea. The clothing, phones, hairstyles, cars and even eyewear are all from that time period. At one point a teen is playing the arcade game asteroids while another teen is outside of a record store looking at a 33lp record album rather than a CD. There are also children seen playing with the Rubics cube. These all help establish the time period.
The man catching his flight in the beginning is carrying a briefcase and wearing a suit of sorts. This helps convince the audience he is a business traveler rather than traveling for pleasure.
There is an overweight man with large sideburns eating some type of messy sandwich that drips on his shirt as he is in aw over the sight of these confident beautiful flight attendants approaching. The point of the sandwich dripping is that even this fat guy ignores food when he sees such a vision. It also references ejaculations in a subtle undertone.
The model being photographed is in peg leg capri’s and an animal print top reinforcing more of the time period. The model is also used to emphasize that even models take a back seat to Virgin Atlantic Airlines.
A flight schedule marquee flips stating on time for arrivals and departures, which further proves the point of the success of Virgin Atlantic Airlines.

  • Visual images and sound

The camera shots are close up on the man getting out of the car and the newspaper stand. Then a wider shot is used to show the word departures on the side of the building in the back ground. This sets the audiences’ expectations of an airport setting. Next the audience sees a tight shot of the business man’s face as he is distracted by the approaching scene. The audience sees a wide shot viewing the terminal in the airport. The camera also pans overhead inside the terminal viewing all the patrons.
There are 21scenes: scene one – news stand, scene two – business man exiting taxi outside of airport, scene three - entering airport, scene four - initial view of blonde flight attendant, scene five – flight attendants approaching while soft dreamy music begins then when the audience notices the beautiful flight attendants, a heavy beat begins, scene six – outside record store, scene seven - ticket counter, scene eight – Asteroids gamer, scene nine – several ladies in step, in red clothing and red high-heels, scene ten – police officers tipping hats to the flight attendants, scene eleven – heavy set man eating a Wimpy’s burger, scene twelve – beautiful sexy flight attendants approaching plain Jane flight attendants from other airlines (looking envious and disapproving), scene thirteen – viewing family and little girl running up to the flight attendants, one flight attendant turns and waves, little boy and father starring, mother is wearing sleeping mask, scene fourteen – departure sign indicating flights arriving and departing “on time”, scene fifteen – woman in shop looking at sunglasses, looks over her sunglasses to get a better look and captain raises eyebrows as if to say, “Hey”, scene sixteen – model with photographer’s, scene seventeen – photographer’s leave model and begin taking pictures of the flight attendants and captain, scene eighteen – camera pans to two male spectators, scene nineteen – two men speak saying, “I need to change my job”. The other says, “I need to change my ticket”, scene twenty – pinup girl logo on the side of the jet, scene twenty-one – the jet liner fly’s by with the words, “Britain’s Flag Airline, Boeing 747-400 and Jersey Girl”, as well as a tag line 25 years, Still Red Hot.”
The editing of the commercial positions the camera back and forth between each characters point of view. There are lots of quick cuts.
Intertextual elements include the reality of the miners’ strike and the subtle use of the seven deadly sins, as well as all of the sexual undertones.
Initially the sound is of traffic, generic city sounds, typing of the text - June 22, 1984, and change tinkling on sidewalk. These are all fairly mundane. Then soft music identifies a scene change when the traveling business man pauses. Quickly the music changes to a heavy beat as the flight attendants begin their march through the airport terminal.
If the audience knows their music, they will recognize something interesting about this commercial - it has a lot of sexual undertones – the song chosen to play in the background is Relax by: Franky Goes to Hollywood. The lyrics to the song reference orgasm / ejaculation. (The fat man eating the Wimpy’s burger has a timely squeeze of his hamburger and shoots ketchup down on his shirt at the same time as the lyrics in the song would be, “When you want to come.” This is subliminally ejaculation.
Relax lyrics

Oh oh, Wee-ell-Now!
Relax don't do it
When you want to go to it
Relax don't do it
When you want to come
Relax don't do it
When you want to come
When you want to come

Relax don't do it

When you want to go to it
Relax don't do it
When you want to come
Relax don't do it
When you want to suck to it
Relax don't do it
When you want to come
Come-oh oh oh

But shoot it in the right direction

Make making it your intention-ooh yeah
Live those dreams
Scheme those schemes
Got to hit me
Hit me
Hit me with those laser beams
I'm coming
I'm coming-yeah

Relax don't do it

When you want to go to it
Relax don't do it
When you want to come

Relax don't do it

When you want to suck to it
Relax don't do it (love)
When you want to come
When you want to come
When you want to come

Get it up

The scene of love
Oh feel it

Higher higher


The music’s message could be relax on our airline, but in reality it is used to titillate the audience and give them a heightened desire to be a part of the Virgin Atlantic Airlines team either through employment or as a patron.

  • The Viewers

Information viewers already have or know is that airlines are notoriously late. The commercial addresses this by showing a marquee indicating arrivals and departures “on time”. Viewers also know that airlines are in a competitive industry and go under or bankrupt quite often so the advertiser makes their point that Virgin Atlantic Airlines have successfully been in business for 25 years and are still going strong.
The commercial relates to popularly held beliefs, attitudes, and values as explained above - successful = red hot and sexy, seven deadly sins, fat man eating, teen playing video games, super skinny model, middle aged woman shopping, and the teen at the record store. The myth that thin and sexy = success is alive and well in this commercial.

  • The product

The product is a successful airline that has been in business for 25 years with no plans of slowing down. They still have it. They serve patrons of all demographics who primarily fly from London to the US and back.
The commercial does use stereo types such as the bland, overweight, dressed in gray with hair pulled back, unattractive employees of other airlines in contrast to the sexy beautiful flight attendants and handsome captain of Virgin Atlantic Airlines to sell their product.
After viewing this commercial the audience should receive the message. “If you are “in” then fly with Virgin Atlantic Airlines.

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