Therefore, a certain candidate should be differentiated from another one.
It is no longer enough for politicians to have solid political platforms and to have experience in public service. Politicians these days need to have mass appeal and be celebrities in their own right. Sometimes, the competent political candidates lose out to less competitive ones because of the inability to recognize this. "To become a celebrity requires recognition as a star player in the field of sports, entertainment, fashion, or politics (Kellner 2003)."
Our celebrities today are not only concerned about their professionalism and their performance in their fields of specialty, but of the image they project and the way they present themselves. Politicians have turned into media celebrities and their lifestyles have become as important as their policies.
Style and presentation, as well as emotions, not only substance, are important. This is what Lilleker (2006) calls the "aestheticisation" of political communication. We're used to movie stars and talents being concerned about projecting a certain kind of image to the public. But now, even the politicians need to be concerned about their image and the way they appear in public to stay ahead of the game. This shows that the public perception of those who appear in the media are not accidental, but are somehow planned or executed.
With the seemingly large scope of the media and the limitless possibilities, the political actors and the media are still able to offer what seems to be a personal encounter to their audience. According to Nass & Reeves' Media Equation Theory (1996), people respond unconsciously and automatically to communication media as if it were human. It is possible, therefore, for the individual to engage in interpersonal communication with the media, however impersonal it may seem.
For instance, people know that there is no way that computers or television sets would respond to them, and yet they talk to them as if they were real people. A number of people think that they already know a certain actress or celebrity as well as they know their closest friends, simply by tuning in to the latter's interviews and watching anything with the celebrity on it. This very nature of interpersonal communication between the individual and the media could have resulted to extreme adoration or hate toward the celebrity. But still, more often than not, it is easier to make it work for the celebrity.
Based on these observations, politicians now opt to guest on popular talk shows. They want to seem like plain folks, one of the people, as well as to appear nice and attractive. As what we've seen in the former president Ronald Reagan's case, suffering from a debilitating disease or the idea of being vulnerable and human, appeal to the public. Reagan, the first president, who was an actor by profession, had a good plotline for his presidency. He advocated the triumph of market capitalism and the defeat of communism in the Cold War. Yet, during his time, the wealth distribution became uneven, with the wealth going upward, increasing the divide between the rich and the poor. His efforts to strengthen the military cost the United States a lot of money as well as the savings and loan scandal. But despite of this, his ratings were high. Perhaps, his economic failure was overlooked by the