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    The National Child Abuse Hotline (NCAH) Posterized in a Public Service Announcement

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    Lurking in dark alleyways, hiding behind mysterious doors, masked by an unfamiliar face, there exists a beast that is destroying the lives of America’s youth. This detriment to our nation’s posterity is child abuse, which, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is affecting “nearly 6 million children [annually].” However, despite this outrageous number of victims, there is a rising solution to the problem. The National Child Abuse Hotline is an anonymous, confidential hotline that is “dedicated to the prevention of child abuse.” (Childhelp) In an attempt to gain support for this wonderful cause, the National Child Abuse Hotline (NCAH) released a public service announcement featuring a juvenile girl, helpless at the realm of her verbally abusive mother. The sweet girl gives her neglectful mother nothing to be mad about, yet the mother is instantly enraged at the sound of her daughter’s voice. The rhetoric of this public service announcement uses logos to capture the minds of the viewers, ethos to capture the character of the viewers, and pathos to capture their hearts. Combining logos, ethos, and pathos, this advertisement effectively accomplishes its’ goal and compels the audience to support the NCAH through the use of rhetorical decorum, color psychology, and distinct diction.

    At the onset of this commercial, the innocence of the child is established, as she appears to act and play in a manner that is synonymous with the way that any happy, carefree child would behave. As the small blonde child, a girl who is probably no more than eight years old, initially appears in the lens of the camera, she is seen playing with her Barbies, a typical behavior for a girl her age. The audience cannot resist the rhetorical decorum of this preliminary impression of the girl. She is acting in a way that is expected, harmonious with the expectations of the audience. This girl captures the hearts of the audience by acting the way that they expect her to act. Henceforth, the fact that she fits the description of a typical youthful girl is one aspect of the rhetorical decorum, which is a primary contributor to the ethos of the ad. Additionally, the commercial institutes rhetorical decorum through the use of logos. While playing with the Barbies, one of the dolls breaks and the girl instantly runs to her mother to ask for her assistance in fixing the Barbies. Logically, this seems like the right thing to do. The director of the advertisement wisely appealed to logos as the girl used her brain to ask her mother to mend the broken Barbie, as any normal child would do. She reacts to the situation in the way that an average child would react, thus earning her rhetorical decorum.

    After she approaches her mother for help with the Barbie debacle, she is fervently ignored. On the phone, engaged in a conversation that seems to be significantly more important than anything her daughter has to say, her mother appears excruciatingly standoffish and pays no attention to her troubled child. For anyone with a family, this moment in the commercial is especially heart breaking, as the audience is exposed to the truth about the mother and her inattentive qualities. Pathos is the main contributor to the rhetorical decorum that is not present in this aspect of the scene. Most viewers would expect the mother to attend to her child and assist in fixing the Barbie, despite the fact that she is on the phone. However, the mother defies rhetorical decorum in that she does nothing to help the child. Consequently, the audience sympathizes with the girl because they feel bad for the way she is being treated by the mother. Through the power of rhetorical decorum, the audience feels bad for the girl being abused by her mother. Viewing this part of the ad encourages the audience to want to help the cause of NCAH in some way, which is the purpose of the commercial.

    In addition to the use of rhetorical decorum, the commercial appeals to the viewers’ ethos, pathos, and logos by utilizing color psychology. “The psychology of color is based on the mental and emotional effects colors have on sighted people in all facets of life.” (Color Psychology: The Emotional Effects of Colors) This commercial features aptly chosen colors, each of which cause the audience to mentally and emotionally connect with the characters. After the young girl breaks her Barbie and runs to ask her mother for assistance, the camera instantly switches to reveal a kitchen laden with brown furniture and cabinets. These dark brown tones are “…sad and depressive, materialistic yet prudent…” (The Color Brown) This color insinuates negative emotions for the audience, reaching their pathos in a melancholy manner. Seeing the color brown evokes feelings of sadness and depression, making the audience feel upset about the situation before any abusive behavior even takes place. In like manner, as the commercial continues, we see the mother wearing a green shirt.

    As citizens of the twenty-first century, many of us associate the color green with money or wealth. Logically, we associate the color with money, thus appealing to the logos of the viewer. “Green is a color that encourages us to want to own things and people.” (The Color Green) This information suggests that the mother, who is sporting the dark green shirt, is possessive and feels a sense of ownership over her daughter. Rationally, parents do have ownership over their children, as they are their prime responsibility in the world. The idea that a mother would be possessive and treat her child like a “thing” is detrimental to the child’s self esteem and it is downright abusive. The feeling of possession and ownership that the color green induces in sighted people is effective in making the audience feel bad for the child, appealing to their ethos as her mother sees her as a possession rather than an adorable daughter. The colors green and brown ignite strong feelings of disdain for the abused daughter, urging the audience to donate money to a cause that could help this girl seek a safer living environment, the National Child Abuse Hotline.

    In addition to utilizing rhetorical decorum and color psychology, the commercial effectively captures the attention of its’ audience through distinct diction. All of the lines in the script are artfully selected to produce as much of a response from the audience as possible. After the Barbie breaks and the girl runs to ask her Mom for help, she receives an extremely hurtful response. Her mother scolds, “Listen to me you ungrateful little brat, you’re going to start showing your loving mother a little respect,” followed by the mother forcefully shoving her daughter out of the house into a cold and rainy day and then slamming the door in her face. Calling her daughter a “brat” and referencing the lack of respect that the mother believes she receives from her daughter is abusive and humiliating. Seeing the way that the mother speaks to the daughter is heart wrenching and makes the viewers feel bad for the girl, appealing to their pathos as she gets screamed at and demeaned by her overbearing mother.

    The commercial continues and seems to fast-forward about 10 years into the future, exposing the daughter as an older version of the once-innocent blonde girl. The two females are screaming at each other, fighting until finally, after being called a “whore” by her mother, the daughter declares, “I can’t take this anymore!” and sneaks out a back window, breaking free from the symbolic shackles that her mother has chained her down with for so many years. Her proclamation is powerful and appears to be the end of a life-long battle that this troubled girl has had to fight. The commercial concludes with the words “How long will this go on without your help?” flashing up on the screen, a simple rhetorical question followed by a logical solution, the NCAH. Appealing to logos, this aspect of the ad provides a way out, a resolution to the lingering problem of child abuse. After being subjected to the way she is spoken to by her mother, the audience is urged to help this girl. The diction of the ad angers the viewers, compelling them to support the cause that will make the mother stop treating the daughter with such disrespect.

    This public service announcement is highly effective in terms of informing the audience of a serious social problem and presenting an easy solution. If people become aware of the National Child Abuse Hotline, they will be more inclined to use the hotline and donate money to help make the service more effective. The advertisement features various forms of rhetoric that, all together, make for a highly persuasive commercial. Rhetorical decorum, color psychology, and distinct diction are all examples of the rhetoric that appeals to viewers’ ethos, pathos, and logos, all of which make this commercial so successful at achieving its’ goal. After viewing this advertisement, the audience has been made aware of how horrible of a problem child abuse is along with a solution for this dreadful epidemic, the National Child Abuse Hotline.

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    The National Child Abuse Hotline (NCAH) Posterized in a Public Service Announcement. (2022, Dec 01). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/the-national-child-abuse-hotline-ncah-posterized-in-a-public-service-announcement/

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