Tom Hanks Performance - Democracy Dies in Darkness

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The sound of a jet flyby, the sound of a Laser-Guided Bomb colliding with the ground and the smooth, stern voice of Tom Hanks as visual stills of recent American history aren’t the typical sounds and visuals you would witness during a Super Bowl. This sounds more like a Michael Bay movie trailer than a Super Bowl advertisement; which is exactly why the Washington Post chose this particular scene to put in their advertisement. Immediately the ad sets a very harsh and anticipatory tone with the use of those devices; which is the feeling that The Washington Post wants the viewers to associate with their network, along with regaining the trust of the American people that has recently been lost.

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The Washington Post’s credibility has been under very heavy fire from the majority of the executive branch of government recently, being labeled as “Fake News”. No matter your feelings on the president, the fact is: the more he claims they’re fake news, the more the Washington Post’s ratings drop. To retaliate president Trump’s accusations, The Washington Post made this commercial presented in the most watched event in the nation, using heavy Ethos that attempts to make the 98 million Americans watching the Super Bowl feel more trusting towards them.

The advertisement goes on to portray many historic photos including pictures of Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights speech to the American flag being placed on the moon which serve to invoke a feeling of patriotism that the majority of Americans have which is another ideal in which the Washington Post aspires to have the viewers associate with their articles.

At the same time Tom Hanks has a dramatic pause in between each new picture and rhymes ‘rights’ and ‘heights’ during his monologue, which makes his message much easier to listen to, drawing the listeners attention further. The soundtrack continues to intensify until the photograph changes to a Presidential funeral when the music’s tone slightly changes to match the somber attitude of the photo. At the same time directly after Tom Hanks said ‘heights’ with the moon landing on screen it changed to the funeral which served to contrast the ‘height’ of the moon landing with the with the ‘lows’ associated with funerals. All together this portion changes the viewers emotion from being triumphant to a state of sadness and mourning.

The commercial then goes on to portray the California wildfires, and with Tom Hanks pushing a sense of unity upon the viewers which is further strengthened by a picture of the Oklahoma City Bombings followed by sirens with a picture of some first responders with a camera, representing journalists and reporters. At the end of the sequence the music changes back to a proud tone which all together pushes a message that we can overcome whatever evils come upon our country and that media such as The Washington Post is key in that process.

The advertisement attempts to hit the point home with the music further intensifying showing the Journalists of the Washington Post in very dangerous, abnormal situations doing their job, reporting the news. The purpose of which is to try and rebuild the American trust that has been lost through the unofficial anti-media campaign launched by the executive branch.

While I was evaluating the ad, I tried to see if the ad it was effective to the American people. When I typed in the title of the video to YouTube to evaluate it, I went to the first thumbnail that popped up and noticed that it has 1.3 million views. I looked a little closer and saw that it had 13,000 likes but also 12,000 dislikes. I read some of the comments and almost all of them were negative. One user had said: “I am just absolutely disgusted at the mindset of journalists thinking they are ivory tower individuals who are above accountability. They act like nobility, everything they do is perfect and we all have to take it in without protest. Please, the media is a state of cancerous metastasis with this type of thinking, I hate the self-aggrandizement when in reality you are just a bunch of degenerates who are overpaid to lie to the public. GO AWAY. ”

The advertisement was a very emotional video portraying some of the worst events in American history as well as some of the most triumphant moments in American history. Despite their efforts to appeal to the American people (spending around $20,000,000 on a 60 second commercial) it looks as if trying to appeal to the American people through emotion isn’t going to cut it. Perhaps a more logical approach will repair trust in the media.


  1. “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Performance by Tom Hanks, The Washington Post, WP Company, 3 Feb. 2019,

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