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date: 19 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. As the 1997 political satire Wag the Dog demonstrates, in our heavily mediated society, it has become increasingly easy to construct an object that appeals to our sense of the authentic. This article offers close readings of two key moments in the movie—the performances of the songs “The American Dream” and “Good Ol’ Shoe”—each of which reveals the myriad ways in which one can manipulate music to suggest an authentic emotional expression. Such moments, where the artificial and real are blurred beyond recognition, throw the notion of authenticity into doubt. The article concludes by suggesting an alternative, an authenticity located in the obviously fake and contrived. This “inauthentic authenticity” emerges most noticeably in Wag the Dog’s laughably clichéd political advertisements, which serve as a counterpoint to the narrative’s more devious machinations.

Keywords: artifice, authenticity, manipulation, media, music, satire

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