Show me a circa-2008 satiric political web video, and I’ll show you well-meaning liberal media makers who, more likely than not, haven’t had much contact with real people (as in, not TV talking heads or vitriolic blog commenters) who represent the opposite side of the political spectrum and almost certainly have never seriously considered even a moderate Republican point of view as potentially legitimate.
This is something I think we all know about the current new media landscape, and so when confronting new works of political media art, much of the work of analysis is automatic. It’s a video about Obama? It’s probably an unquestioning celebration of style over substance. It’s a video about McCain? It’s probably kitsch-wrapped critique.
But there’s something that seems just a little bit more complex about Braxton Price: The Price of Freedom. Produced by Titan.tv and described as a “partly scripted/mostly improvised single-camera political comedy show,” Braxton stars creator Aaron Nauta as a young robo-Republican hired by the fictional National Federation of Young Republicans to host a web show-within-the show “that makes conservative ideals cool again — and also debunks loony liberal logic.”
So far two full episodes of Braxton Price have been posted; each is divided into four or five short segments, so there are ten clips in total. The series really gets interesting — and funny — in the second clip, in which Braxton holds auditions for a “liberal mole” who can get his one-man Republican propaganda outfit “in and out of hostile liberal neighborhoods safely.” As a character, Braxton is a total cartoon, but refreshingly, he’s not a right-wing bull in a sensible liberal china shop — the other side is usually painted as potentially just as ridiculous.
A one-off clip works best when it’s staccato, a series of punctuation marks hammering home the same joke in different ways, but for a series to remain engaging, even a comedy series, characters need to change. Beginning in the third clip, as he starts interacting regularly with both his “treasurer” Malkin and Jed the liberal, Braxton actually starts to show some character depth. I’m a bit worried the Braxton crew will run out of jokes, but at least they’re compensating for the limited scope of their material by creating semi-real-seeming relationships between characters.
It’s still fundamentally a liberally-minded jab at the Right’s seeming inability to play on the Left-dominated web video field. But at the very least, Braxton Price forces conflict between conservative stereotypes and liberal ones, and when that works the comic friction is unusual enough to cover for when the character comedy goes way, way too broad (see most of the most recent clip, particularly the “quit tasing me bro” retread).