Friday, November 19, 2010

It’s funny. Sometimes people take technology for granted. They just kind of get caught up in all the various sundries of life and lose touch with what’s important.
Now I’ve been seeing a lot of cowboys lately. There’s a movie, Cowboys vs. Aliens coming out (which looks awesome), I’ve been doing a lot of Deadlands lately, and finally there’s a cowboy movie on TV right now.
And you know what? The whole cowboy thing? It’s like, a hundred years old. Most of that stuff is set around the 1880s, 1890s. That’s the Victorian era, for those of you across the pond. That’s practically ancient history. Look at how far we’ve come in such a short period of time. It boggles the mind. I mean, we’ve walked on the moon. We’ve walked on the moon. Think about that.
You know who does a good job of expressing this kind of amazement? The onion. Look at this.
Okay, so yeah, it’s satire. Just like everything the onion does. But let’s take a look at it, shall we?
The image basically boils down to a fake front page newspaper for the late edition of the day of the moon landing. The headline reads “Holy Shit. Man walks on fucking Moon”. There is the oh-so iconic picture of Neil Armstrong on the moon, the iconic picture of Earth from the Moon and some fake articles describing in, perhaps not the most polite of language, the fake history of those few moments immediately after the landing.
Do what is it saying? Basically it’s trying to make humor through the application of contradiction. One would not expect that kind of language A) about something that we take to be a historical event nor B) in any form of press. It uses a contrast between an image we automatically associate as something historical plus a format we automatically consider conservative (or, at least, professional) against just the sheer irreverence and absurdity of the textual component in such a situation to immediately indicate that there is not only something comically wrong about this, but to alter one’s perceptions of the situations accordingly.
Think about it. The onion isn’t an old organization. They weren’t around when this actually happened. This is old news. So besides the laughs, which, admitably, it has some of. What message is this trying to get across?
It probably has something to do with the fact that man has walked on the moon and that that is amazing. Most people today take such things for granted, but if something like that were to happen today, most people’s reactions would be “holy shit!” or some approximation thereof. It’s a monumental event, and so by expressing it in the exclametaive form, the onion seeks to remind people of the significance and sheer amazement such an event should engender.
Satire, as opposed to pastiche, functions in that age old ‘telling the emperor he’s naked’ role. It acts as a means to educate through comedy. So the next times you worry about delays related to technology or are annoyed with how slow the internet is loading. Just think to yourself “Holy shit! Man has walked on the Moon!”  And the sheer amazement of the technology you use everyday should start falling into perspective.
Well, hopefully at least. If it doesn’t, just Google “Everything is amazing and no one is happy.” It’ll serve the same purpose.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Live Young.

Living young aparrently means drinking a lot of water.
Evian’s Live Young ad campaign, recently launched, features rollerblading babies as its primary selling point. What babies have to do with drinking a lot bottled water is anyone’s guess. While it would seem at first that Evian is trying, much like Pepsi has in the past, to make themselves more youth centric in the hopes that they can catch on to that ever elusive youth market, this is not actually the case. Instead, the babies are being used as to represent the idea of the escaped youthfulness that those on the shadier side of twenty may often feel that they have lost.
There are several different wings to the ad campaign, but I shall focus on a set of six print ads. These ads feature attractive people of various ages standing around wearing shirts depicting a baby’s body in such a way that the models head fills in for the baby’s. The models are invariably all holding an Evian bottle, and the Evian logo features into the top corner along with the text “live young”.

A look around the more subtle aspects of the ads reveal much what would be expected from an ad designed to sell water. There are six ads, targeting a wide variety of North American demographics, each featuring attractive models. The most prominent colors in each of the pictures are blue, peach and white. In many cases there is some accessory, such as a blue bracelet or bandana, which further emphasises this. These colors, of course, correspond to the colors of the Evian logo and bottle; blue, white, pink. The blue and white creates a very cold effect which dominates heavily, something clearly desired when selling cold beverages, and the skin tone is often sufficiently dwarfed by the white of the background and clothing that it presents itself as a compliment color rather than a major focus while still managing to create a very effective and eye catching contrast.
The important visual element here though is the illusion created of the baby with the model’s head, or the model with the baby’s body, depending on how you want to view it. This, of course, stands as a metaphor for the ad campaign’s slogan, live young. It implies that while the person is Cleary not a child, by drinking Evian water, they can have a youthful body. Again, this is metaphoric. The baby is not being used as a baby in the literal sense. They are not saying that drinking Evian gives you the body of a baby, weak and feeble, but rather that drinking Evian gives you the metaphorical youth. The baby is being used as a symbol for youth that can still apply no matter what the viewer’s age. This use of symbolism is very effective as not only are babies rarely used in advertisements except as attention grabbers, but also because it manages to prove such a wide catching symbol in its own rights.
The advertisement goes back to Evian’s roots, as one of their first advertisements featured strangely CGIed roller skating babies. This can be seen as a nice little in-joke for those who are familiar with the company’s long history.
Traditionally, the idea of having the body of a baby, or trying to be more like a baby, or even (if one misinterprets the ads) a baby trying to be older, would prove difficult to sell. These ads do a remarkable job of it though through their effective use of contrast. By eliminating the baby’s head and instead creating a stark disconnect when a full grown adult’s head is where we would expect the baby’s head, the advertisement no longer focuses so much on the idea of infants, freeing the symbol to be used as the advertisers intended.
The campaign, while having its problems, certainly does a lot of things right, and stands as a solid example of what can happen when risks are taken with metaphoric imagery and the hilarious use of t-shirt design.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just... eugh...

You know what else is disturbing?
I don’t know how to imbed youtubes, so have an elegant and finely-crafted link instead. -
Okay, so apparently this is French.
I’m just going to dive right into this.
Starts off with an anthropmorphic deer of some sort on a swing. Simple enough.  Verdant field, lots of color (mostly green, but bright) relatively simple stuff for an add featuring apparently an animal. Then a bear shows up and goes to attack it… except no, he’s just here to steal the deer’s juice. He pours it on the ground, flowers appear… and then things start to go a bit wonky.
The flowers are apparently mandragora or something, since they’re shaped like women. The bear offers the flower, the deer gets a bit intimate, and swings back to land on a bed of the flowers (which have conveniently repositioned themselves)
Cut to… poledancing flamingos. Because, hey, why not?
Suddenly the forest is apparently a strip joint. The chairs are big oranges, there is some kind of hideous octopus lady in a bikini pouring drinks (orange juice, the product being sold). The deer gets jealous, and puts on a stipshow to prove she’s hotter, I guess. There are apparently hermaphroditic peacocks performing as background singers, since I’m pretty sure only male peacocks have the tails like that.
The bear gets up to do his only dance thing... he slides through a row of zebra’s legs…
Look, it’s a really weird commercial, okay?
And I feel dirty just having seen it. So lets analyze it. This is another example of sex sells. Pretty plain and simple. I suppose they could be trying to market to the furry crowd with this, but the way I figure it, having animals instead of real people just lets them get away with so much more due to cartoonishness. Ties into the theme of ‘natural’ness as well. Thank god they didn’t draw the link between natural and o’naturel.
But why did they go this path? What argument are they trying to construct with this… thing.
Everything in the clip screams adult. This isn’t normally something you would expect out of something with animals, but it pretty thouroughly does. What’s the association then? Well, if this is all adult, then clearly the beverage in question must be adult as well. That’s right! Orange juice isnt just for kids anymore, now its for… stripper… animal bear… people…
Well, now its for adults, anyway. They seem to use the orange juice as a standin for champaign too, so by linking it with an alcoholic beverage they further associate that its not something for kids. Though it is france, so that might not be culturally accurate.
Other ads in the campaign continue the theme of really creepily suggestive animal people using the juice as a stand in for something only adults would use, such as a mountain lion (I think), using it as aftershave. The ad ends with the lions gay lover/roommate/hilariously-naked-stranger stroking his chin seductively.
So whats the moral of the story?
Don’t drink orange juice in france.
You have no idea where it’s been.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Evony and Irony.

Okay internet. What the hell? Seriously? What the hell.
Look at this.
See this? I actually navigated away from the page accidentally after seeing this. I just couldnt believe it. I sat there trying to refresh until it showed up again for like, ten minutes before seeing the "browse all ads" link.
Seriously? What the hell?

Okay, upon further investigation, this is actually a parody. The poor spelling should have given it away. Good job, . You got me. I mean, who in their right mind would...

Ah. Right.
Okay, well. Lets talk about this shall we?
Actually, there isnt really a lot to talk about.
This is "Sex sells" plain and simple. I mean, everything about it is designed to suggest that playing this game will lead to sex one way or the other. After all, ads tend to have some sort of representation regarding their product right? So a game advertised with a with... well... /that/ is sure to feature a fair amount of it, right?
Well. Wrong. The game plays like a bad civ clone. But you're not liable to know that before giving it a shot. Also, its mostly spyware, so, yeah. Don't download it.
You'll notice how the actual name of the game is in this tiny little text up in the corner. Apparently thats where their priorities lie. They don't care at all that you know the games name. All they care about is getting you to start playing it. After all, why would they want to distract people with something like brand identity when they could just feature sex for half an ad?
The text on this one is surprisingly tame compared to some of the later ones in the campaign. "Start your journey now, my lord". Of course imediatly implies a master-servent relationship. This woman, it says, will be at your beck and call. Its actually kind of ironic that this is the closest thing to actually representing what goes on in the game, since you do play as a king or lord of some sort.
Start your journey, I'll give you, is pretty tame. Later ones say "Join the fun" which is a lot more suggestive, but it stil implies that playing this game will set you down the road to bed the pictured model.
Finally, "Unnoticeable Now" at the bottom there. I don't know whether they were trying to imply that you could run it at the office without people seeing it or what, but it seems to suggest that discresion is the sort of thing you'd want to be evoking when playing it. Perhaps you should close those blinds, get a bit more privacy. That sort of thing.
Regardless. The end result is just... uhg. Everything about this ad just says 'sex'. It barely even promotes a product. All it wants is to draw in links. Thats one of the problems with  internet advertising I suppose. In the end it doesnt really matter how much exposure an ad gets. All that really matters is how many people actually follow through.
Oh, and in case your interested, here's the evolution of the advertisment campaign.
Scary stuff.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Funny thing. There isn't any paper in the star wars canon. It’s true, look it up.

That doesn’t stop Penny Arcade artist Mike 'Gabe' Krahulik from wondering what their political cartoons might be like though.
Okay, granted, I don't know if this really counts as a 'proper' political cartoon. It’s a satire, after all, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t layers to it, by gum!

Let’s start out by looking at the context of the image itself. It was posted in Gabe's blog at on June 7th 2010. Supposedly the idea just kind hit him in the middle of the night. Gabe's a pretty big Star Wars fan, and he's more than familiar with the extended continuity, so I trust that he knows what he's talking about with regards to the politics of star wars at least.

Of course that’s not the context the image itself presents. No, it presents itself as part of the fictional Coruscant Gazette, by a droid by the name of R2N5.

Okay, so the comic itself. There are layers here. First layer, the surface. It’s the Death star blowing up a planet. The death star is labeled 'wasteful military spending', the beam is labelled 'imperial aggression' and the planet getting blown up is labeled 'galactic stability'.
So what can we take from that? Well, clearly R2N5 is trying to tell us that the death star is emblematic of how the empire's over-the-top military spending and eagerness to bring their weapons to bear is a threat to galactic stability.

But that's not what it's actually about. We need to kick the level of abstraction up a level here.

On a higher level what Gabe is trying to say here is that what we see and take for granted in a movie is not necessarily the end all be all of the situation. Yes, the Empire in star wars was evil, but it’s still a galactic empire. It has good people working for it. It has to consider politics. Darth Vader can't be everywhere, force choking everyone who disagrees with him. No matter how we, the viewers see the Empire, it still has to raise money to build its death star, it still has citizens who are unhappy with the way things are being run, writing political commentary in the newspapers.
There are two sides in every story, in other words, and just because the media portrays people a certain way, regardless of how accurate that portrayal may be, doesn’t mean that there aren't others who see things a bit differently.

What was to Luke Skywalker an evil empire, was, to the people of Coruscant, basically the bush administration.

Also, R2N5, assumedly a member of the R2 series, would be an astromech droid.  So just try to imagine R2-D2 with a paintbrush. Hilarious.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hello World, and welcome to my blog.

For those of you who are unaware, this blog exists as a medium through which I can analyze examples of visual rhetoric in such a manner that my worldly peers and superiors can render judgements and accolades down upon me without me having to print 6 billion pages off and distribute them worldwide.
So basically I'm going to post some pictures and talk about them all smart-like.

We’ll start out with something simple; a picture that expresses something about me as an individual. Ready? Bam!

Ok, this is... well, this is a parking lot. But it’s not just any parking lot! It’s a rainbow parking lot.

So... hmmm. Yeah. It doesn’t seem like much, does it?

Well this image means a lot to me. I found this on the Traditional Games board of 4chan a while back, so I have no clue who took it or altered it, but I occasionally pull it out when I need inspiration for my writing.
See, I'm the kind of person who likes to play around with the idea that there is this whimsy, just this little bit of wonder, lurking everywhere just below the surface of reality. I believe that those who look can find all sorts of fantastic and wonderful things. This picture pretty much reflects this to a tee. Yes, it’s a parking lot, but by making it a rainbow it becomes a fantastic parking lot, an ephemeral thing, as though from a dream or fairy tale. There connotations involved with the dark and stormy night, or even the grey and foggy night, and they are still there, the shape still looks sinister and the striking symatry still drives this home; but rather than just being something of horror, the bright colors allude to their being something friendly or perhaps playful in the night as well. It’s a combination of being very creepy and very inviting and that sort of theme calls to me as a writer.

So there you have it. A taste of things to come. A picture blag on the internets. Stay tuned!