Who are the Ad Wizards?

Babyproof, or Home Dangerously Sweet Home, or Expecting

March 25, 2010
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So after hearing news that our Visual Rhetoric class had to re-do our Photo Journals and Pictories, I was somewhat pleased. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like doing extra work. But I also don’t like not putting my best work forward. So we hit the reset button, and I get a chance to delve a little deeper with my fears and anxiety that comes with the prospects of being a father.

With this version of my photo journal, while infinitely darker than my previous attempt, I decided to add more of what Hall called “a disturbance that leads to disequilibrium.” My hopes are to use the titles of the pictures and the captions to shift what the viewer/reader may take from the essay. Of course, this is more an exercise in “anchorage and relay” as described in Visual Culture. While the titles are relay-text, intended to complement the image and relate to the overall message of my fears of the hidden dangers in and around my house. The captions are anchor-text, in that they are being used to direct the thoughts of the viewer.

Though I am still concerned with jinxing our prospects of having a healthy and happy baby that grows up much in that same manner, I do believe this story provides more intrigue to the reader. As Hall says, stories have a “totalizing force.” They are our way to expose our most intense worries and greatest hopes. Yeah, that pretty much sums up my feelings as I prepare to become a dad.


Phun with Photos

March 11, 2010
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Our latest project in Visual Rhetoric had us create a photo journal on Flickr. Mine, entitled Expecting, is my attempt to show the excitement, anticipation and anxiety that comes from making the decision to start a family.

Coming up with a theme for my journal was a little troublesome. But once I found a topic that I thought would be easy to document using a sparse amount of words, finding the right scenes and settings came pretty naturally. Even though no word limits were given, I felt it necessary to allow the pictures to do the majority of the “speaking.” Although, after viewing the slideshow without my captions, I am not sure anyone else would know what I was trying to communicate. The majority of the pictures come across as photos from a real estate agent trying to sell the property.

Maybe it was because I was allowing the world into my home, and I wanted to keep a sense of anonymity. Perhaps it was the fear of jinxing ourselves by talking about something you shouldn’t talk about until the 3rd trimester. In any case, I chose to use be impersonal in my captions, and strictly object-based in my photography. By taking my wife and I out of the picture (pun unintended) I felt more comfortable to telling our story.

The second half of our project was to create a Pictory, or a single photo and elongated caption that tells the whole story. I chose the empty bedroom since it symbolized our sense of anxiety and anticipation. Even though it’s just one photo, I feel it tells the same story as the slideshow. Though this may be more of a result of the extended caption.

Tooth in Advertising

March 4, 2010

In Sean Hall’s This Means This, This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics, intertextuality is defined as how works of various kinds make reference – often in clever ways – to other works.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the poster for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s latest movie, The Tooth Fairy. The use of intertextuality is in the headline: “You can’t handle the tooth.” This is a reference to the “You can’t handle the truth” line from A Few Good Men. The odd thing about this reference is that A Few Good Men was released in 1992, and was given an R-rating. The Tooth Fairy, with a PG-rating, is a meant for tweens. Which means the movie’s target audience wasn’t even born the time Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson were debating each other’s truth handling abilities.

So why would the ad men at Fox Studios decide to make a reference their audiences probably have little to no affinity towards and even less familiarity? Granted, “you can’t handle the truth” has become part of the mainstream vernacular. But my best guess is that they know it’s not the movie audience who will actually be doing the ticket-buying. Instead it’s more likely their parents who will be shelling out the $10-$12. These are the same people who packed the theaters in ’92 to watch the cat-and-mouse game revolving around Private Santiago’s murder. So while the movie has an intended audience, its advertising has a completely different one.

Another example of intertextuality is the expression on Dwayne Johnson’s face. For those of us who were WWF fans in the mid to late 90s, we recognize it as the People’s Eyebrow. It’s the same express Johnson made famous as the professional wrestler, The Rock. And while this could go unseen or unrecognized by the young movie-goers, their parents who watched The Rock take on Stone Cold Steve Austin in WrestleMania XIX know it all to well.