Sunday 25 February 2018

Dave Robbins: Ad man's shameless exploitation of all we hold dear is just part of Christmas present

Winter Wonderland: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Winter Wonderland: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

Roland Barthes was a French philosopher, but there was a little something Irish about him too. He lived with his mammy for 60 years and had the kind of devious mind we sometimes produce is this country.

His gift to philosophy was to take the analytical tools of linguistics and apply them to popular culture. Thus, he was able to discern deeper, troubling meanings in advertising, TV and media images.

In one essay, he masterfully decodes a photograph of an Algerian Legionnaire saluting the French flag. On the surface, the photo portrays a multi-cultural France, a place where the colonised Arabs can be patriotic Frenchmen too. But the image itself "colonises" the history of French intervention in the Maghreb. It glosses over history, smoothes out troublesome details and wraps everything in a digestible image.

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