There seems to be a troubling trend in viral videos or ‘memes’ over the past few years. These three people: Charles Ramsey, Antoine Dodson and Ms. Sweet Brown, have all had air time through various media for similar reasons; either interviews about public disturbances, an accident like a fire or even for rescuing a missing person.
These are all serious issues and some even deserve recognition for saving lives, but the publics reaction has been quite disturbing. All three have been made into unintentional viral celebrities where various catch phrases have been extracted from their interviews and enshrined in internet culture. These catch phrases are portrayed side by side with extravagant facials or gestures.
Racism and classism is a difficult issue within humour, it seems the line is often blurred as to what is acceptable. In this case personally I believe it is unjustifiably ridiculing lower class African-American people. Morally one should analyse what it is exactly they are laughing at and reflect upon whether it is ethical. If these three people had have been white, would they have become so viral?
Myths are an important part of human society. The most important thing to remember is that they are constructed ideas which have been perpetuated throughout history. Just because the idea is in a sense ‘generally’ accepted does not mean that there is any fundamental truth behind the idea.
An interesting myth within today’s popular culture is the glorification of apocalypse and I have noticed this trend within many new release video games. I think this idea is stemming from a more common or cliché pastoral myth; the pastoral myth involves the rejection of modern society and a yearning for a more primitive society and a connection with land. Each of these four games above have been released in the last few months and their storyline revolves around a landscape which has been desecrated in a particular way, forcing the protagonist to draw upon primitive survival instincts in order to thwart an antagonistic society. There is no division between machine and nature.
This is prevalent in the imagery used on each four cover, two featuring a bow and arrow and all four an apocalyptic backdrop. Paradoxically this creates a certain nostalgia for an anarchic future, where power would be shifted from society back to the individual – Interestingly this pastoral or apocalyptic myth could be explained through a Marxist perspective and arguably have resulted from a disinterest in a capitalist consumer society. The myth seems to be euphemizing an apocalypse, as if it would bring about a second age of personal humanism.
I had an interesting experience on mother’s day this year. I was spending the afternoon with my family at the Langham Hotel for ‘High Tea’ (quite an interesting name for an afternoon tea; apparently meals now operate within a class system too); this was a new experience for me as ‘fine dining’ (there it is again) is not usually the norm in my life. I received a txt message from a friend who was asking me where I was and what I was doing, interestingly I hesitated in replying. I seemed to be succumbing to the ‘authenticity’ myth.
I was unsure whether I wanted my friend to know I was dining at the Langham hotel due to the assumptions he may make about my family or myself. Realistically where I happen to be dining has no implication on my personality, sense of self or my morals, but the myth that ‘being lower class means being authentic or noble’ has implications on others perceptions of myself.
Class system is something that is often addressed in the media; however the reason for this is often ambiguous. One would think that in order to avoid any animosity toward themselves, the ruling class would do everything in their power to detract attention from the matter. However this is when the power of myth comes into play and is used to cast a blanket of ideology over the working class.
One such recurring myth which could be seen as a way to subjugate the lower class is that of ‘authenticity’. This is the idea that it is authentic, noble and true to be lower class. “In Time” is a recently released movie (which I watched a few months ago) and a typical example of this ideology. The protagonist seizes a chance to transcend his place in the slums and takes a slice of the ‘high life’ only to learn that it is morally wrong to hold that sort of money or power and gives all his standing away charitably whilst also converting and seducing an upper class female to see the light and reverse her wrong doings in being upper class. This myth perpetuates the ideology which comforts the everyday working class in regard to their social standing.
Often times we see an idea portrayed throughout the media, be it advertising, television or the internet, in the form of a recurring ‘meta-joke’. This humour tailored for the lower and middle working class people pokes fun at the upper class. Within these groups this enforces the mentality that it is unacceptable to be considered upper class.
Some would say that this is an attempt of subjugation by the upper class; an attempt to calm any animosity toward inequality. In a ways it makes the middle and lower class feel comfortable in their socio-economic position.
One night whilst watching television (blue moon was out) an advertisement for a show titled “2 Broke Girls” displayed. I can only guess that this caters the ‘meta-humour’ explained above as the program apparently follows two financially struggling women in their attempts to start a business. I couldn’t quite bring myself to spare the time to actually watch the program.
An interesting result, or maybe even a ‘symptom’ of social class structure (one could argue this is exclusive to a capitalist or consumerist environment), is the idea of a ‘commodified self’. Simply put this is the process of defining oneself or others through material objects; it is the act of deriving the worth of a person by the monetary value of their possessions, be it clothing, jewellery, vehicles or property; anything that can be equated with money.
This photograph was taken on High Street, Auckland , New Zealand, whilst I was walking back to my flat. Initially what sparked my interest to this particular shop was its name ‘Prosper’, my most immediate thought (this was most likely the intended effect) was ‘Do I not prosper if I don’t buy from this clothing store?’, ‘Is this where the prosperous shop?’, ‘Will I become prosperous if I shop here?’.
If one is to look close enough in the bottom left hand side of the shop window, footnoted, is some of the brands the shop stocks, all of which are associated with being affluent or ‘upper class’ in today’s society (a quick Google search indicated I could purchase a pair of jeans from here for merely $500.00 or if I wanted to splash out a little more, a leather jacket for $5000.00)
What I found interesting is not the existence of a shop catering to the bourgeois upper class, but the implied moralization that one cannot prosper in their life if they are not purchasing items such as these; if one is not commodifying their self.
One of the many ‘interpretive perceptions’ one can adopt whilst analysing text is a Marxist view. Marxism is a broad philosophy concerned with political state, economics, socio-economics, class systems and the well being of the everyday self within society.
The video I have posted is from an artist I have listened to for the past couple of years. The theme throughout the majority of his music (particularly this song) comments upon current class issues which will inevitably exist in a capitalist society; be it the United States of America or ‘little old innocent’ New Zealand.
I believe this is a very important issue as society is literally the community we live in; it dictates both our physical and mental well-being as citizens in a society. Graphic Design plays an important role in either perpetuating or deterring class-ism through its messages and myths portrayed.