Robin Thicke: Media Semiotics

How do we interpret images? We often look for signs, then words and connect them to our own Ideologies. Now what do you think when you see this.

Perhaps not the best thing to see when scrolling through your Facebook news feed. My initial thought was “how outrageous”, this was also the response for a large majority of the internet. Many connected it to the degradation of women and domestic abuse. After the internet’s outraged over her photo, the photography came out with a statement that can be viewed on the website.

In Daniel Chandler’s Semiotics for Beginners, he goes in depth about when we view images, we use denotation then connotation. Denotations are “the definitional, ‘literal’, ‘obvious’ or ‘common-sense’ meaning of a sign”. Whist connotations are the “socio-cultural and ‘personal’ associations (ideological, emotional etc.)”.

The media we watch and listen to help form most of our connotations. When we all viewed the image, we saw a family sitting on the grass next to pine trees.  The mother and two girls taped shut at their mouths and bound with Christmas lights. While a little boy is giving the thumbs up the dad is holding a chalkboard sign saying, “Peace on earth”. That was our denotation. But after we then connected it to our connotations, we immediately related it to sexism and domestic abuse. why?

ICC Prosecutor Symposium: The Next ICC Prosecutor Must Embody Integrity in  the #MeToo Era - Opinio Juris

The statistics displayed on White Ribbon website are shocking. We are tough at a young age about the existence of domestic violence, sexism, and feminism.

These are some general connections between denotation and connotation.

  1. When we see someone taped our connotations suggests this is against their will.
  2. When we see a woman taped our connotations suggest it was done by a male.
  3. When we see two young girls taped, our connotations suggest it was done by a rapist and/or paedophile.
  4. When we see a photo where only the women are being taped and bound our connotations suggests that in this scenario women are inferior.

The imaged ticked all of these boxes and this explains the large outcry from the internet. The media teaches us to connect what we see to what we know by what we hear on the new and what we read in articles. Images can be read in different ways, but this image does not give us much to work with, it could be seen playfully but the issue is too serious and obvious.

How the Blurred Lines scandal changed pop

This is why when artist like Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell Williams create a song like Blurred Lines, heads turn. When deconstructing the lyrical content of the song, it becomes evidently clear the song is about rape… or forcing sexual acts on someone… rape. Blurred Lines is a funky song with an amazing sound, it didn’t just go platinum, it went 10x platinum and hit diamond. 

However, our denotation and connotations of blurred lines means we are not fooled when Robin Thicke attempts to lead us to believe the song is about empowering women, saying “It’s actually a feminist movement in itself”.

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