Saturday, October 13, 2007

Barthesian Analysis


Barthes talks about the concept of ‘Myth Formation’. The media, and other such systems help in the formation of myths through constructed images. These images are so effective that they become embedded in our culture. His use of the word ‘myth’ strikes me as the most interesting as it deals with a concept that we may perceive as real but in fact it is consciously constructed to make us think that it is a reality, in short, it may be seen as a constructed reality. It makes us ask the question, ‘where are these images coming from? , ‘who decides what to show, how to show it and on what basis to show it.’ He also deals with the concept of meaning making. This process is never ending. Barthes goes beyond the level of the signifier, i.e., the object and the signified which is the immediate meaning that object holds. For instance, a ‘chair’ is the signifier that signifies an object to sit on, Barthes goes beyond the level of the signifier and claims that another level of meaning making now occurs, in this case, a chair may denote power or comfort. If we go deeper, it denotes politics-power play and even deeper, it may denote misuse of that power or the principles surrounding a person in power.
Slippage: When meaning moves due to a signifier calling on multiple signifieds. Also known as "skidding."
To understand these concepts better, lets take the example of a radio advertisement that was being played on the channel Radio Mirchi Frequency 98.3 as a part of the cricket world cup fever. It goes as follows:
“Aapne iss band ko suna hai (Silk route song is played)
Aapne iss band ko bhi suna hai (Colonial Brothers Song is played)
Par kya aapne iss band ko suna hai? (Hoohaa India Aaya India)
Team India wristband
Haathon mein pehno
Toh kaano mein gunjey
The winning formula
Iss world cup no.9 mein 83 ka josh”

Level 1: If we start analyzing the ad at the level of the ‘form’, we will say that, here is an audio ad, talking about cheering team India in the world cup.
Level 2: When we delve deeper, we can’t help but notice the voice of the man narrating the advertisement, since there are no visuals. The narrator has a deep and DETERMINED voice. Thus, even the style of narration has been made such that the listener is filled with a feeling of enthusiasm, excitement and it tells us, though this is a game, it must be taken very very seriously. It takes us back to the euphoria of the 1983 win and makes us want it, a kind of a false consciousness. Since the frequency is 98.3, the radio channel indirectly proclaims itself to be the voice of enthusiasm when it comes to the world cup, thus using the rhetoric to its advantage.
Level 3: The ad puts forth the idea of unity. By using the word ‘team’ even though the listeners are not directly going to be playing makes one feel as important as the players. Thus, the ad also uses the concept of democracy by making us feel responsible for the outcome of the matches. There is no discrimination on any basis. So, every Indian wearing the ‘team India wrist band’ and singing the song about Indian victory is supporting and has the power to determine the outcome of the world cup.
Myth Formation: The most striking part of this advertisement is that, it has been constructed to make the listener think that the power rests with the listener. It highlights this new representation of patriotism that is for the youth, which explains the use of a special song on the world cup. This kind of hype may have been constructed so as to deviate our attention from more significant issues of national importance. The biggest myth is that cheering can actually make India win. By making the listener feel responsible for the Indian teams performance, a myth that the patriotic Indian derives his self respect and national pride from it. So that if India loses, the people too feel defeated and if it wins, the players are treated like God-men.

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