Monday, February 23, 2015
The Bleat Goes In, # 3: Some Semiotics
The early, influential French semiotics guy, Roland Barthes, made something of a career of apprehending fleeting cultural phenomena and interrogating them to attempt to reveal the deeper systems of signification they both convey and constitute.
That the police in the metropolis of Harlan, Kentucky, had issued an arrest warrant for Elsa, the cartoon character from the Disney hit Frozen, in connection with the unprecedented, freezing, snowy winter weather in the region is such a phenomenon, I think. Barthes might have been intrigued. In his vocabulary, the arrest warrant is a symbol of the present wish to dispel winter, but of a deeper awareness and denial of complicity in the complaint..
First, probably, he'd have noted the ubiquity of Disney imagery in the landscape of our general popular imagination, it's given-ness, and perhaps speculated upon the corpoRat colonization of the mind's collective eye. Eco, too, has commented on the implications of such immersion; he called it "Disneyfication" in Travels in Hyper--Reality.
And then he might have turned to the 'joke': the deliberately comic conceit that 'the weather' might be capable of being arrested. it being a subtle allusion to the charge that is is ONLY weather that is changing, and the extension of the false equivalence, frequently indulged in by the deniers, that climate and weather are the same.
Which, our deceased semiotician might have postulated, could be seen as a trivialization of the severity of the changes that impending, and apparently faster approaching catastrophic climate change than had previously been indicated, would certainly include.
He might then have digressed: We never tire of naming the elements; to name them, we think, is to exert some control. We call the wind Mariah; now the cold is called Elsa.
And then he might have concluded by suggesting that--if not the--at least some of the real culprits for the recent climactic plagues to befall the region--Harlan County, KY--could be traced directly to the coal that provided the livelihoods (and identities) to so many of those whom the cold now so sore afflicted.
I know some folks'd say that reminds 'em a little of Karma...We can chat about it when i see ya at the beach. Paz, hippies.