Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2009 by andrieaa

I chose to base my final assignment on Sarah Palin because I am fascinated that an unknown woman from Alaska was able to become a vice presidential pick: a woman who has no experience, and as a result of her political accomplishments, has been brought to life as an icon. I view her as a politician who was brought to life in a Frankensteinesque fashion-  the public has given her life in both positive and negative contexts based on their perceptions of her.

We’ve seen how her icon image is portrayed in the mass media in book form. For example, Joe Hilley’s Sarah Palin- A New Kind of Leader: Hilley’s book provides society with a look at how she is portrayed as a savior in society through relying on her personal life.  Through analyzing his exist via visual culture, his purpose in creating Palin as a savior is to provide a positive perspective on the Republican Party, post Bush era, and in some ways, to save the party from becoming a minority in American politics. It’s hard to ignore how the past eight years has affected the public perspective of the Republican Party.

However, the creation of Palin’s image as a savior is successful- until Palin proposes herself as an unintelligent individual, as demonstrated through the videos I posted. These given videos show how her icon image also proposes her as a danger in her influence on women because of her gender and thus, being an outsider in a man’s world. Palin becomes a promoter of a false ideology of feminism- know nothing and be pretty: be an ideal woman. As a result, her positive persona can be viewed as a negative. Due to the negative results of modernity, public figures, such as Palin are able to manifest themselves into society’s insecurities and propose false ideas of identity.

With that in mind, I turned to the Grammar of Visual Design, to help me decode Palin’s presence in politics, in both contexts.  I discussed how her image can provide dual meaning: good (savior) and bad (danger) through the interpretation and manipulation of the image. Therefore, a signified meaning of Palin emerges, since she is a concept of her proposed meanings but also a signifier, as she is distant from these abstracted meanings.

I started to understand Palin separate from her media portrayals, which drew me to McCloud’s article on icons for further analysis in order to distinguish how Palin is viewed as a positive signifier, and to discuss her role as an icon and her general acceptance in the world. I turned to John Friske Interpellation to explore how Palin as an icon is accepted: through social norms, icons are viewed as normal.  But how is her presence as an icon possible? According to John Althusser, ideology creates public figures.

To further my analysis on Palin, I looked at the structure that embraced her: the culture industry (as discussed by Horkheimer and Adorno), the main tool used to create a relationship between Palin and the media, is manipulation via the industries filters. This detailed post was the hardest to complete.  To relate Horkheimer and Adorno’s theories to media, I choose Time Magazine and Joe Klein’s Sarah Palin’s Myth of America. This article’s pro-Republican perspective created Palin as a savior who can be perceived as a danger.  To further discuss how and why, I looked at the modality within the article,  and how it plays a role with Palin’s public persona as it works as a filter within the culture industry and its manipulation.

After all this work, I believe it’s safe to conclude that Sarah Palin is a floating signifier and signified, as her public persona can be viewed in both negative and positive contexts. Therefore, she is both a savior and danger to the Republican party: both signifier and signified.


The Grammar of Visual Design and Sarah Palin: The Decoding of Politics.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2009 by andrieaa

Kress et al. describes this theory as a way to depict people, places and things combined in visual “statements” of greater of lesser complexity and extensions. So, the images of Sarah Palin portray a level of complexity and extension of meaning which plays out through how the public perceives her.

Sarah Palin’s literal image is therefore a portrayal of meanings, both positive and negative: “[when] metaphors carry the day and pass into the semiotic system as ‘natural,’ neutral classifications is then governed by social relations” (7) that develops through public persona.  For example:

This image of Palin is her “official” governor image, which presents her as a savior to the Republican party. However, it is one of the dominant images that provide many layers of meaning, given how the media has portrayed her by protraying her public and private as one. Her image appears confident, and dominant in her pose, her hair is neat and so is her makeup; overall Palin looks well put together: “what exist…is therefore more crucial for understanding representation and communication are the resources available to real people in real social context” (8). Therefore, Palin’s image becomes tied to a sea of words, creating a meaning attached to her image that allows ways which the said image decoded.  Our reading habits value how we perceive images – important to how visuals are represented to us.  However, this image would be viewed differently if we had negative associations attached. For example:

Unlike the previous photo, Palin has negative words attached to this picture, that provide a “definition” of her. Instead of Palin presenting a “well-put-together” and confident persona, she is unintentionally agreeing with the statements that propose her as a danger to the Republican party.  This image and its language provides  a meaning, and it becomes attached to Palin.

So,  visual  grammar will describe how to decode visual culture and its many statements. This photograph – the same as the one above, but with negative words attached, therefore creating a negative perspective of Sarah Palin. Previously, her image provoked  positive emotions, but this version provokes an opposite perception of Palin. The visual communication proposed here “has developed more freely than language, but nevertheless there is a dominant language, ‘spoken’ and developed in centers of high culture, alongside less highly valued regional and social variants” (4). So, when Palin is viewed as ‘high culture’ (re: part of the upper class society), her image is attached with positive seas of language, but when she is viewed  in an alternative perspective, she is viewed with negative language. However, images without text provide the viewpoints of Palin as both a savior and a danger. Therefore, Sarah Palin’s image, like the Mona Lisa, has been mass produced; as a result, satirical images are created and the original purpose of her image becomes lost  in their mockery. Therefore, the meanings her image presents creates Palin as a conceptual component of a sign [the signified] (Balick, 236) and also she can be a perceptible sign distant from its conceptual meaning [the signifier] (Balick, 236). Her true self (whatever that may be) is abstracted from her media image, which mixes the spheres of her public and personal life to create a public persona that is either worshiped or hated.

The next post: Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and Sarah Palin: Signifier or Signified? is slowly in the works, and will be discussing more in depth the notion of signifier and signified, stay tuned!