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#OccupyImages: Hope & Pepper Spray

The lingering power of imagery fascinates me.  I’ve been seeing the above Fawkes/Hope image all over Facebook.  In a recent article in Psychology Today called “Story and Symbol: V for Vendetta” (click here for the entire article), social psychologist Karen Dill wrote:

The Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta has sold hundreds of thousands of copies every year since the film’s release and has been used in protest against Scientology and now in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement [1].  The V mask has become a cultural touchstone, recognized widely to signify populist revolt against governmental and corporate tyranny and oppression.

Essentially, the Fawkes/Hope poster feels like an amazing and purposeful evolution (or recycling) of iconic and powerful images.  Shepard Fairey remixed his “hope” image of Obama to create a new visual that has become representative of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, speaking to Obama.  This interactive rehashing of an already powerful image speaks for a collective narrative, a movement.  It’s a layering of meaning that for me has become quite compelling.  Dill continues:

In a story like V for Vendetta, history and story are interwoven. This further blurs the boundary between fantasy and reality. The juxtaposition intensifies our experience of the story as meaningful and applicable to our lives. If you doubt this for a moment, look at the Occupy movement and see how the idea of V helped symbolize and animate real political rebellion.

The Huffington Post article, “Occupy Hope: Guy Fawkes Obama Mashup from Shepard Fairey” (click here to read the article) quotes Fawkes/Hope creator Fairey from his website:

“This image represents my support for the Occupy movement, a grassroots movement spawned to stand up against corruption, imbalance of power, and failure of our democracy to represent and help average Americans.”

Click here to read “Alan Moore Talks V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes Masks” on Boing Boing.

A few other circulating images and social snapshots really made an impression.  These recent photographs have been appearing in my ‘feed (There are so many recognizable ones.  These are just a few):

The other major meme that’s all over my ‘feed lately is the “casually pepper spraying cop meme:”

In a recent Google search for the pepper spray meme, I came up with this:

It’s everywhere.

The meme was inspired by the recent and tragic pepper spraying of several UC Davis students by police during a peaceful protest.  Little did campus police Lt. John Pike know that he’d soon be immortalized and permanently cemented into the collective consciousness, inserted into every possible painting, photo, and scenario, easily accessible via Google search.  Click here to watch the video of the pepper spraying incident.  NPR’s article, “Casually Spraying Cop Meme Takes Off” (click here for the article) said that the meme started with…

James Alex — better known on the Web as Jockohomo. The meme basically started when, as Alex explains on his blog, he remixed images of Pike in paintings like Thomas Eakins’ The Gross Clinic 1875 and Willard’s The Spirit of 76′.

And the image just exploded.  (See the above Google image search screenshot, or try it yourself.  You may just come up with a cop pepper spraying a fetus, a kitten, or a My Little Pony.)  This is the original photo:

and a screenshot comment about the original image, from Facebook:

If you’d like to read more about the power of imagery, I’d recommend the James Fallows article from The Atlantic, called “The Moral Power of Image: UC Davis Reactions.”  Click here to read the article (originally posted by @witwrangler on Facebook).  Also, click here to read the The Huffington Post article,  ”John Pike Memes Go Viral,” (just tweeted by @celierivera) & click here for Open Culture‘s “Lt. John Pike Pepper Sprays His Way Into Art History,” (via @mavemaven).




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  1. Stephspiro

    …. and Kathleen just posted this great link on Facebook —- > Variations On a Meme: The Pepper-Spraying Cop Tumblr - http://peppersprayingcop.tumblr.com/

    *awesome*

  2. Chas

    And here is an interesting story about the creator of Guy Fawkes: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/nov/27/alan-moore-v-vendetta-mask-protest

  3. Stephspiro

    This is the Washington Post article about Fairey and his own “Hope” sign, remixed: 

    http://wapo.st/tQ05Ydand this is the Washington Post article about the controversy the sign caused and why Fairey eventually changed it: http://wapo.st/ta9S0M


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