This media analysis is relevant to artistic practice in terms of learning how to dismantle (deconstruct) symbols in an image, developing critical thinking, and analysing regimes of representation. Mastering this will help you incorporate it in your creative process in order to better get your concepts across clearly to the intended viewer.
Deconstructing popular culture and media:
My analysis will be based on deconstructing the narrative behind each element present, and finding relevant signifier/signified symbols, that shock and influence the viewer into conforming with the self-discipline norms imposed by power/knowledge institutions. And in the end giving ethnographical examples to strengthen my theory.
The represented body here is a sexualized male body, that is presented as being attractive (in order to draw and keep attention) given the social norms and standards. The race factor (middle-east) plays in to the sexualized depiction through use of the oriental stereotype (sexual, volatile, irrational, emotional, instinctual) and is used to highlight and support the presented concept of, don’t be irrational, be safe, protect yourself from “disease”. Another element to take into account, is the picture on the wall representing a blindfolded man, the purpose of this is to get the message across even to the person who does not have time to analyse. The message being, the presumed state of illusion, ignorance, and confusion of the man who is dangerously not protecting himself from what is perceived as a clear threat (the scorpion, poison = AIDS ).
Some secondary objects we seem to disregard, are elements like the huge stack of books present at the far right. Which seem to symbolize the idea that you could very well be an intellectual, but if you don’t protect yourself, being smart is not going to help you “escape”. And the thrown pants, which are not only used in order to give a reality-like feel to the picture, but also to show the fast pace of which the detrimental choices are made. On the same note, there is the weird presence of very dirty feet, that seem to indicate that he has not taken the right path.
The scene is presented as clear, clean, white, and minimalist. The action is happening in broad daylight where everything should be seen “clearly” but is not, given that he is engaging in the dangerous act of sleeping with a scorpion. And so, the whiteness/purity of the room is there in order to contrast the negative symbols presented. To stress this further, the room is white: purity(light of reason, consciousness), the scorpion is black: impure (negative, evil, death), but the figure is mid tone between the two opposites, meaning that his “fate” is to be determined by his actions/choices (and so again the referencing of you and your choice, thus the presentation of the ideal self-disciplining individual).
They choose a male representation for this message because the female stereotype is passivity and temptation/attraction, and men are seen as the symbols of action. Thus, by using a woman, the image would have been read differently, the woman would have been seen as the victim of the scorpion rather than making the wrong choice. The position of his body was used in this case, to underline the action of (wrong) choice and (false) control.
The effect intended for this advertisement/campaign is to shock the viewer into conforming to the intended norms of self-disciplined sexual body, controlled and mindful. The effect it has on the passive viewer is unnecessarily violent and graphic. The point of this being, to create a psychological response of disgust through desire, realization, and awareness. The power/knowledge influence operating here, is the health institution of power, instructing citizens of the culturally constructed narrative/discourse of STD’s, by using their imposed position of specialist knowledge (which we are supposed to trust, and never question). Thus, they have the power over what is good and what is not, even in your private life (especially there).
An underlining idea, in this representation, might be that they are trying to regulate birth rate through the narrative of STD’s and protection. This being just a response to the over-sexualized body present in all advertisements, and commercials, that has had the effect of pushing people to want more and more pleasure, this campaign can be seen as damage control. This theory becomes very clear when they impose STD protection in married couples, and on top of that they do it even in countries where AIDS have not been recorded, like in some parts of Indonesia.
In the end, the scope of this advertisement is to create a response in the viewer through a violent image representing well-known signs like the scorpion meaning: deadly, poisonous, dangerous, unpredictable, gross, and scary (used as a metaphor for AIDS).While making aware, emphasizing, and reinforcing discourses of self-control, health, and hygiene. The effect intended is to manage the masses, normalize, and ingrain self-disciplining in personal life. All merging perfectly with foucauldian theory of institutional power, and specialist knowledge in the inescapable institutional mesh of influence.