CCTP748: Week 5

The Grammy Awards performances always provide a great display of cultural semiotics:


Lady Gaga's performance is always an over-the-top remix of codes, styles, gestures, and references. 2011 Grammy Video
**Grammys 2011 Youtube site**

Some basic principles to keep in mind:

The meanings in a culture circulate in learned codes, and not in things, messages, visual content themselves.

Culture is the non-hereditary memory of a community: it's made and transmitted, not natural or organic.

Cultural is dialogic and always experienced as incomplete: we always add more expressions, works, supplements, reactions, refutations, interpretations, and more, to received and concurrent cultural forms.

The meaning of a cultural work is expressed in another cultural work (or works).


Stephanie Stroud

I started reading about cultural semiotics expecting a cross-cultural emphasis on the study of symbols and their meaning, and I was quite surprised by the actual content. To be honest I'm having difficultly articulating the distinction between semiotics and culture semiotics. I think the signs in cultural semiotics move beyond the realm of "functional communication" and into the realm of "art". Furthermore, the signs in cultural semiotics seem to be characterized by multiple mediums -- visual and spoken code join to send meaningful messages, and the messages have the potential to hold different significations.

The film Wall-E, for example, is richly filled with mixed-media signs. EVE - Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator - is designed to reflect Apple products… and perhaps cleverly named to reflect Eve from the Biblical genesis, who introduces humans to dangerous knowledge. Wall-E, in contrast to EVE's cutting edge technology, is designed to reflect more dated technology left behind on earth. The earth is portrayed as an unlivable waste-land, and humans are portrayed as gluttonous, out of shape and dependent upon space-age technology.

Many have argued that this film provides meaningful commentary on our culture and our potential future, should we not clean up our unhealthy habits. People feel that this story "hits close to home" in regards to our attitude towards "going green", or the technology included "looks a little familiar". The producers of Wall-E however, say that this is very simply a love story. Everything else -- ecologically, technologically, biologically and otherwise -- was designed to support the love story between Wall-E and EVE. So is all this symbolism the recipe for an endearing love story? How can Wall-E and EVE -- two robots who seem severely limited in their ability to use spoken and physical (body) language -- express love?

The music Wall-E plays seems to exude almost palpable sensations of nostalgia and love. The gesture to hold hands, while rudimentary, effectively symbolizes the robots' desire connect. When Wall-E and EVE call one another's name, they are able to convey urgency, anger, delight and much more. In other words, spoken language only exists between Wall-E and EVE to convey emotion. The result of the music, hand-holding attempts and "Waaaaalllll-EEEEE" and "EEEEEEEVVVVEEE" results in a brilliantly successful and satisfying emotional love story.

And while Wall-E may be a love story to some, let us not overlook that it may serve as social commentary of a completely different nature for others.

New day, new discovery:
This is awesome:

Brittany Coombs

Zack loves Kelly.
Zack loves Kelly.
Until I read The World of Wrestling, Barthes was, to be quite honest, going over my head. But that essay made all the discussion of semiotics, myth and mythology a lot more relatable. According to Barthes, wrestling is a spectacle, not a sport. (He echoes the sentiment of many a female who've walked in on a dad or boyfriend glued to the TV, inexplicably enjoying the sight of men in spandex wailing on each other with folding chairs.) But while today it's an almost comedic topic, Barthes juxtaposes wrestling against real sports like boxing and judo and famous spectacles like the Greek theatre to give us a sense of what mythology is. Last week, Benveniste made the point that signs are more important for what they aren't than for what they are: "[A]ll values are values of opposition and are defined only by their difference," he said. "Opposed to each other, they maintain themselves in a mutual relationship of necessity" (NLS, 728). On this note, Barthes is most effective at explaining mythology when he tells us a wrestler is not a boxer or a judo master. A boxer wants to entertain; a wrestler wants "to go exactly through the motions which are expected of him" for the purpose of entertaining (1). Boxing matches tell a story and lead to a logical conclusion; wrestling matches are a string of unconnected moments that do not make sense if they are arranged in narrative. Judo is about restraint and subtlety; wrestling wastes energy proving an exaggerated point. But wrestling is mythological for the same reason it's similar to ancient Greek theatre: It "presents man's suffering with all the amplification of tragic masks" (2) and gratifies our personal and social desire to see Evil vanquished and Justice dispensed. In wrestling, there is no use for nuance because the public only wants to enjoy the resolution of obvious tropes and themes they can relate to. In other words, we like wrestling for the same reason we like caricatures -- we "enjoy the perfection of an iconography," of seeing the world in black and white. When most Westerners hear the word "myth," they probably think of the timeworn Greek and Roman tales. The endurance of these fanciful, sometimes puerile stories -- many of which simplify complexities about nature and history -- supports Barthes's point.

But sometimes simplicity is good. Might not seeing the kaleidoscope of real life in black and white help us make sense of things? I found Lotman's take on culture and language very intuitive in this regard. While most scholars suggest that language precedes or influences culture, Lotman says that language and culture "constitute a complex whole," with each element needing and influencing the other (213). Without culture language doesn't mean anything, and without language culture has no structure. We need the "closed" system of language -- orality, photography, text, etc. -- because it assigns values to phenomena in the "open" system of the world. Not a new or revolutionary concept, but a logical one (that nicely ties into Benveniste's point about the arbitrariness of assigning particular "sound images" to particular things in the world). Lotman's discussion of culture -- a social "system of constraints and prescriptions" -- was also easy to follow. He says there is regional culture, period culture and group culture, and that these cultures are all subsets of a universal or human culture. But his most thought-provoking point is that culture is "the nonhereditary memory of the community." Like Barthes, Lotman sees a deep connection between semiotics and history. My favorite line from the readings this week is Lotman's idea that, "at the moment of its appearance, culture cannot be recorded as such for it is only perceived ex post facto" (213). Nobody realizes they are living in a certain type of culture, since culture can only be perceived retrospectively. I instantly thought of the 1960s in America: Did anybody ever think to themselves, "Boy, we sure are living in a time of turmoil, what with the sexual revolution and civil rights movement and Space Race and all!"? Well, maybe, but I still like Lotman's point. Culture is only as impressive as the longevity of its "texts" (languages) and "codes" (meanings, Barthes's "politics"), and we cannot observe longevity in reference to the present. I guess that's why the caption for every '90s-themed party has recently been, "Because the '90s are finally far enough away for us to make them a theme."

I should also say I found interesting the presence of some Marshall McLuhan in Barthes's philosophy! "Myth is not defined by the object of its message, but by the way in which it utters this message," he says (Mythologies, 1). It thus seems Barthes is criticizing mythology for the fact it puts style over substance -- or the medium over the message.

Ariel Leath

Studying Barthes in an undergraduate class was one of the tallest hurdles I encountered in college. To understand his theory of "myth," I had to force another layer of awareness into my brain. I had to understand that construction, the idea that something is built, has everything to do with its later impact upon an audience. A properly constructed myth leans heavily on the past and present of cultural semiotics from all cultures as applies to that particular medium. To fully understand the myth, then, is to dismantle the myth: to break it into pieces is less a process of understanding and more a way to convolute the message. Such is semiotics, as I am beginning to understand it: the receiver starts with the overall feelings and implications of the message, then proceeds to undress it slowly, peeling away layers and making piles of signs that have their own individual story.

Propaganda is an excellent example of successful myth creation. To dissect propagandistic images throughout history, as the intended influencee, would deem the propaganda useless. The combination of clever verbiage, thought-provoking images, and general ubiquity creates a package of heavy consequence upon the viewer. Visual propaganda has been used throughout history, well before print existed.

external image Pompeius-Magnus-Roman-Coin.jpg
Coinage circulated in the Roman Republic and subsequent Empire is a historical example of a visual myth. Every detail of the image and the medium itself create a package that transcends simple purpose and instead infects the subconscious, leaving a trail of influence as wide as its prevalence. A modern example of such myth are political paraphernalia such as the graphic images displayed on bumper stickers, pins, and hats. What became President Obama's "symbol" during the election was a veritable collection of signs as is the coin shown above.
external image ObamaLogo.jpg

The colors used, the reference to the letter "O," calling to mind Obama's name, the stripes alluding to classic American semiotics...all of this creates an image that, once dissected becomes no more than a graphic. To view it as myth means to appreciate its complete meaning, cultural codes included. There are many more examples from Obama's campaign that illustrate how cultural semiotics create myth, as well as many more examples from past cultures that prove how semiotics have remained somewhat constant through history. Though the methods by which we view these objects have changed, the cultural influence completing their construction holds true.

Reading Pattern Recognition introduced a very practical and somewhat subconscious interpretation of cultural semiotics. Cayce, the minimalist with an allergy to branding, spends her time destructing myths to find out what particular cultural influences make the general population tick. This character fascinates me. The fact that she is able to see past myth in every sector of commercialization makes her as dangerous as any fictionalized mind-reader, in my opinion. If, in real life, there were people who truly saw every commercial myth as a combination of elements destined to create a certain impact on the viewer, the commercial branding industry would be in serious trouble. We are blessed, as humans, with the ability to see selectively, else we would certainly experience daily seizures from over-stimulation caused by all of the presented visual stimuli. This ability gives the branding and commercial industry a leg up, so to speak, so that they may prey on our generalized acceptance of every logo, slogan, and brand.

I guess this brings me to my biggest struggle with all of our discussions of semiotics: At what point are we talking in circles? To deconstruct the myths around us does bring us closer to understanding what builds our world, our consciousness, but is it effectively detrimental to our understanding of human nature? The general population has no interest in tearing these constructions apart to abolish the myth, they only want the best deal on the hottest trends - all information provided by a series of myths. To understand them, to tear them apart is to be part of some sort of secret, in some sense playing a God-like role. At this point in my understandings of the philosophy of communication, I don't see how this gets us anywhere...besides climbing more ladders, and coming to more rooftops, and getting further and further away from the reality that everyone else sees.

Zachary Allard

The construction of museums has come under tremendous scrutiny in the last several decades. It is an obvious target but a fruitful one. Historically, their construction and arrangement was one of the easiest examples of bourgeoisie hegemony. Any claim to completeness in regards to one’s culture (or even more incendiary, other cultures) not only reveals the power structures at play in its construction but does so in a relatively transparent fashion that theorists can easily capitalize upon. It is an easy target but still useful.

If one looks at Western art from the Renaissance onward in contemporary museums, there will be the works of individual geniuses. There are schools and styles, of course, but the guiding factor is the name behind the work. Such work is celebrated as the highest exemplars of brilliance within a culture, eternal works destined for eternal admiration. As Clifford writes, this means that Picasso, “is not in any essential way valued as a ‘Spanish Artist.’” Without necessarily transcending the museum’s, “illusion of adequate representation of a world,” the Western museum at least recognizes that these are works of particular persons in a particular time and place.
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(A painting by Arcimboldo)

However, outside of the most contemporary works, Western museums tend to represent the cultural output outside of the West as somehow uniformly representative. Clifford writes, “Haitian painting is surrounded by special associations with the land of voodoo, magic, and negritude. Though specific artists have come to be known and prized, the aura of ‘cultural’ production attaches to them much more than say, to Picasso.” Of course, this is not a hard and fast distinction, particularly not for modern day non-Western cultures. But, it is still common to look at antiquities (art of otherwise) from non-Western cultures as metonyms for an entire people and place. The residue of “otherness” continues to persist in museums.

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(A Chinese Painting)

Museums are the perfect example of the myth-making structures that Barthes is so concerned with. As McNeill reminds us, Barthes is interested in, “what we accept as being ‘natural’ is in fact an illusory reality constructed in order to mask the real structures of power obtaining in society.” Museums barely mask the ideologies behind them, but they certainly make these power differentials seem natural and inevitable through their claims of adequately representing the world.

Suz Shenk

When I showed the book Pattern Recognition to a friend, he made an offhand comment that the sentence structure on the page I was reading was highly truncated:

"There's something under the bed. Black.
She freezes.
She goes down on her knees, peering.
Touches it. Her carry-on. She slides it out. Unzipped, her clothing wadded, bulging out.” (pg. 318)

(Spoiler alert if you haven’t finished it yet) I explained that in some ways, it mirrors the way that that character would have been thinking at that point, since she was groggily waking from being drugged. It was interesting that I hadn’t noticed the form of the sentences the first time I read that page, only the content—the signified. However, the semiotic structure of language plays an important role for meaning, and so often it seems opaque when you’re so comfortable with the act (of reading, of novels, of the history of form in books a la Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, etc.) My interpretive decoding of this aspect of the novel need not have been part of the author’s original encoding either, yet it provides a richness of cultural experience that only when named revealed itself to me in a self-reflexive way. What was interesting to me that it was only in "naming" the phenomenon from outside the reader experience , was I able to see it in this way. Which layer of the semiotic signification did this fall under? Was I past the linguistic sign into the semiotic myth?

In his essay on myth, Barthes describes a sentence about a lion, not a communicative message within itself, but a part of a greater myth concept—that of grammar instruction. Not only that, but we have to be in the proper “meaning group” to decode the message. As another example, the book cover image for Pattern Recognition has a repeated image in the background which I could interpret from the very beginning as a reflection on the title. However, it wasn’t until I completed the novel that I recognized another element – the “T” on the paperback edition – that became an important myth signification in the end of the book. Barthes say, “In myth, the meaning is distorted by the concept,” because the history of the myth is erased into gesture. The letter “T” is obscured now by the fact that it signifies something else--creative genesis out of destruction, in some way. At least, that’s how I interpreted it.

external image pattern_recognition.jpg

Siyang Wu

Barthes views signs as the artificial constructs and that are determined by history and culture. To be honest, I can’t agree more. Signs in every corner in my life show me how different is our culture from American culture. No matter judged from language, gestures, manners, or any other signs, Chinese culture values implicative expression, otherwise, American culture prefer a more straightforward method. Such difference is especially obvious in art field. I like to take a movie as an example.

When Martin Scorsese adopted the script of Internal Affair(released on Dec 12 2002) and finally produced the movie The Departed in 2006, he could not realize how great an example had he provided to analyze and testify theories of semiotics. Internal Affairs and The Departed are perceived as two version of the same story, “Two man from opposite sides of the law are undercover within police and mafia, but violence and bloodshed boil when discoveries are made, and the mole are dispatched to find our their enemy’s identities”. But they supply different social value. Diversity between two movies reflects the influence culture makes on signs.

Film scenes of Internal affair are more delicate and modern, both the police and mafia are in good suit. Polices work in clean and tidy office-room, police marshal plays golf every weekend. On the other hand, in The Departed, the streets in Boston in the movie are narrow and dirty. Like another American gangster movie, scenes in The Departed are real, and close to life.

The most moving act in Internal Affair happens when the police is killed, the color of this scene turns from black and white, while the cuts are going on, the memories of the police are presented. Moreover, the rhythm of movie is slowed down, and the sad music is on. On the other hand, the same scene in The Departed is lasted only 10 seconds: the mafia got the pistol and shot the police. It is prompt and effective. From my point of view, Chinese audience appreciate actors’ mental struggle, and moved by the ambivalent emotion. Meanwhile, to satisfy western audience, director attended to represent people’s real response in such a dramatic condition. Connotation that represented in a complex way in Chinese movie are appreciated. The more signs are cooperated, the more important the connotation is valued.

As a typical Hollywood movie, The Departed is successful. It is scored 8.4 points in IMDB. However, it only get 6.5 points in Chinese IMDB, Douban. At the same time, Internal affair is scored 8.1 in IMDB and 8.7 in Douban. The reason why Chinese people who always prefer Hollywood movie to native movie, appreciate the latter one has something to do with culture. In Chinese gangster movie, two most crucial key elements are the code of brotherhood, and the resistance of justice. Both of them are materialized and intensified by actors’ internal struggle. And thus, the nature of The Departed is evaluated rough from Chinese perspective. This example testified the significant role of decoder. It reminds me what Stuart Hall stressed, that “the role of social positioning in the interpretation of mass media texts by diffierent social groups”.

At the last, I always hold pathetic attitudes toward the communication and fusion between eastern culture and western culture. Impact put by history and culture on sign are too heavy. Even the same signifier could represent completely different signified in different social context. In Hall’s theory, “Where those involved in communicating do not share common codes and social positions, decodings are likely to be different from the encoder’s intended meaning.” This condition prevent people to understand other culture sufficiently, and thus put obstacle on cultural confusion.

Erin Coleman

I found Barthes’ essay on “The World of Wrestling” fascinating. A critical unpacking of the cultural elements of wrestling and its comparison to theater was not what I was expecting out of Barthes, at least after struggling through “Myth Today.” He asserts that: “There is no more problem of truth in wrestling as there is in theater. In both, what is expected is the intelligible representation of moral situations which are usually private.” Barthes’ observation about the public representation of private moral situations is compelling. I can’t say I’ve ever thought of wrestling in exactly those terms, but I found myself drawn into his argument and analysis of the sport. My favorite excerpt is the following: “he [the spectator] only enjoys the perfection of the iconography. It is not true that wrestling is a sadistic spectacle: it is only an intelligible spectacle.” I don’t know that the element of sadism is entirely lacking from the sport, but Barthes effectively demonstrates that spectators are after more than satisfying blood-lust.
In addition, Barthes’ use of the term iconography immediately alludes to religion and its pervasive use of symbol, something that was very much on my mind while viewing an exhibit of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs at the Newseum on Saturday. (By the way, the Newseum is one of DC’s underrated treasures, and probably just about the best cultural complement to this class I can imagine.) One photograph in particular serves as a poignant example of cultural semiotics at work, calling both on Barthes’ concept of myth as well as Cliffords’ examination of the treatment of non-Western art in “On Collecting Art and Culture.”
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What does the image above call to mind? How is this association complicated by the fact that the image is part of a series on the Ethiopian famine?
This photograph is effective precisely because of its allusion to the iconography of Christianity. At first glance, the image is shocking because of the shear horror of its subject matter. The mother and child are quite literally wasting away. Looking more closely, it looks like another iteration of the endless Madonna and child depictions, albeit a distorted, exotic, non-Western one. Having grown up in a heavily Catholic household, I find this image particularly haunting because of its unsettling similarity to the joyful image of the Virgin Mary and Christ. The photographer, Stan Grossfeld of the Boston Globe, succeeds in evoking an incredible sense of shame with this image precisely because it points out our hypocrisy. The fact that large segments of humanity continue to suffer through such horrible conditions is inherently anti-Christian, something that should, and does, evokes guilt and shame. By utilizing an overtly Christian image in his photograph, Grossfield condemns the viewer to a guilt-ridden introspection.
On an entirely different note, I wanted to include at least a passing reference to an article about Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest book, Tree of Codes. __
Ever heard of it? I hadn’t, and I consider Foer one of my favorite authors. At one point in this interview with the Times writer Steven Heller, Foer reveals that “the publisher is driven by the making of books, and not the selling of them. There were no review copies made, there is no marketing or publicity team in the United States, there will be no ads. The infrastructure that brings a book to the public is absent.” The book completely rejects the norms of 21st century literary marketing...what would Cayce Pollard think? Is the absence of marketing what transforms this book from literary text to work of art?external image PvYBhxfbIWbdi4hke22l5bmpXzqHMHIm5vlAyugn6FqXmWi5eRM7DpXG67NwnWb6a3FTyLLcFO4Ac2W5MQfd-Hm-K2uP8RnfvZEVL26ZgGI0O-ZPZfU
Everything about this book, from its physical construction (accomplished through the literal cutting away of text) to its complete dependency on a previous text, makes it an ideal subject of study in a class on media theory. I’m curious to see how the rest of the class would interpret such a work, and, in particular, which theorists lend themselves to its analysis.

Lily Hughes

Picking a cultural text to apply theories of cultural semiotics to is a bit like finding a piece of hay in a haystack. The problem is never finding an item to choose, but deciding which one is best. Of course, what you choose will never be wrong, I think it comes down to a matter of taste-- if you're a postmodernist choose something hyperreal and intertextual, if you're a gender studies type pick something that exploits sex (yeah, doesn't really narrow it down does it?). Since my area of interest is centered around popular culture, aesthetic value, populism (so many feelings), and agency, I haven chosen TV show title sequences. Specifically the title sequence of Six Feet Under-- but I've included a couple more just for good measure.

Let me start by saying I believe one of the greatest tragedies resulting from increased advertising time is the dwindling number of title sequences. Title sequences to TV shows are one of my favorite things ever. Seriously. I'm always slightly offended by people who skip through them-- even if I've seen them a billion times already. So why do I love title sequences? Well, because I love cultural semiotics! And the best title sequences are a condensed dose of extreme cultural semiotics.

Lets start with the bigger picture, how do we recognise a series of images, text, and music to be a title sequence? How do we know its not a music video, how do we decipher the text-- how do we know the title is the title and the actors are the actors?

Then comes the challenge all title sequences must over come. How do we know what the show is about? And the reason I love title sequences is they depend almost entirely on cultural semiotics to answer this question. Okay lets look at the intro to Six Feet Under:

So, instead of using linguistic semiotics and showing text that looks like this; "Hello viewer, you are about to watch a television show in the category of 'high quality drama', perhaps it's a little quirky in places. It is about family and death. The actors are Peter Krause etc. and the show is called Six Feet Under. The title sequence communicates this message through a series of visual images, which, thanks to cultural semiotics, the viewer of Six feet Under interprets to understand what the show is about. Six Feet Under has always been my favourite example because of the shot of the toe tag on the feet (about 26 seconds in). For some reason a toe tag on a foot means death, there is no question that the person attached to the toe tag is dead, yet the reason we read know this has nothing to do with death-- it's just a toe tag. This amazes me beyond belief. I mean without cultural semiotics we would assume the show was primarily about a tree, hands, and feet.

Anyhoo, here are another couple of my favorite title sequences. Note that we never really see the car that Tony Soprano is in until the end, we just know he's in a car. Mind blowing.

Guess Ad and Sturken and Cartwright's Practices of Aberrant Reading Analysis

What is culture? I like to think of it as an extended human phenotype, which becomes a constituent of ‘environment’ upon its extension. Borrowing from Telhard de Chardin’s concept of noosphere, Torop suggests that the semiosphere is the node connecting the sphere of human thought with the biosphere. Chardin also argues for the evolution of this noosphere torward an omega point via a kind of Lamarckian soft inheritance between cultural subjects. I definitely disagree with his Jesuit Christological emphasis on this point but regardless of what we call the ‘omega point’ there seems to be a telos of cultural evolution. But do cultures evolve or just change? Are cultures merely the Marxian superstructure to the genotypic infrastructure of human evolution?

Like Barthes, do we retire from the program of demystification once we recognize the ubiquity of myth? The impossibility of a neutral god’s-eye view of culture secures our fixed place in the hermeneutic circle of it, yet culture keeps on truckin’. Where is it going? The Frankfurt School and Marx’s theory of historical materialism recognized that cultural myths are produced by the Bourgeoisie to serve their material purposes. But what about now, in this many-to-many model that undermines the unidirectional model of dissemination? Will myths be relegated to language games and petit recits or can we imagine a completely demystified culture?

The majority of the cultural artifice consists of indirect speech acts, which Steven Pinker expounded on in the video that Stephanie posted, hence the perpetual negotiation of meanings of its artifacts. Signs purport to be natural so that attempts to challenge this naturalization and universalization of a socially constructed reality “(what Barthes calls le cela-va-de-soi) are dismissed for lacking `bon sens', and therefore excluded from serious consideration.” But returning to the telos of culture, many myths work against the interests of the culture and even against the interests of the individual in some cases. So how do we know which myths to dismantle and which to tolerate? (I have some ideas but would rather discuss them if possible) The study of memetics is useful in thinking about the mutation of myths. In memetics, the semiosphere is the extended phenotype of memes that use objects of the biosphere, i.e., human brains, for their own evolution. In this sense, memes are parasitic and don't care about host brains, which affords reasons as to why the behavior of religious fanatics seems to be counter evolutionary.

My application of Pattern Recognition: is there even a noosphere or is it a projection of the imagination, much like nationalism is? Is it an evolutionary hologram, a tool for projecting representations of biosphere, mirroring only the computations of the brain and discarding everything outside of the pattern that is still very much a part of culture as the characteristic and demarcating patterns themselves?
Similar towhat Britany mentioned, I think culture is a retrospective mode of prototypical categorization utilizing Wittgensteinian family resemblance methodology. The genera of brains trying to group experience into legible chunks so that we can master the biosphere.


Joshua Weaver

To start, I found Barthes’ “The World of Wrestling” very fascinating, not primarily because of any allegories between sport and theatre; but, rather Barthes’ blurring of the line between reality and illusion - reality and mythicism. The sport, the spectacle that is wrestling purportedly portrays in its entirety the “moral concept” of justice. Moreover, while spectating, the audience is taken through a continuum of emotions more indicative of a protagonist-antagonist novel or climactic play. Per Barthes’, this “grandiloquence” of wrestling does not seem to be a product of the sport (or spectacle) itself, but rather the escapist pursuits of its spectators: “A wrestler can irritate or disgust, he never disappoints, for he always accomplishes completely, by a progressive solidification of signs, what the public expects of him.” (p.5) However, while Barthes’ depicts the wrestling ring as conveying the most “intelligible reality”, I believe that wrestling can, indeed, be an affected attempt at using semiotics in its purest form, e.g., suffering is indeed represented by apparent, ostensible signs of suffering.

When discussing the cultural facets of divertissement, e.g., television, theatre, music, etc., it’s hard not to find a comparable semiotics environment. The idea that romantic comedies exists, or crime films, or horror movies for that matter, points to a certain incongruity in the encoding and decoding of everyday semiotic messages in daily life. Why does the bad guy lose? Why does the guy get the girl? Because these semiotic analogues in “reality” are much less conspicuous than their counterparts on the screen or in the theatre.

I found Hall’s reevaluation of connotation and denotation, as well as his tiered system of decoding, particularly interesting. Primarily because I contend that the only truly utilizable of these positions is the “negotiated code”: “it acknowledges the legitimacy of the hegemonic definitions to make the grand significations...”(p. 516) In many ways to make assumptions and take oppositional stances in a cultural/societal context, one must be versed in the hegemonic code. And, even if one is in total opposition to said code, the influences and impressions of hegemony have probably already laid the groundwork for one’s decoding processes.

To end, a fun YouTube video on how even the people who deliver our news and headline our media fit into some odd hegemonic form, for simple decoding and quick digestion: