Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Iconic Images or Visual Clichés ?

Icon and iconic ought to be words used sparingly, but nowadays they're attached in some places where a word carrying less gravitas would be a better fit. I got to considering this when starting a scribble about ....well... icons. Cultural icons - kind of but not exactly. Legendary images in their own way, but really they're visual clichés. The images I have in mind are of things which didn't set out to be iconic but which have caught, and kept a place in, the communal memory of the public.

What set me on this track?

It was Alan Moore's birthday on Monday, he wrote V for Vendetta. Post about Alan Moore is here. The mask from the movie version of the tale has become well-known even to those who haven't seen the movie or read the graphic novel. Representations of that mask are now used by the Anonymous group.

The mask has become "iconic" or a visual cliché.
The Guy Fawkes mask is a stylised depiction of Guy Fawkes, the best-known member of the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up the House of Lords in London in 1605. The use of a mask on an effigy has long roots as part of Guy Fawkes Night celebrations.

A stylised portrayal of a white face with an over-sized smile and red cheeks, a wide moustache upturned at both ends, and a thin vertical pointed beard, designed by illustrator David Lloyd, came to represent broader protest after it was used as a major plot element in V for Vendetta, published in 1982, and its 2006 film adaptation. After appearing in Internet forums, the mask became a well-known symbol for the online hacktivist group Anonymous, the Occupy movement, and other anti-government and anti-establishment protests around the world.

Another example springs to mind as possibly the best ever visual cliché : Marilyn Monroe standing over a grating, white dress billowing up.
The dress is regarded as an icon of film history and the image of Monroe in the white dress standing above a subway grating blowing the dress up has been described as one of the iconic images of the 20th century
(See my old post about this)


How about John Travolta's white suit pose?

From The Guardian

The most famous white suit in the world, a classic example of the finest 1970s polyester tailoring, has been tracked down by the Victoria and Albert Museum after an international search.

The three-piece suit was as much a star of the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever as John Travolta who played Tony Manero, or the Bee Gees, who provided the soundtrack for the story of a young man who disco-dances his way out of the ghetto.

Bought off the peg in a cheap men's clothes store in Brooklyn, the suit was last seen in public 17 years ago, when it was sold at a Christie's auction to an anonymous bidder for $145,000 (£93,000), three times the top estimate. The curators of this autumn/winter's exhibition on Hollywood costume were determined to find it and put out an international appeal. To their surprise it has turned up in London, in immaculate condition, and the owner has agreed to lend it to the museum.

And "I'm Spartacus!"? I've heard or read this phrase used more and more recently in very different situations from the original (naturally!) It could be described as a catch phrase too, but whenever I hear it, my mind's eye sees the scene from the movie.

Any more?


mike said...

These are from Wiki about the last couple of elections:

2008 U.S. presidential election

Yes we can
I can see Russia from my house
Caribou Barbie
Hockey mom
Mama grizzly
Lipstick on a pig
Bridge to nowhere
Death panel
Going rogue
You betcha

2012 U.S. presidential election

9–9–9 Plan
The 99%
Food stamp president
Binders full of women
You didn't build that
Etcha A Sketch President

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks for those!
One visual from the political scene of that time I can think of would be Hillary's trouser suit. I wanted to throw something at the TV every time some late night presenter or SNL sketch or comedian uttered the words. Letterman was particularly guilty. :-)

Oh, and I guess Ms Palin's wink - and her nice signature spectacles.

mike (again) said...

I tried to copy-paste a couple of emoticons into the comment box, but wasn't successful.

Two over-used are:

I "heart" NY or I "heart" about anything else.

"Have a nice day" smiley face in a yellow circle.

There are several finger-action icons, too:

Middle finger - FU (universal!)

Middle & index fingers - peace

Thumb to index finger - OK

For a full list of finger action, see Wiki:

mike (again) said...

Well, looks like I linked to this page. Here's the correct Wiki link:

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes, icon has gathered a whole new definition with the coming of computers and internet! :-)

Gestures, hand and otherwise (Italians have all the best ones)-
are a type of icon.

The word has been stretched and massaged over time until it finds itself far from its original religious beginnings.

I'm not sure iconic is the correct word for what appears in my post today....visual cliché was the best alternative I could come up with, yet that has a rather negative ring to it.

What I was trying to describe are just moments - in film, art, books,life, music.....anything. Moments, or items, which have entered public memory and remained there. Moments which were never intended to be "iconic" but have kind of become so so by virtue of the public's reaction to them.

Another I've just thought of: Frank Sinatra's hat, with the wide band around it. A signature of sorts.

jaycee said...

Hi, my name is Jean Carrick ` and I have the same Vasey connections as yourself. The furthest one back is Thomas born 1580. I descend from Thomas born 1655 and married 1680 to Isabella Collinson. I trust that I have these connections correct, I took most of the details from a CD of Ebberston BMD. Would be interested to hear from you. I am retired and living in Mallorca, Spain.
regards, Jean Carrick

Twilight said...

jaycee ~ Hello Jean! Thanks for getting in touch. :-)
I will contact you by e-mail a little later today.