United on the Controversy

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
Philip K. Dick

In everything we see in life, to understand we must first comprehend. This comprehension in turn is affected by our concept of reality, personal life experiences and personality type. Signs are a visual tool used to convey messages, however due to this difference in interpretation, the message may be warped or misunderstood (or sometimes completely missed) by different members of society. (Adedimeji 2004)
This loss or deformation of a message appears most frequently in controversial images. The “Unhate” Campaign for example, released a series of images of different members of society kissing. With the picture “United Colours of Benetton” As a case study we can see how the message of acceptance is-or isn’t- conveyed to the public. In the picture (see below) shows the President of the USA and the Paramount Leader of the People’s Republic of China kissing.

From this the intended interpretation suggests love or animosity between the two parties, and with both parties being of different races but same genders, is meant to be shown as support for people of all walks of life, regardless of sexual preference or racial background. The simple addition of “Unhate” is easy for most viewers to convey the concept of acceptance, and coupled with the image of two world leaders- both symbols of power and guidance- the point is given more force and legitimacy(Ravelo 2011).
This however is the ideal interpretation, and is not always the message conveyed to viewers. For example, someone who is homosexual or passionate about gay rights may see this only as a campaign encouraging equality for their cause- which, while is it, misses the aspect of equality for all members of society, pertaining to racial equality too. Others may find this image offensive, due to religious or social motives, and may instead react with an aura of disgust rather than the intended acceptance. This illustrates society’s ability to- usually subconsciously- pull apart signs to derive meaning which corresponds with their concept of reality.

Adedimeji, M. A. (2004). “SEMIOTICS: THE SCIENCE OF SIGNS.” Retrieved 25/03/2014, from http://unilorin.edu.ng/publications/ADEDIMEJI/SEMIOTICS%20%20THE%20SCIENCE%20OF%20SIGNS%20%20now.htm.

Ravelo, E. (2011). “Unhate.” Retrieved 25/03/2014, from http://erikravelo.info/unhate/.


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