Oh dear, how inappropriate.

WestboroImage Link

When you first set judgemental eyes on this image, it looks somewhat staged or choreographed . It includes the classic elements of seeing children, our Innocent Impressionables, in a confronting, somewhat disturbing situation, with the vague presence of Authority not being able to preserve their purity. So, this what we see; children, text on signs, police. But what is the message? I would go so far as to say that what the photographer wants us to take from the image, or the dominant reading, is along the lines of- “look at how society (or society’s regulators, Authority) can do nothing to protect children from being warped by the evils within our world”.

However, you cannot assume that this is the only message that an audience will receive. All kinds of socialisation factors of an individual will have influence over their interpretation of this image. There could be outrage and exasperation from the homosexual community; frustration and embarrassment from religious groups or individuals that do not support the view presented; or indignation  from people associated with the police force and from those related to the events of the Columbia shuttle disaster. All of these personal backgrounds and emotional reactions will alter the message being received.

Additionally, there will be a tad bit of confusion if you don’t understand the context of the image. So, cue video….



Both the image and video exemplify the concept of collective ideology in relation to interpretation of signs. The ideology of western society today has an enormous effect on how an American individual, or indeed anyone who has matured in a western culture, will decipher the message ‘behind’ the image. For example, the evolution of gay rights in western culture will immediately make the western audience (obviously not all of them) associate the image with inequalities that have been overcome, or still exist, based on sexual orientation. It’s most likely that they will subsequently be appalled by what’s being inferred.  Alternatively, by observing the reference to authority and social order, it may make them question their collective belief in freedom of speech; should one ideological idea be upheld despite it violating another? If one matured in a third world country, where perhaps these social ideas were not prominent, these links might not be made.

So, to basically conclude, while we think we can look at something objectively, it’s next to impossible, because:

a) there is a certain intention behind every ‘text’, and;

b) despite the fact that we would all love to be inspiringly individual, our own ideology is shaped by our context and experiences within it.

P.S. If you’ve never heard of Louis Theroux, now is the time to open your ears. In my opinion, he is the king of controversial in the most subtle of ways.

Louis%20Theroux%20-%20Westboro%20Baptist%20Church%20revisitedImage Link

Used as background research/ideas along with my own, possibly ill informed, knowledge:

Bowles, K, 2010, ‘Representation and Textual  Analysis’, Media and Communications in Australia, 3rd ed, pp49-63

Sue Turnbull’s wise words. BCM110 Lecture 25/03/14



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