Monday, April 7, 2008
LIBERATING THE HAPPY FACE FROM SERVITUDE
It always offended me to the core of my being that the ubiquitous and innocent happy face had been over time co-opted by a corporation whose entire business structure could never turn that frown "upside down". I was relieved therefore to learn that Wal-Mart recently lost a McLibel type lawsuit where they tried to lay claim to this symbol in the hope of shutting down someone daring to take them on regarding their rather dubious corporate practices.
Regrettably, the happy face had long been in servitude to the corporation. An image that was once an innocent doodling representing humanities deepest longings had over time become synonymous with minimum wages and the peddling of cheap plastic crap. In a world where everything is branded ad infinitum it is refreshing to see that every once in a while there are voices rising above the glossy din and speaking out against the categories that are imposed as "reality".
Regardless of how one feels about Walmart personally, it is alarming when large corporations hide behind copyright laws as a guise for shutting down increasingly creative and dynamic parodies and criticisms that are surfacing in the blogosphere, such as in this case where a Georgia man posted an anti Walmart campaign with the following logo;
In the digital age where images are manipulated and information transmitted faster than you can say "low prices" it is not terribly surprising that some big corporation like Walmart are gasping to catch their breath and assert control as the media becomes (hopefully) more democratized. This is one of those cases that makes me feel hopeful and proud of that subversive human spirit that still manages to counteract the claims of the dominant paradigm that so many of us are encouraged to embrace blindly.
I know on a personal level I am trying to make better choices for my family around what sort of business practices we support. I have a long way to go with this still, though it may have to change one purchase at a time, or perhaps even with fewer purchases as a matter of principal.
In the meantime, I am beaming with delight at the liberation of the happy face, and perhaps now that he is free we can finally hear his sad story in full.