I’ve had an email about the comparison of the Mr Snaffleburger to Fahrenheit 451. I thought I’d put what I wrote in here because similar topics often come up in emails to me.
My Mr Snaffleburger animations are a satire on corporate policies that attempt to restrict the thoughts and expressions of the general populous. By controlling the language that people use you can control the way that they think, and corporate advertising tries to do this all the time. McDonald’s current slogan in the UK (possibly in the US too) is ‘I’m loving it’. That’s not ‘You’re loving it’ or ‘You’ll love it’. By using the first person and the present tense there is the implication that a friend is telling you this information (indicated by the carefully chosen desirable people in the adverts) but also the text will be read by viewers in their own heads. The use of the present tense creates a kinaesthetic reaction in the brain, triggering a strong emotional connection to the advertised product. Think about eating a burger, now think about love, now think of product name X. The resulting combination is ‘Mmmm, tasty Snaffleburgers!’ even if you think that the food is pretty average (at best!). Every person who sees the adverts recites to themself ‘I’m loving it’ even when they know that this blatantly isn’t true.
There’s a system of positive thinking called Neuro Linguistic Programming (usually referred to as NLP for obvious reasons!) which teaches people to think good things as a way of getting the rest of the mind to believe it and make it become true. When you tell yourself something repeatedly the rest of your mind works out ways to make it happen. When McDonald’s get viewers to repeatedly read ‘I’m loving it’ they are programming the unconscious mind of the viewers to feel more positive about McDonald’s products.
The short version: corporate advertising is often pretty evil.
If you like Fahrenheit 451 then you really should read 1984 by George Orwell. It’s full of superb ideas about the use of language for domination of the masses. Books are one of the key ways that we can ensure continuity of learning between generations and are essential for our intellectual survival. Equally, we need to take control of our own media to highlight the things that are being done to us and to create our own messages. The internet has levelled the playing field a bit, so we now have a tool for mass communication available to us that we have to use to counteract messages that are not always in our best interest. We don’t have the advertising budgets to get our message out to people in the same way that large corporations do, but we are still in a stronger position to take back the media than we probably have been since the invention of the printing press!
I’m not saying that all corporations are bad, or that they are bad by their nature, only that individuals need to keep in mind their own goals and not bend to those that they don’t want. I enjoy watching films. I like science-fiction and comic-book heroes. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to go and see the Fantastic Four just because it’s been aggressively marketed at me because frankly it just didn’t strike me as being any good, but I have enjoyed the Blade films (UK link US link) so I’m happy to pay for them. We live in a society where we need to find a balance between keeping that capitalist structure running and ensuring that our own mental well-being is best served by our actions and feelings. We can’t trust everything we are told by those with interests in taking our money, but there’s nothing wrong with spending it if it’s on something that you genuinely do enjoy.