Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Anti-Smoking Swanephant

So this is a thing:


It doesn’t want you to smoke. Apparently. Though it’s also smoking, so you could argue that it’s just pissing itself off, a sort of ouroboros of expectation and self-defeat. According to No-sword, the symbol, which is part of a Japanese anti-smoking campaign, is kind of a visual pun on the similarity between the Japanese words for “swan” and “elephant” as well as the word for “elephant” and a particle connoting emphasis and determination. End result: something that translates to “Non-smokers shouldn’t have to smoke” but which is graphically represented by this weird elephant-swan hybrid in which the latter’s face seems to be penetrated by the swan’s… stem. And the elephant looks none-too-pleased about it. No-sword unpacks it further:
Symbologically though this is kind of a mess. If its name is a pun on “I won't smoke,” why is it smoking? Is that look on Elephant’s face oblivious or malicious? If Swan hates Elephant’s secondhand smoke so much, why doesn't he just get off Elephant’s back? If Elephant’s trunk is a cigarette, is it reasonable to place restrictions on how he uses it? (Can he even breathe any other way?) And of course there's the weird sense, created by the color scheme, that the trunk/cigarette is actually part of Swan, somehow poking through Elephant.
Amazing.

Previous assertions of my visual literacy:

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