Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Branding the mad cow

(Modified from here.)

The above image may or may not amuse you, but there are other reasons to use Bart Simpson to make a point - mainly that cartoons are useful for communicating ideas quickly, precisely because they are often so removed from reality (why are the emergency instructions in the seat pocket on the airplane illustrated instead of using photos?). Here are two images with American flags. It's quite easy, without knowing anything about the characters, to have some sense of how they feel about the U.S.



After having a look around michincow.net, I've come to wonder if perhaps the way that the "mad cow" has been branded has played a part in the appeal to the youth. By youth I also include elementary school-aged kids, because I hear them joking about it a lot. Certainly the name itself, especially when translated as michin so ("crazy cow") is humorous and has a lot of appeal to kids and certainly helped come up with the memorable mascot above. Just mix a crazy cow with an American flag on it and you immediately have a humorous image which comes accompanied with political content. The juxtaposition of a crazy animal, something to be ridiculed, and an American flag obviously leads one to imagine that the flag, and the country it stands for, is also worthy of ridicule. Call it a propagandistic Trojan cow, if you will. The version above was redone with computers and then inserted into all kinds of images to create parodies.


Such parodies aren't new, of course; several turned up after the Dog-poop girl incident, for example. A full gallery is here. And no, I'm not sure why the cow is wearing a sunflower. These images are certainly interesting because the website has taken this brand image and inserted it into humorous parodies of movie posters with its address at the bottom (though the address is wrong). Some are more overtly political, at least visually.


Note that former president Roh is often criticized (and instead of 노무현, his name spelled 놈우현, with 놈 being a rude way to address a man and 우 meaning "cow" - how clever!) as the FTA was negotiated during his term. Here's a poster some may recognize - "The Host":


They also alter one of president Lee's campaign ads (mentioned here), while this seems to tell a story of contaminated food and political betrayal. Looking at the poster above, I notice that Gwangu (mad cow) sounds very similar to Gwangju, which will be celebrating the 28th anniversary of 518 the day after students are supposed to protest this Saturday (the 17th). One hopes they don't make posters calling for a "Gwangu uprising", though considering posters like this, that may be too much to ask. The image of the mad cow has made its appeareance at protests:





There are a lot of questions raised by the michincow website, such as who is running it? Where is the money for, say, printing off these mad cow images coming from? How much influence does the site have?

All I can say for sure is that using a drooling cow as a means to mobilize people is much preferable to using images of girls crushed by a tank.

7 comments:

ZenKimchi said...

I thought the Hitler poster of President Lee was a new Coreana cosmetics ad.

Didn't you get the memo? Koreans think nazis are stylin'!

Anonymous said...

The flower behind the ear thing is a standard symbol of a crazy person (generally woman). For reference, see the movies "Welcome to Domakgol" and "To the Starry Island" where both of the "crazy girls" have a flower in their hair above their ears, just like our friend the cow here.

ZenKimchi said...

And remember Ophelia (Hamlet) had flowers in her hand when she went off the deep end.

matt said...

I've seen both of those movies (it's fascinating to compare the two of them (I did briefly here)) but didn't realize the meaning of the flower. Thanks for pointing that out. And Ophelia too...

Anonymous said...

wait till the kiddies hear about this....

www.theyangpa.com

Apurba said...

Enjoyed reading your post.
We at trendsspotting have a similar post on mad cow buzz coverage :
http://www.trendsspotting.com/blog/?p=392
The same is available as Slideshow as well
http://www.trendsspotting.com/blog/?p=397

Do let us know what you feel.

Anonymous said...

Pretty nice place you've got here. Thanks for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. BTW, why don't you change design :).