Above, you can see there are two images of the same scene; one is taken from the front, and the other is taken from behind. Consider the first half of the image- this represents the signifier; what is shown to you. Obviously you can see a young, innocent-looking girl and the older, angrier man- that is the signifier, it is nothing more than what is depicted within the image; what is visually shown to an audience. The other half, represents the signified; the hidden meaning of the image and the individual interpretations that the audience possess towards the signifier. In the signifier (first half), you see an innocent girl and an angry man; however, despite the overall ‘appearance’ of the signifier, the meaning behind it can be something else entirely. In this case, the signified (second half) is that the girl is armed and her innocent nature is ‘shattered’, while the man is harmless and seen as more of an approachable figure than what is depicted in the first half.
Both halves overall form a text– the combination of both the signifier (what is seen) and the signified (what is interpreted) within a visual piece (i.e. image, video, etc.).
So why am I telling you this? Why am I showing you an image and talking about signifiers, the signified and the meaning behind texts?
Because it is all important in how we interpret various mediums- for example, we can all look at a tree and still see a tree; but we all have a different opinion on that tree.
Get what I mean? It’s all about … wait for it … personal perspectives! Some signs- such as the stick figures on bathrooms for ‘male’ or ‘female’ –are interpreted similarly by individuals because we are raised with the idea of that sign and the message of it is ‘common’. However, other texts (such as advertisements, movies and photos) are interpreted based on the individual’s personal, ideological interpretation- though some opinions may be similar to another’s, not all ideologies will be alike due to the individual reactions based on each person’s life experiences. This is important in how the media can influence us in our perspectives, thoughts and reaction towards certain mediums based on our personal experiences.
Take a look at this image here:
What is the first thing you think when you see this image? Anger? Fear? Sadness? Mutated hand? Well, the first thing I think is that saying, ‘Sticks and stones’, and how completely wrong it is. The context behind this image is that it was used in a campaign that was for the protection, awareness and prevention of verbal abuse towards women. The signifier in this image, is that the man has a hand reaching out of his mouth to grab the woman’s hair in a rough and harmful manner. The man looks aggressive, while the woman is terrified.
My perception on this, is that more women need to be aware that words can hurt people, and I feel that I should be protective towards those who are suffering or have experienced this kind of abuse- because no matter how many times people say ‘It’s not even a form of abuse’, or ‘Well you know that saying, why should words hurt anybody?’, based on my individual experience and my exposure to events like this, I feel that it is all wrong and that it is a problem that we need to prevent.
What about you? Do you see what I see?