BANKSY’S WORK IS A LEGITIMATE VOICE OF THE VULNERABLE

If you think Banksy’s work is no more than an act of vandalism you are wrong. It may be that graffiti is illegal, but one thing’s for sure: his work goes far further than him pissing on a street wall to mark his territory. And his newest piece is no exception.

 

Over the weekend Banksy’s latest thought provoking message appeared on a street corner in Knightsbridge. The piece – which depicts Cosette from Les Miserables, emerging from a fog of gas with her eyes streaming – is a clear response to the French Police’s night raid on refugees in Calais. Next to the mural is a barcode that allows passers by to watch the police attack for themselves on their smart phones.

 

No one can deny that it is clever or powerful. Fundamentally it is not so much the message that Banksy is presenting here that is of importance, but the act itself: bringing the conversation, which is so needed, to the realm of popular-culture.

 

Purely through his conscious anonymity and the cult following that entails, he wields a power in conversation unmatched by politicians or identified activists. Said activists are too in-your-face and politicians would rather not have the conversation, unless it will win them votes. The vast majority of people avoid listening to either at all costs.

 

His message, though, is also incredibly important. Banksy has once again provided a voice for the vulnerable: those who cannot legally or visibly be heard. Without a whisper, or pledging allegiance, Banksy has managed to become an advocate and speak for a group of people in dire need of attention. People whose own attempts are being drowned out in the media by football scores, Corbyn drama and the Great British Weather.

 

When officials aren’t averting our gaze they soothe our angst by patting the heads of those helping from afar, as if that’s sufficient action. They’re perfectly happy to congratulate Germany on their warm welcome to those who made it to Europe. Well up for considering those Greek islanders, who helped so many, for a Nobel Peace Prize. But actively help them themselves? Unlikely. Apparently the government has got 99 problems and helping refugees ain’t one.

 

Banksy’s depiction of un-humanitarian police action, so vulgar that it would hurt the children of a Revolution, may not go down so well with those who think ignorance is bliss. But I don’t think there are many Brits who wish to remain in the dark. That’s why the voices of popular artists like Banksy are so necessary: we need to be aware of all, not just official opinions.

 

That his voice comes in the form of vandalism is part of his point; his protest is against the State, testing the rules of our society that he believes are unjust. It’s illegality and accessibility adds a dimension of authenticity that can only be achieved in public spaces.

 

In true ironic style the council have now, (as they often do with a piece of vandalism as valuable as a Banksy) covered the mural, not in the name of the law, but to save it so that it can be sold for huge amounts of money. I doubt that any of the money raised will go towards helping the real-life tear-stained Cosette’s wipe their eyes dry.

 

No matter: it looks like Banksy’s job here is done. Enough people saw it for it to go viral, make the news and lead many news websites to include the all important video that the barcode links to.

 

Once again it shows that rules are there to be broken. Big up Banksy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BANKSY’S WORK IS A LEGITIMATE VOICE OF THE VULNERABLE

I’M A BARBIE GIRL, IN THE REAL WORLD

Mattel has announced a new range of ‘realistic’ Barbies. Customers will now be able to choose from three body types, seven skin tones, and twenty-four hair shades. While the collection may have limited direct social implications, and is undoubtedly a ploy to regain lost traction in the toy market, the latest additions do sport the badge of realism and diversity. This has to be seen as a step in the right direction.

 

As an icon and the most realistic doll out there, the plastic figure has a heavy responsibility, serving as a role model to millions of young children across the globe. So far she has failed in her duties. Adults criticise and blame her for embedding all sorts of insecurities, while their children play innocently. All the while they are unknowingly yet another generation to be conditioned to think that being anything other than a white, blonde, blue-eyed, tall ‘woman’ with a pinched waist, thigh gap and perfect boobs, is no good.

 

It’s in Barbie’s very nature to evolve: she was after all modeled on a German hooker doll, ‘Lilli’. The creator, Ruth Handler has been known to say that “every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future”. Funnily enough, mothers haven’t tended to be so keen on their children dreaming of their future involving being paid for sex.

 

But so far, by way of social awareness, the company’s modifications of Barbie lie merely in her clothing: astronaut Barbie in the 60s, disco Barbie in the 80s. Never before have they dared such radical progression as to allow her to eat. Never before have they accepted that children of different races might like to play with a toy that lets them dream about their own personal future.

 

What Mattel has done is not revolutionary. Barbie isn’t the first in a line of brands, like Dove, to respond to growing resistance to society’s obsession with the visual utopia that is presented to women. Consumer demand has called for a reality check. Producers have been, albeit slowly, responding. It’s simple economics, not groundbreaking morality.

 

But the change is still significant. Even if it is the smallest of steps towards social equality. Even if it is to keep up with competitors. Even if people only buy the already existing, outdated Barbie. It’s important because toys are important cultural symbols: they reflect what we as a society deem appropriate for our children to identify with. Dolls help to shape our children’s – aka society’s future’s – view of beauty. For the individual, ‘realistic’ Barbie will hopefully go some way to show children that their own looks are iconic. Broadly speaking, children playing with dolls that are of a different colour, or body shape, or are ginger, instills acceptance, even a love of diversity.

 

Beauty ideals are not a fixed, but they are pretty entrenched in our culture. Dove may make already insecure adult women feel better about their ‘flaws’, but to really change our perception of what is beautiful, to really create a society which unanimously celebrates diversity, we must look to the impressionable souls of the future generation.

 

The designers of Barbie’s endeavours most probably boil down entirely to a need to respond to increasing competition. But so what? Their response to consumer demand is a mark of how our culture of prejudice is waning; so much that an item that has been an icon for 57 years requires dramatic revamping to avoid fading out of the market. For that reason I could not be happier with this new line of Barbies.

 

 

 

I’M A BARBIE GIRL, IN THE REAL WORLD