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“Imagine a city where graffiti was not illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colors and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall - it's wet.” ( Banksy)
Banksy, a British graffiti artist, is known for his provocative artwork, which he uses to express his thoughts and opinions. Despite being a graffiti artist for over twenty years, his identity is yet to be unraveled. His work has appeared in the streets of London as well as other parts of the world with most of his subjects including children, police officers, apes, and big rats among others that engage different societal themes. His artwork comprises typically of striking images that bear slogans. He uses his artwork to communicate to his followers who over the years have continued to grow in large numbers, to appeal to them to evaluate the implications of the political land their ideologies critically because they are up to greed, serve their self-interests and leave the majority to poverty(Fabregat, 300)
. He also brings in the aspect of cultural imperialism, especially in his Napalm work that he seems to urge his follows to be wary of the cultures that are viewed as superior so that they cannot erode theirs.
In his 2004 Napalm artwork as demonstrated in the picture above, Nick Ut photographed a young Vietnamese girl who was running naked from her home because of the Vietnam War, in 1972. In his work, Banksy presents the young girl in the middle of two recognizable corporate institutions the Walt Disney and the McDonalds. Mickey Mouse and Ronald of Mc Donald are representations of their respective companies, they are each holding the poor girl’s hands, and despite her pains due to the burns she suffered, the two giants are making long strides forward with big smiles (Fabregat 305).
Mickey Mouse is a celebrity that has received accolades in the world as popular culture in the American entertainment history. The fact that Banksy pairs such an eminent figure with an image of wartime is a depiction of how America is the superpower in not only the political and economic aspects but also, how the entertainment industry endorses and embraces brutality and war. It seems that the industry is encouraging and advocating for war by the American in the foreign countries to display their military might and achieve other agendas, instead of focusing on peace (Corpora and Miate 43).
The firm grip by Mickey Mouse on the young girl also shows that she represents other underdeveloped nations that cannot evade the strong force of oppression by the mighty superpower regarding their exploitation because they do not have much that they can do to rescue themselves. Ronald McDonald is equally a celebrated icon in the American society and is a representation of the American consumerism. In Banksy’s work, consumerism has been portrayed negatively, especially with the combination of Mickey Mouse which seems to strengthen the primary agenda depicted which is the exploitation of the less privileged and delighting in war and also encouraging the citizens to consume products of the entertainment industry that glorifies war (Fabregat 306).
Notably, the original picture was taken by a photographer to capture the moment and show to the world the real situation in the war field. It is through Banksy's Napalm artwork that we can identify the actual conditions facing the world's less privileged, and how the developed nations are willing to assist or how they are contributing to making the situation worse. In this case, for example, the entertainment industry delights in such episodes and further encourages the consumption of war-themed entertainment. They fail to consider that the audience consuming their products ranges from the very young to the very elderly and, thus whatever they drink will affect their behavior, and they might end up adopting violence. It further shows the position of the American superiority and how they are not willing to hold peaceful negotiations with the neighboring countries and the underdeveloped nations at large. They fail to recognize the negative impacts of war that leads to the killing of innocent citizens and the military (Corpora and Miate 42)
The tight grip on the young girl and the jovial strides leading her forward in Napalm, are clear manifestation of the wrong attitude, that shows no compassion and care towards the people that are suffering, but they instead force them to accept their ideologies so that they can fit in and maybe from that point they can get help. The appeal to the society would be to resist this kind of dominant character's influence in the community; people would instead retain their cultures that do not provoke war and call for peaceful coexistence. As much as it is a good thing to embrace change, they should not adopt cultures that lead to erosion of their values that promotes peace. Also, considering that children learn through socialization, they should be protected from such self-centered individuals and corporations
Corpora, Mark, and Maite Barragan. "Banksy: Graffiti Art as a Political Medium." Journal of Vietnamese Studies 3 (2008): 42-43.
Fabregat, Silvia Martínez. "Irony as a Visual Argument." Epistemology, Knowledge and the Impact of Interaction. Springer International Publishing, 2016. 297-307.
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