Napalm Girl California Analysis

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Commercialism Covers Reality in California When people talk about California, their first impressions might usually be the sunshine, the Hollywood celebrities and the huge entertainment industry of Disneyland and Universal Studio. Tracing back to the rise of these big businesses, it was the prosperity of US economy in the mid to late 20th century that led to the emergence of consumerism, which characterizes the consumer-oriented society that results in people consuming what they want instead of what they need. However, beneath the charming image that the mass media creates is a series of issues that many people might have long forgotten and neglected: the plight of socially vulnerable groups. Based on such context, by portraying contrasting…show more content…
In an iconic photography style, Banksy uses Nick Ut’s photograph of the 9-year-old Vietnamese girl Kim Phuc running naked down the street during a napalm bombing in Vietnam in 1972 and features the terrified girl caught between Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse, the representatives of American consumer culture in the post-modern world. Rather than showing a harmony relationship, the grip of two corporate figures implies an inescapable tie of the girl’s freedom and a sense of control by the two dominant consumer forces. By using appropriation, the technique of altering the pre-existing image, Banksy changes the context of Vietnam War to the attack of consumerism. As the victim, the girl is stripped naked contrasting with the formally dressed figures: though not directly undressed by the two, her neglected plight in the world is potentially caused by the consumer culture the two represent. The color of the artwork is also taken away to show the dark side of American corporate culture and the capitalist society. In fact, the first Disneyland and McDonald’s are both established in California in 1948 and 1966 respectively. The popularization of McDonald’s — the symbol of fast-food industry, not only increases the health issues of consumers as commonly known, but also leads to a shift in the preference of American culture towards individualism rather than family value. Moreover, by altering reality with imaginations, Disneyland disconnects consumers from the real world and blinds them from far worse issues with the hyper-reality. Thus, the contrast between the arrogant smile of the two corporate figures and the helplessness of the screaming girl satirizes the indifference of American corporate culture and its manipulation of public view. As a result of the consumerism, people eventually wish for
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