Over the holidays we were set a research question - to choose a publication and interrogate it using a particular methodology.
I wrote this under a title we were given at Uni, The Everyday.
Now you don’t even need a bowl to taste your cereal. ‘Lucky Charms’ ‘Fruit Loops’ and ‘Count Chocula’ can be bought in lip balm form so you can get a breakfast taste-hit throughout the day. And it isn’t just treat flavoured cereal that can be wiped across your lips, standard cereals such as ‘Frosties’ ‘Rice Krispies’ and even ‘Corn Flakes’ can be bought in wax form, so you can re-experience breakfast at a moments notice. The question is why would anyone want a reminder of the taste of corn?
Cereal is advertised as an everyday, essential item, a basic foodstuff. But of course it is not a natural food source, cereal is made from processed grain, usually a buzz word for – unhealthy and avoid – but not in terms of breakfast. As a nation we love it, 94% of us have a box of cereal in our cupboards, meaning it is a part of most people’s daily routine. How is it that cereal ends up in the bowls, and even on the lips, of millions of people every morning?
Monkey on a box or tiger on a box, is the dilemma I have when walking down the cereal aisle at a supermarket. It is not a problem I have when buying anything else. If I fancied toast for breakfast I wouldn’t have to contend with a monkey or a tiger. It would probably be a case of white or brown bread, wholemeal if I’ve bothered to walk to the big Tesco. The point is, buying cereal is one of the most complex supermarket decisions out there. You have to be careful you don’t end up with something really bad like ‘Weetabix Minis : Choco Crisp’. Weetabix want you to believe that you are making an informed, healthy decision, but you are still eating chocolate at 7am.
The Monkey is of course, Coco the monkey from Coco Pops, the tiger, Tony from Frosties. Kelloggs talk about these characters as cereal ‘mascots’. A mascot is usually defined as an object that brings luck, do you need luck to eat a bowl of cereal? Is eating a cereal an event? Kelloggs cleverly attach friendly faces to their cereal brands, hooking a young audience for life. Breakfast isn’t always a sociable meal, but with Coco there you will always have a friend.
It isn’t just the animals that become a distraction in the cereal aisle it is the language to. In June this year Kelloggs were warned by the Federal Trade Commission in America for making ‘unsubstantiated claims’. Apparently Frosted Mini-Wheats do not improve a “kids' attentiveness by nearly 20%”. Pop-Tarts aren’t "Made with Real Fruit" either. You can’t trust anything. In essence cereal manufacturers are all working with the same raw material, and how it is sold, the associations attached are the point of difference.
In case, like me, you think most cereal tastes like cardboard and you just want to enjoy the good bits, now you can. An American company called, ‘Cereal Marshmallows’ sells just that, the crispy, sweet marshmallowy surprises usually found in cereals such as Lucky Charms. Maybe one day we’ll start eating bowls of cereal marshmallows, instead of pretending to like what is essentially hard stuff floating around in milk.
Lady Gaga and I in Madame Tussauds, New York. I was made to wear those green glasses by the way.
I also wrote this in November, hence the references to popular culture of the time. The title we were given was, The Market.
Two women in the world know how it feels to sit down in a dress made of meat. Canadian artist Jana Sterbak, who first exhibited a meat dress called; "Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorexic" in 1987 (now available to view in the Pompidou Centre, Paris). And pop star Lady Gaga, who wore a similar ‘outfit’ to the MTV Video Music awards 2010. Lady Gaga transported the concept of wearable meat into the sphere of popular culture, and the pages of magazines that cost less than a pound, the meat dress ‘idea’ now available to seemingly everyone.
Interestingly, the media onslaught came from all angles; what was Lady Gaga trying to say by wearing a dress made of meat? The BBC ran an article detailing five different interpretations of the dress, from a feminist perspective to an ecological one. The Guardian online released an article telling readers how to recreate the look for Halloween. Speculation grew as to whether the outfit would be made into jerky. No-one talked about the smell, or the genius which was how Gaga managed to attach a fillet steak to her head without it flopping off.
From a one-off fashion statement to the costume section of Amazon, the market moved quickly when it came to the second showing of the meat dress. A ‘version’ of the dress is now yours for only £100, including a blonde wig dip dyed blue and ‘Meat Style Shoe Covers’ for true authenticity. Of course, this edition is not made of meat. Instead the meat effect has been created using brown faux leather, and the fat detailing hand painted with white acrylic. The dress is also fully washable, which I can imagine comes in handy after all of the use it will get. At the time of writing it hasn’t received any bids. However, that isn’t to say that the fake meat dress won’t sell. Obviously there is a demand for celebrity inspired outfits, buyers want to be included in some kind of superstar narrative.
Kate Middleton’s engagement dress is another recent example of the fandom that can surround an outfit. It’s a Sapphire coloured, not blue, Issa dress, to match the sapphire engagement ring that is a family heirloom. British Vogue reported that the dress had sold out within 24hours of the televised engagement announcement. MSN used the word ‘iconic’. The dress was called, ‘versatile,’ as if that explained the surge in popularity, but the high street is full of versatile dresses, fit for money minded people during the recession. It’s not the dress people want to buy it is what it signifies. In this case a Royal wedding, success, happiness, brand: Kate.
As long as people are famous, the fashion market will no doubt operate in this way; celebrities spearhead trends, and the rest of us follow because we like the association. Speaking of which, a copy of Kate Middleton’s dress is now available to buy from Tesco for £16. There aren’t many supermarket dresses that will make you feel like the future Queen of England.
It’s not often you see a group of teenage girls willingly drawing on their foreheads, but then again it has been a year and a half since the last Harry Potter film was released. I am referring, of course, to the lighting bolt shaped scars that so many fans adorned in order to watch the latest instalment of the story: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part One. Pitched to fans as, ‘The film event of a generation’, or rather ‘part one’ of the film event of a generation, it now holds the record for the most successful box office weekend ever. It’s impressive stuff, but I think what is more of an achievement is that a series now on it’s seventh film, based on a book, still has audience members dressing up to view it.
In many ways The Deathly Hallows is more sophisticated than it’s predecessors. The interplay between Draco, part of the dark side, and Harry, the hero, shows the two boys almost reaching a shared understanding. It is important to recognise that Draco has a conscience, that being ‘evil’ isn’t necessarily a simple choice. Relationships between the three main protagonists, Harry, Ron and Hermione are a heavy focus in the film and there is an emotional subtlety ripe for it’s growing audience. The Deathly Hallows, as the titles suggests, is concerned with death and survival, giving it an emotive edge not as evident in the other six films.
Although J.K.Rowling’s world is fantastical, what is clever about the film is how relatable some of the themes are. The alternative government at the Ministry of Magic, and the lack of job stability hints at the current situation with the recession. Trepidation over loved ones during the magical war has direct parallels with soldiers in Iraq. The lightening bolt scar is a sort of short hand for the Harry Potter brand; it represents the key concepts of the book, light and dark, good and evil. It is this impression of light that balances out an otherwise bleak, to the point of being realistic, story.
It is here that the casting, which when the series started a decade ago may have seemed like good luck, is particularly good. Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter seems small and vulnerable. Rupert Grint, as Ron Wesley, is bigger and full of bravado, as the characters were written. Ralph Fiennes who plays, or becomes, Voldemort has a snake like charm, and dirty hands, as you would expect.
There are few moments of light relief in a film that had the audience gasping and jumping and laughing together, but the locations provide a beautiful backdrop to dialogue that is often tense. Scenes in the New forest, on a stoned cliff top and along an expansive beach, give the film periods of lightness and hope which break up a thick plot.
During a particularly emotive scene, on a suitably deserted beach, the House Elf Dobby, says; “such a beautiful place to be with friends”. It strikes me that the entire Harry Potter brand is based on this notion of friendship and family. There we all our, watching something beautiful, laughing together like old friends. No one even blinks at the fact that half of the audience are in capes, with lightening bolt scars on their faces. In fact, that’s part of the magic.