A Sign of the Times: Humorous Slogans and Imagery in Modern Day Political Protest

Tomsett, Ellie and Weidhase, Nathalie (2020) A Sign of the Times: Humorous Slogans and Imagery in Modern Day Political Protest. In: Resist! Protest Media and Popular Culture in the Brexit-Trump Era. Experiments/On the Political . Rowman and Littlefield, London. ISBN 9781786615701

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This chapter will focus on the use of comic slogans and imagery as part of modern-day political protest. Particular attention will be paid to the use of comedy within contemporary feminist activism against the erosion of women’s rights at the #LassWar protest (February 2017), Anti-Brexit protests (specifically those of March 2019), and marches against the state visit of Donald Trump to the UK (July 2018).

Humour has been theorised in relation to the relief it can provide to individuals and communities. This relief is achieved through the public acknowledgement of a taboo subject within joking. Additionally humour and joking are affiliative and can operate as a cohesive force, enabling people to (temporarily) experience a sense of a collective identity (Medhurst, 2007). In the current environment humour therefore plays a central role in galvanising political resistance and airing challenging aspects of debate.
Protest in the current context is no longer only about disrupting and claiming the physical spaces of society but finding ways to insert the protest into the feeds of the online space. The circulatory aspects of joking (the need to share the humorous image or quip) is a key tool to achieving this broader disruption beyond the physical space. The function of humour within protest has been particularly relevant to recent activism by feminist and women’s groups, as they have long been subjected to stereotypes that positions them as humourless. Both Brexit and Trump are symptoms of a male-dominated return to nationalist populism, and humour gives women an opportunity to articulate resistance to movements that arguably affect them the most (for example in the form of continued austerity or the threat to reproductive rights).

This chapter will analyse the use of comic phrasing, cartoons and images within the signs and banners used during these recent public marches in the UK. The mediation of protest signs and slogans, and the commodification of women’s anger in these instances will be considered

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Synopsis: Resist! pays close attention to popular culture; it examines the political ramifications of Kanye West’s support of Donald Trump, the significance of Aaron Sorkin’s language to American political discourse, and the casting of female emotion as a political force in House of Cards and The Handmaid’s Tale. In doing so, the collection traverses the formal world of ‘the political’ as it relates to presidential elections and referenda, while emphasising the sociocultural and political significance of popular texts which have played a critical role in exploring, critiquing and shaping culture in the twenty first century. Popular culture is often considered trivial or irrelevant to more pressing political concerns, and celebrities are often reprimanded for their forays into the political sphere. Resist! pays close attention to texts that are too often excluded when we think about politics, and explores the cultural and political fall-out of a reality TV president and a divisive public vote on increasingly connected global audiences. In examining the cultural politics of popular media, this collection is inherently interdisciplinary, and the chapters utilise methods and analysis from a range of social science and humanities disciplines. Resist! is both creative and timely, and offers a crucial examination of a fascinating and frightening political and cultural moment.
31 October 2020Published
Subjects: CAH24 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01-05 - media studies
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Media and English > Birmingham School of Media
Depositing User: Ellie Tomsett
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2020 16:43
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2022 15:59
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/8699

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