Bare with me…

Red light = stop. That makes sense, right? But see, how do we immediately associate and image of a red light to the word stop? Semiotics is the study of attaching meaning to a sign. These signs could be something simple like a picture, a word, a movie, sounds or the real world. We use semiotics everyday, all day without even realising it. Our brain files away meaning to whatever we look at, listen to or do everyday. For a better example to show how we do this, I’ll show you a couple of adverts from my ‘favourite’ animals rights group PETA. Now PETA for me brings up a few feelings, mainly disgust and anger. Why? Just to mention a few things, PETA has a long history of animal abuse itself , as well as a talent for showcasing their misogyny to expand their cause. Now this won’t be a PETA-bashing post, not completely anyway. But it does help to have some back story as to why these adverts I’ll show you are so problematic and why the use of semiotics is important to be able to read into things further than what is just shown to you.

Keep it classy PETA

Take this first PETA billboard firstly. It’s a cartoon image of a woman in a bikini top in front of a beach setting with the brand PETA on her back, and superimposed on top is the cheery line “Save the Whales” and “Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian.”. The colour layout of this ad makes it seem light, and happy and the text is large, airy and aimed with the pink to a certain gender (Assigning gender is not something I like to do, yet this is what is happening here, I am very against gender role and stereotyping).  This is what we call the signifiers in terms of semiotics, this is what we see before we interpret the image.


What we see determine how we respond, feel and see into the image is called the signified. And this is where it gets interesting, if you had just a glimpse at this whilst driving, it would take you two looks to realise just how wrong this image is. The background of PETA’s misuse of women and their intense shock tactics make this billboard past the point of informative and into a ‘fat-shaming’ and rendering women into an object to ridicule.

I have dabbled in vegetarianism a few times, one time I even lasted a few weeks up until christmas where my resolve was crushed under my nan’s famous Christmas roast dinner. If I was to try it again, I would want to not be coerced into it by PETA of all people.

References –

5 thoughts on “Bare with me…

  1. Great post!
    Semiotics can both be easy yet challenging compared to different people and the way they understand different signs and images. Yes, some signs do come naturally to us but who originally thought about the meaning of these different signs. ‘St. Augustine was aware of the difficulty of differentiation things from signs’ ( and these signs were used as a way of communication however Charles S. Pierce a man of ‘modern Semiotics’ tried to replace known words with signs to add a ‘fixed idea.’
    Generally there are three definitions of semiotics, one which states ‘is a means of considering anything as signs and sign systems. It has EVERYTHING as its object, which means that IT HAS NO OBJECT AT ALL (or, at least, no specific object of its own)’

    Ch. S. Peirce states that what we know of the signs must flow from former knowledge, hypothesising reasons and observations and that we ‘cannot think without signs.’ So it seems the misinterpretation of signs for different people is created from no recollection of past meanings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really like how you have approached this post. Linking it to the lecture, going back to basics i.e. explaining the definitions and an example of how it is used in today’s society. I have never heard of PETA nor have I ever seen the advertisement and I am quite applauded at the way that they have used the image. I didn’t take the concept of gender stereotypes into mind until you mentioned it and I kept reading – when I first saw the post I originally thought that they were targeting obese people and then linking into that thought, obese women. I also wasn’t expecting the post to turn into a vegetarian post. I was thinking it was something to do with a weight loss program right up until the advertisement said “Go vegetarian”. The more and more I look at the post, the more angry I get at the fact that it is shaming and in some sense abusing obese and overweight people.
    Awesome work on your blog post and awesome references as well. If I could make one suggestion to improve – it would be to ask your followers a question of some sort to start a discussion, then you will be able to see other view points and what people think, it gets your viewers thinking, wanting more and it makes your blog more intriguing to followers.
    Keep up the awesome work 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve done a really great job in defining semiotics. The example in your opening sentence “Red light = stop. That makes sense, right? But see, how do we immediately associate and image of a red light to the word stop?” was a creative way to start off, automatically engaging the reader! I personally found the marketing campaign image slightly humorous at first glance. However as I continued to read your perspectives i gained a new insight into the image and strongly agree with your argument. I also had not heard of PETA before, which is why when you generalise “PETA has a long history of animal abuse itself , as well as a talent for showcasing their misogyny to expand their cause.” you could have added in a supporting photo! I know your argument isn’t based around PETA but it would help deepen the readers understanding. One other thing was the use of bracketing, i don’t think it was really necessary that word count could have been used on some more evidence and made that section more articulate! I really enjoyed this blog post on semiotics, your article made me see past the signifiers. Awesome work!


  4. This is a very interesting image. It did take me a few views to actually understand what message this image was communicating. The colours, the beach scenery, like you said, give you a positive feeling towards the ad. Initially, you read the words ‘Save the Whales’ and believe that this has a positive tone. However, when you read the entire text and understand what they signify, my attitude changed completely. I now feel very negatively towards the ad after seeing it has a rather aggressive message that contributes to the controversial issue of fat shaming. I didn’t consider the gender aspect either, but when you highlighted it, I disliked the image even more.

    You made the point that they could be using shock tactics to draw attention to their message. However, I don’t think this ad would have any success turning me into a vegetarian! The shock value may get people talking about the ad, but personally, I feel so negatively towards the ad that I don’t give much value to their message.

    Great post! I enjoyed reading it. Your explanation of semiotics helped me to understand the concept a little bit more. Thanks.


  5. The title of your blog and the photo that associates with it is what immediately made me need to read this post. I like how you have made it extremely clear that the topic you were focusing on was semiotics. I also like how you have given your audience a definition of what semiotics.

    When I first saw the photo I was shocked that the creators, who you mentioned to be PETA, would come up with something like this to shame people into loosing weight so they could be seen on the beach. I did not begin to think of the signs and symbols you thought of, such as the sign of gender assignment, through the colours and use of the cartoon women. Now, after reading your blog post I am absolutely disgusted at what they have done and I am very pleased with your heavy sarcasm, it adds a unique charm to your post.

    Overall I am impressed with the way you handled this post and the amount of research you have done shown by all of the references you have made. It would be cool if you could add a question onto the end of your post, which would (hopefully) create more of a discussion. Thank you for the good read, I liked it quite a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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