* This post has been edited since it was first posted *
I’m online pretty regularly so I come across some interesting things. Something I came across a few years ago has a tumblr site (found here) dedicated to thought provoking advertising, which is where I found the picture above. This is a picture I’ve seen a few times before but every time I see it I’m astounded by how impactful it is.
The image shows two young girls sitting in what appears to be a school library, obviously in America, as shown by the flag in the background. Both girls are holding items, one, a ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ book and the other, an assault rifle. The main text on the picture reads: “One child is holding something that’s been banned in America to protect them”, then in red it says “Guess which one”. Underneath the girls, in smaller print it states: “We keep ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ out of schools because of the bottle of wine in her basket. Why not assault weapons?” accompanied by a logo.
This is an interesting image to look at when thinking about semiotics. Semiotics is essentially the science of signs and allows to think about the difference between denotation (what is there) and connotation (what does it mean). One of the most important parts of discovering the connotation of an image, is taking into consideration why and how a sign might mean a different thing to you as it does to others.
Even without reading the text, I find this image to be confronting. Having lived in suburban Sydney my entire life, the only guns I’ve ever seen are those carried by police and they’ve always been holstered. Never in my life have I seen an assault rifle, and I especially wouldn’t expect to see one held by a little girl. “Red Riding Hood’ on the other hand I’ve seen plenty of times, usually in the hands of children. I find it quite difficult to comprehend that to some people in the US there would be nothing wrong with the image of a little girl holding a gun. That some people would actually have a problem with a children’s book simply because it mentions wine.
This confronting campaign was titled ‘Choose One’ and is one of three images released back in 2013. The campaign was run by ‘Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America’ which, as stated on their website, is an organisation “created to demand action from legislators, state and federal; companies; and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms.”
When the ads were first released they had an immediate impact, being shared on facebook more than 40,000 times just within the first 20 minutes. The majority of the reaction was that of shock, particularly from people outside of the US. The campaign was conveniently timed, coming only days after the Senate voted down a bill that would allow for tougher background checks on semi-automatic weapons which was said by the daily mail to be “A major victory for gun lobbyists and a sting for parents and those hoping for tighter gun control.”
A concern that many people had with the campaign – which can be seen in full here on the MDA website – is that, while the children holding the assault weapons were all white, all three other kids were children of colour. Many wondered if this was an intentional statement by the MDA about gun restrictions in relation to race. This will probably never be answered as the MDA never made a comment about it.
“Choose One” — Little Red Riding Hood or an Assault Weapon? 2013, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, viewed 22 March 2015, <http://momsdemandaction.org/in-the-news/choose-one-little-red-riding-hood-or-an-assault-weapon/>.
Madrid, 2013, fuckyeahads, weblog post, 20 April, viewed 20 March 2015, <http://fuckyeahads.tumblr.com/post/48429158300/the-full-grohac-urdchama-foodnun-damn>.
Stebner, 2013, Guns are legal but Little Red Riding Hood is not: The provocative new PSAs of children holding banned items side-by-side with assault weapons, Dailymail, viewed 22 March 2015, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2311302/Provocative-new-PSAs-ask-assault-weapons-legal-childrens-books-chocolate-candies-banned.html>.