Wednesday, March 10, 2010


This blog is moving. Please update your bookmark to reflect the home of my new blog:

At least for now, VizRet's past entries will remain at this address. The new blog will include all past entries as well.

Thanks for following!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Buying American is not as simple as it seems

Do you know what these symbols are?

Well, they're a lot of things.

They're clever marketing. Specifically, they're branding. They're the result of intensive study on what colors and shapes motivate people to buy. They're a source of identity for a whole lot of people. But, all too often these days, they represent a case of mistaken identity.

To be clear, the graphic on the left is Toyota's logo and the graphic on the right is Pontiac's. Two different companies, right? Even companies from two different countries. Anyone who has heard and supported the phrase "Buy American" (which is probably the vast majority of Americans, or at least most of those with disposable income) knows which of these logos you're supposed to gravitate toward when purchasing a new vehicle.

Now let's break that down a little.

These companies are keeping their logos because the visibility of the logos is important to the branding of the vehicles they create. But those companies are not so very different, and the fact that the Pontiac Vibe and the Toyota Corolla have these different logos on them is somewhat misleading. It's not because Toyota and Pontiac are up to anything sinister. It's just an example of how, sometimes, visible rhetoric can keep us from the truth.

Last week, a massive recall was issued on eight kinds of vehicles produced at a California plant. The accelerators stick on these particular eight models, and, well, you can imagine the sorts of disasters that could cause. Among the models recalled were the Vibe and Corolla, as well as six other Toyota vehicles. That's right. They were all produced at the same plant. A plant on U.S. soil, employing American workers and paying American taxes. (And, so far as I know, the other seven vehicles are still in production while the Vibe--along with Pontiac--is now defunct.)

This complicates the notion of buying American. What does it mean, exactly, to buy American? Did I do my country any good when I purchased a Vibe instead of a Corolla? Or was the visibility of my American logo all "Americanness" that my purchase got me?

It will be interesting to see what happens with branding and logos in the automotive industry as we rebound from the recession. I'm not prepared to make any predictions except for one: There will still be a sense of nationality tied up in company brands that actually has very little footing in reality.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cyborg vs. Coenen

This is a sort of update to my Aug. 16 entry about the fight between Cris Cyborg Santos and Gina Carano. I noted in that post that the camera work done on the fight was different than the camera work done when male fighters face off. But, it wasn't different in the way one might expect. The cameras framed the women's faces tightly, de-emphasizing their bodies. I wasn't sure whether this was out of some sort of respect for the women, or if it was a heteronormative move aimed to shift the gaze away from female bodies that don't adhere to the norm. I was leaning toward giving Strikeforce the benefit of the doubt. (For the record, it turns out that the Cyborg-Carano fight was the first time a major sponsor featured women fighters in a main event, which could also have contributed to the unusual filming.)

Last night, Cyborg defeated Dutch fighter Marloes Coenen at a Strikeforce event in Miami. And guess what? The camera work was different.

That is, it was different than last time. However, even when I was looking for it, I couldn't see any differences in the way the Cyborg-Coenen fight was filmed and the ways the male-male fights of last night were filmed. The same sort of pre-fight footage was used. The same sort of zooms and focuses were in play. And the post-fight interview was similar to those involving male fighters.

All of which leads me to wonder: How is it that a sport that so many people consider "barbaric" is the one with the most advanced brand of feminism going on?

Interesting, no?