Studying Culture Jamming
to Inspire Student Activism explores how “the work of The Yes Men
, outline the structure of the teacher resource guide, and present a framework for thinking about the myriad kinds of artistic interventions that “jam up” our taken-for-granted assumptions, and detail some specific interventions.” (Source
) It is a resource to educate, a form of social activism that draws attention to the persuasive power of the media and to subvert corporate authority.
- On Christmas day in 1993, kids were finding more than they bargained for under their trees: Mattel’s new talking Barbie dolls growled “Dead men tell no lies,” while Hasbro’s macho GI Joe’s chirped “I love to shop with you.” —BLO website
The iconic images of Barbie and GI Joe have reinforced traditional gender ideologies held by our contemporary society. Specifically, this case study by The Yes Men challenges commonly held notions of femininity and masculinity. In purchasing these iconic toy figures, our society was encouraging the continuance of these, arguably, harmful ideals and the subsequent preservation of these ideologies.
The Yes Men come to the rescue! Socially constructed gender identity ideology is challenged by this non-text, pre-recorded, voice-replacement stunt between Barbie and GI Joe. This example of artistic intervention spurred discussion challenging the symbolic meaning of these figures and the social ideals they embody.
But this wasn’t to be a simple spectacle, it was to be a media spectacle, so an elaborate press plan was hatched. Along with each repackaged toy they included a doctored instruction sheet, complete with the numbers of local and national press, and a voicemail number for the BLO. The idea was that kids would open their toys, parents would call the numbers, and the media would cover it.
“Watch Out For The Yes Men!”
Among the advantages of this case study is our questioning of how we are socialized by these symbolic images to assume certain roles. The BLO sheds light on gender roles, sexuality, and consumer culture, and highlights how we can change the discussion surrounding pop culture.