Cultural Theory Essay - Australian Tourism

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The Australian tourism advertisement that was released earlier this year, complete with the tagline “So where the bloody hell are you?” was one of the most controversial government-funded ads in recent memory. The advertisement was created and funded by Tourism Australia and screened on domestic television in dozens of countries around the world. The release of the ad prompted considerable worldwide discussion: it was initially banned from British television by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre, due to the ad’s use of the word ‘bloody’ and its perceived connotation as a profanity (“Brits ban ‘bloody hell’ TV ad”). I have chosen to analyse this advertisement because it is a recent, controversial text filled with many complex images that portray what it means to be Australian.

The advertisement portrays the following Australian locales: outback pub; secluded beach; ocean-side saltwater pool; kangaroo-inhabited golf course; open patio house; remote offshore tropical island; Uluru, Australia’s center; Sydney Harbour; barren desert (refer to appendix for a full description). The implied negative consequence of ignoring the advertisement is that potential tourists will be unable to visit and experience the beauty of the Australian landscape.

Australia is portrayed in multiple ways by this text. As it is a tourism advertisement, its purpose is to convince foreigners to visit our country. According to the representations of Australian culture that are put forth by this text, we Australians value alcohol (primarily beer); engage in physical activity, no matter the age; frequent our many beaches; appreciate our native fauna; value family life; respect our indigenous citizens, and are generally sociable people. Each of these depictions of what Australians represent and value are tied to the process of ideology.

The term ‘ideology’ is rooted in the work of Marx. He argued that the dominant ideas and viewpoints in society were that of the ruling class (“Questions of Culture and Ideology”). Althusser submits that there are two sides to ideology: one that consists of the actual living conditions of people’s lives, which is not false; and a set of meanings which misrepresent class and power within society, which is thus false. As many of the scenes and situations depicted in the focus text are irregular and stereotypical, the advertisement is ideologically constructed to depict Australian culture in a particular light.

Ideology can be thought of as a sophisticated filter, through which our worldview is perceived (“Ideology”). Personal ideologies and societal ideologies may differ: whereas a society, by and large, may subscribe to ideologies of peace, democracy and justice, an individual may hold opposing viewpoints and thus, opposing ideologies. Within our focus text, Australian ideological values such as equality, respect and the importance of family are prevalent.

The Australian tourism ad is one that is rife with complex imagery, whose purpose is to represent Australia. Semiotics, the study of signs, refers to the way in which particular images, text or objects can be used to create messages, which are often a part of a larger system of signs. For example, a green light is generally interpreted as a sign to ‘go’, within the larger context of a traffic light-controlled motor vehicle intersection. Once isolated and taken out of that context, the green light makes little sense. Consider an example from the text; the casual manner of the man who tells us “Bill’s on his way down to open the front gate” ironically suggests that this is a petty task, until the shot of a vehicle driving across a vast landscape conveys the message that such a seemingly simple task is, in fact, quite an ordeal.

When discussing semiotics, ‘myth’ refers to a sign or series of signs that depicts one term within a system as indicative of all other terms. Furthermore, the simplification of signs known as ‘indifferentiation’– the refusal of...
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