Thursday, September 20, 2007

symbolism of a smile

The smile is crazy. Whether you see someone on the street smiling to themselves, or you're looking at a baby and you smile to solicitate the same response from the infant, the smile my friends is a powerful thing.

This post was influenced by the smiles I frequently saw in educational advertising on the subways in New York: Maybe the students were in cap & gown like above, or maybe they were in another situation, but the ads seemed to communicate that the educational system gave them a smile (i.e. gave them a reason to smile.) The smile communicates a list of positive, possible emotions: happiness, success, pleasure, achievement, glee, euphoria, etc. But in ads; smile=happiness=success=education=you gotta have this product in order to get a smile. Hmmm, what about the other emotions that are part of the personal development process that education also rewards you with?

The symbolism of a smile: I Googled this phrase and the first thing to come up was a website about Art Direction & the Web. My first Smile Point revolves around the smile as communication:
  • An art director would perhaps come up with a concept which communicates the importance of the smile. What does a smile communicate? Power? Confidence? Happiness? Amusement? All of the above? The art director might choose to delve into the smile as a symbol of healthy teeth and gums. She might even choose to categorize types of smiles and relate these to types of toothpaste, exaggerating the images used to portray the toothpaste types:

    • Cool Minty Fresh: the smile of a climber on Mount Everest.
    • Extra Sensitive: the smile of Dr. Phil.
    • Extra Strength: the smile of Dracula.
  • Smiles of “power people” paired with success stories. Smiles of comedians — laughter is the best medicine. The smile as an international language of friendship. Why not develop our own “smilies” or emoticons?
"The smile as an international language of friendship" leads me to my second Smile Point: that of seeing a smile and wanting to smile in return. We do this with babies and even other people, trying to get them to smile by smiling ourselves. "Smile and whole world smiles with you" has a nice community/networking aspect to it. Want to learn how to smile? Yeah, there's a website for that too.

The smile is infectious. The smile is a phenomenon. It's been a fad with the ever popular Smiley face (yellow background, black eyes and smile). Emoticons have given us the ability to smile online. Smiling, backed by scientific support, actually has the power to make you happier if you force one to your face.

There's even a bit of disgruntlement (ok, this is personal) when someone requests a smile. This typically seems to happen with a man making the request to a female: smile more, can I get a smile? I think this is a bit out-dated: the idea that women should be constantly happy and smiling is...sexism and to say the least, highly unlikely a state to occur round the clock.

Anyway, I like smiling. Smiling is good. Advertising is a powerful industry to take advantage of such such an innocent thing. Let's make sure we're using our smiles in an honest way.

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