September 16, 2012

The Author-Function of Ecoporn

One interesting link between Bart H. Welling’s Ecoporn: On the Limits of Visualizing the Nonhuman and other theorists read for class was the perception of the Author-Function. Similarly to how Barthe and Foucault address the situation of the author being replaced by the author-function, Welling addresses Ecoporn’s commercials which contain a unique author-function that is designed to remove guilt in consumers heads that is a result of man’s nature-destructive existence.
Ecoporn, as Welling defines it, is the way in which corporations portray themselves as environmentally friendly companies through advertisement when in reality their existence only negatively affects the environment. The “Ecoporn” that these companies create come in the form of advertisements-mostly commercials- that conjure up a convenient image of an environmentally friendly company. This links to Foucault’s notion of the author being replaced by the Author-Function when Welling explains, in just one example, how these companies create commercials that seem “natural” because there is no human author in the picture, which gives the viewer a sense of connection to raw, uninhabited nature because of the very absence of a guiding human being.

The scene is usually shot somewhere far away from humans and if the narrator is ever shown, he is shown at the end of the commercial, somewhere far away from the scene, often with a backdrop that sets him even further apart from the fictitious all natural future. It usually contains happy, safe animals roaming across acres of uninhabited land living in peace. Although Welling’s point of writing the article is to connect this glamorized, unrealistic vision of nature with the way women are portrayed in pornography, my aim is to remain focused on how the author-function is constructed and operates.
In this situation, the company is the author, the commercial is the body of work/text, and the narrator is the Author-Function.  As Foucault points out, the death of the author isn’t any sort of real death, but the author taking himself out of his work and replacing him/herself with the author function s/he desires. That is to say (especially in the case of Ecoporn), the message that the author would normally get across. Because these companies are inherently bad for the environment and because the commercial’s goal is to convey the exact opposite feeling, the Author-Function (created by the author, the company) uses a warm and trusting voice, say Morgan Freeman, to vaguely discuss the power and beauty of Mother Earth while adding in small quips about the company’s efforts in protecting the planet. Images are often unrelated to the field of aid that the company is even participating in (what does a wild panther really have to do with Exxon’s mishandling of oil?), so that the viewer walks away feeling guilt-free about societies effects on nature, and comfortable with the company on the television.  This is a really good example of author-function because of how effective it is, which is why Welling feels the need to write an essay comparing it to pornography. The author-function allows viewers to be okay with companies that they would normally be against, all because of these companies’ ability to re-create themselves as a caring company that is focused on protecting the planet. 

Joel Bergholtz

1 comment:

What is Rhetagaming? said...

Haha, so does that make the march of the penguins less sympathetic now that I know Morgan Freeman's voice was added simply to make the penguins more sympathetic?

In all seriousness, this is a good look. I had forgotten in my response to refer to the wonders of the Author-Function and too caught up in ecoporn as something relatable to the passion of perceiving, which all humans have. I mean, it seems like a good approach though. It worked with me and my car, fuel efficiency and all that jazz. I guess what I'm saying is, this could be exploited in a much worse way, kinda like how food commercials are handled nowadays. C'mon guys, let's be real here.

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