Unique affordances of ‘The White (Supremacist) House’

 The unique affordances of Ben Jennings’ political comic of the ‘The White (Supremacist) House’

Ben Jennings’ political comic of ‘The White (Supremacist) House.’

At first glimpse Jennings’ illustration is immediately attention grabbing for numerous reasons. As viewers we can instantly imagine what Jennings’ intention is – to educate and make people aware of the ongoing racism that still exists. He cleverly represents the divide in America by contextualising the famous Ku Klux Klan (KKK) white hood with the top of The White House. Thus giving the impression that the current President, Donald Trump also supports white supremacy.

This drawing by Jennings can be considered as a direct response to the Charlottesville’s ‘Unite the Right’ rally. Controversy began to arise after the emergence of slogans such as ‘white lives matter’ during the protest (Beckett 2017). This created further dispute as President Trump failed to resolve this movement in an unprejudiced manner. He tweeted that ‘all must be united’ yet contradicted himself by blaming both white supremacists and those fighting against racism. To add even more controversy former KKK leader, David Duke thanked Donald Trump on social media for his ‘honesty’.

The unique affordances of Jennings’ illustration will be analysed using Halliday’s metafunctions (1985): ideational, which focuses on the representation of the comic, interpersonal, the relationship with the reader, and textual, the general organisation.

In reference to Halliday’s ideational metafunction, Jennings cleverly presents viewers with a visualmetaphor of the KKK. At first we are visually presented with an accurate drawing of The White House. However, we then notice the enlarged triangle on the base of the house, which instantly connotes a white hood. These hoods were worn by KKK members and were essentially a way to mock African-Americans. This contextual reference relates to the on going racism and inequality. Uniquely, this is perhaps the reason why there is an absence of any form of language. Viewers are able to associate the current events taking place in Charlottesville with the supposed KKK hood. This therefore conveys a strong message to the viewers, which enables me to explore the interpersonal aspect of Halliday’s metafunctions.

This drawing reflects Jennings’ personal perception of Trump’s presidency. One reason why this illustration is so appealing and engaging to us is because he shares the same perceptions as most people. To a certain extent, Jennings’ drawing of The White House is quite simplistic, resulting in the viewers to focus on the main concept – the white hood. By drawing this brutally honest comic, Jennings constructs an interpersonal relationship with the viewers by referring to the current political situations through the image of the KKK rather than words. Thus creating a memorizing and unique image.

When referring to Halliday’s textual metafunction it is interesting to acknowledge how the simplicity of The White House is contrasted by the gloominess of the sky. This inevitably creates intensity as the dull sky connotes a sinister and eerie atmosphere. This is then followed by the enlarged image of the white hood with dark eyes, which essentially signifies evilness. The bottom half of the drawing looks like a peaceful image of The White House, as the colour white connotes innocence and purity. This is ironic taking into consideration of the current president and his actions.

Overall, this whole page design by Jennings offers a range of unique affordances, as intersemiosis is evident throughout. The main concepts explored by Jennings are the absence of language, making the message behind the image stronger, and the contextual reference made.

References:

Bibliography:

  • Groensteen, T (2007) The System of Comics. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
  • Hafner, C, A., Jones, R, H. (2012) Understanding Digital Literacies: A Practical Introduction. 
London: Routledge.
  • Kress, G. and van Leeuwen, T. (2006 [1996]) Reading Images The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge.

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