Biljana Scott   10 Mar 2013   Looking Sideways

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We humans are deeply exercised by inclusion and exclusion, by who is in and who is out. Clusivity: the mother of all doubt.

At the end of January 2013, there was a furore over rumours that UK ministers were considering a negative advertising campaign to be targeted at Romanians and Bulgarians in order to dissuade them from coming to the UK. Prompted by fears of mass immigration in 2014 when UK curbs on workers from these two countries are lifted, the government planned to alert prospective immigrants that the UK isn’t a dream destination: the weather is bad, work is hard to come by, benefits won't make your rich and the streets are not paved with gold.

Justifiably indignant – for who wouldn’t be offended at being singled out with a “we don’t want you here” message when it is their legal right to travel freely within Europe – the Romanian response was to turn to humour. The advertising agency Gandul launched a playful campaign under the heading “Why don’t you come over?” with the strapline “We may not like Britain, but you will love Romania.” The ads variously claim: “Half our women look like Kate. The other half, like her sister”; "Our draft beer is less expensive than your bottled water"; “We don’t have a Congestion Charge here. We believe the congestion is punishment enough.” And the ads get regularly updated, witness the one on 8 March:

Notwithstanding the serious issues which underlie this story, Gandul’s amusing tit-for-tat (notice that the UK’s campaign was only ever mooted, not run), wins Romania much sympathy and casts the UK as the all-round loser. In this case, a humorous response to unfair discrimination has won the day.

In my next blog "Taking the piss", I shall turn the table on the British and ask, how does it feel to be  targeted by negative ads such as the following: 

I’ll also addresses why Eurostar has had to fend off offended Brits on the one hand, and fans of the ads clamouring for posters and postcards on the other. Does irony draw lines of exclusion, and if so, who’s in, who’s out, and what’s it all about?

Comments

  • Profile picture for user Aldo Matteucci
    Aldo Matteucci, 08/13/2020 - 11:28

    Bi,
    "laughter is the best medicine". Why? It dissolves "lines of exclusion". We can only laugh together, can't we? (snickering is for the lonely person). When we laugh, the "I vs. thou" social situation is replaced by the "us". The kindle of collective intentionality catches fire... we slap each others' shoulders, the eyes sparkle and we are friends. Love mostly starts with laughter - even when it is the old corny line...
    Now to irony: it is about holding up the mirror. It is about changing one's point of view. We humans thrive on "self-affirmation stories" - mostly commentary to events we invent to warm our cockles and then peddle as truth. The ironic mirror shows us up to ourselves by suddenly switching perspective. Sacrality (aka as pompousness - from pomp and circumstance) hates irony - the loud fart that reminds everyone that we are just humans steeped in physicality.
    Tendentially irony too dissolves lines of exclusion - the put-down it involves, however, aims at the emptiness of the "self-affirmation story". It upsets the victim, which is suddenly moved outside the "comfort zone". We are ready to "kill" for "self-affirmation"...
    But at 0130am and away from the comfort of my library I can't be as clever as I think I am aldo

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