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The Greatest Generation: A Semiotic Analysis Essay

The Greatest Generation, (2013) is the fourth studio album by Pennsylvanian pop-punk band The Wonder Years. With the albums lyrical content reflecting a struggle with anxiety and discovering self purpose, the story-telling elements repeatedly draw a relation between life now in modern days and growing up in America between the 1920’s and the 1960’s. By analysing the albums artwork with its lyrical content its apparent that a semiotic relationship exist within the albums artwork.

The following discussion intends to demonstrate how individual codes help illustrate to the audience the albums concept of nxiety and self-purpose through the artworks characters, framing, colours, lyrical content and logo. “People say The Greatest Generation grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II. Why cant we be The Greatest Generation?. were sick of calling someone else the Greatest.. I want to be remembered for more then this. I think we all do”. – (Dan Campbell, Album interior) The Wonder Years are an American Pop-Punk band from the roots of Pennsylvania, USA.

With great success through previous releases The Upsides’, (2010) and 2011’s ‘Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now Im Nothing. The Release of 2013’s The Greatest Generation would see the end of a unintended trilogy of concept albums about Growing Up. When asked what the final chapter of this trilogy was about, Dan Campbell the bands vocalist and lyrical writer responded“ this record is the realisation that the battles weren’t what mattered. In any war, the war isn’t what matters, it’s peacetime that matters. What matters is what you gain from the war. his is a record focusing on that realisation, that catharsis” ~ (AbsolutePunk, 2013).

These two quotes from Dan Campbell offer a better understanding for he theme of the album, essential to depicting how signs within the artwork reinforce the albums concept. Furthermore, illustrating the relationship between now and America during the 1920’s and 1960’s. (Eco, U. (1979). A theory of semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ) How this all relates is to semiotics is simple, The crafted album artwork works as a transmitter. It’s used as a platform of sending information to a inevitable destination being the consumer.

During this process of reaching it’s audience the source travels through a series of elements that are referred to as code’s. These codes are what determine the audiences response to the source and then re-enforce the intended message being delivered. “a code apportions the elements of a conveying system to the elements of a convoyed system, the former becomes the expression of the latter and the latter becomes the content of the former” – (Eco, U. (1979). A theory of semiotics). Codes furthermore have a unique ability to affect the individual’s in the mass audience differently based on their nature of being interpreted.

Codes such as colour and framing are able to demonstrate particular theme easier, where based n cultural development and familiarity these elements can be much broader in their interpretations. Where codes such as symbols can bring upon a specific meaning based on historical context, ideologies and education. It’s these codes that have an ability to attach unique interpretations of individuals. The Wonder Years The Greatest Generation’ album artwork offers a unique proposal where using broader methods of codes are used to dictate what specific interpretation is delivered through these more complexed semiotic codes such as symbols.

With this, the artwork is able to properly deliver the albums themes nd message to the inevitable destination. A primary element to the album’s artwork is the incorporation of characters. The artwork illustrate a war solider and a depiction of the religious devil. The key component to this relationship is how audience’s interpret fictional characters. Umberto argues in an essay labeled On the ontology of fictional characters: a Semiotic Approach “We can make true statement about fictional characters because what happens to them is recorded in a text”. his stance is backed by the idea of the fictional character of Anna Karenina who in a fictional world ommits suicide by jumping in front of a train in world war two.

“In logical terms the truth about anna would be true de dict and not de re, and from a semiotic point of view it would concern the plane of expression and not the the plane of content”. Based of this understanding, the characters of the artwork can be expressive based on audiences pre-understanding of there actions and behaviours. Firstly the the solider can be identified as an american fighter from the world war two based upon the uniform and the albums title.

This historical placement of this character delivers the audience of themes written about the reatest generations. After suffering the effects of the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II, the Generation was adapted to this named based on the idea that their actions were “the right thing too do”, and that they should be seen as the best of society. This idea of the best of society is conflicted with the imagery of the devil. Cultural context leads the audience to interpret the devil in its religious context of being a fallen angel that tempts humans to sin.

As mentioned before the albums artwork able to decipher its meaning based on other forms of semiotic codes. The relationship between solider and devil is established in their framing. The Devil is established behind the solder with its main features being framed onto the solider shoulder. The Imagery of the devil on the solider is famous through old cartoons to more contemporary works however it’s meaning is based in the idea of self control and the battle of bad influences. Furthermore to this the imagery is all taking place within a arrow point downwards.

The arrow works as semiotic relation to either the direction of hell or being dragged down by the devils presence. Not only does this emiotic relation between solider and devil give historical context but it leads back the concept argued by Dan campbell of catharihism. Where the purification of the well meaning solider is blurred by the influenced and the presence of the devils intent, This establishment of fictional characters allow for connection to be drawn around current generations struggles and the greatest generation. Other semitics codes the resemble this theme are the colours used in the artwork.

Grammatical system is the way in statements can be interpreted based upon the way they are spoken or delivered. Kress, argues hat during this evolution of grammatical system, the concept of colour was dealt with in this manner even though ” colour is undoubtedly, a very important resource of visual communication”. Colours have the ability to send information and meanings, with a major examples including maps. “On maps, colours are used relating to safety codes “green identifies first-aid equipment where red Identifies hoses and values (which play a role, of identify”. In broader terms when course, in fire protection)”. (Kress, G. , & Van Leeuwen, T. (2002).

However colour can go further to a point where it is used o “interpersonal meaning”. Its this aspect that is most crucial to understanding the colour to the albums artwork. “Colour can be and is used to do things to or for each other, e. g. to impress or intimidate, show dominance ext. ” ~ Kress, G. , & Van Leeuwen, T. (2002). As established the two characters of the solider and the devil are contrasting elements, and its no surprise to see this contrast depicted in colour. The solider is illustrated in complete black and white.

This action does not only match photo’s being black and white in that time frame but also that this look reflects purity of colours. Colours with commonly used single names , such as brown or green, would be considered pure colours… Terms like purity already suggest something of the meaning potential of this aspect of colour”. ~ Kress, G. , & Van Leeuwen, T. (2002). It’s no surprise when wanting to re-enforce the catharihism of the solider that the artwork used the two most pure colours available of black and white. The contrast in the devils colour reflects the devils dominance and strength he has over the solider. Red and orange is often associated with dominance, war, strength and power” ~ Color-wheel-pro. com,. (2015).

This depiction of the devil surrounded by red and orange only re-enforce the concept of a dominance force over a the solider while adhering to the themes of war. Furthermore red is a emotionally intense colours. this connection to emotion gives further information to that the devils dominance is a presence in the solider emotional side battles, a re-enforcement to albums commentary on anxiety. Lastly the use saturation of colour offers the information that the way the devil is influencing the solider is through is a subtle way. Low saturation may be subtle and tender” in influence – Kress, G. & Van Leeuwen, T. (2002).

The final uses of semiotic codes worth discussing is the symbol of the star bangled banner across the top of the imagery. This not only gives a geological perspective relating to the American National Anthem but also the idea of America, and the American Dream. The American Dream spawn from James Truslow Adams book ,The Epic of America, which was written in 1931. “the American dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. ” Loc. ov,. (2015).

With the phrase forming after the great depression, society of its time where the birth of this identity of America and carried forward being a key expression in defining America during the cold war. This symbol of the star spangled banner and the idea of prosperity can is a direct call to Dan Campbell statement of “why can’t we be the greatest generation? “. With its timing staying true to the repeating themes throughout, its not surprising to identify multiple references to the the american dream in the albums lyrical content. Rain dance in traffic ~ “It feels like 1929 and Im on the verge of a great collapse today”

Passing through A Screen Door ~ “Like a kid in the sixties, staring at the sky, waiting for the bomb to drop” Sell Out My Funeral ~ “oh we all wanna know, Where’d the American Dream go? , Did you give up and go home? Am i here alone? ” These lyrical references draw connection to a character in present day associating himself to the people from past generations and finding where they belong in this progression of history. The content also raises doubts about the corner stone of the American Dream no longer applies to present day and how present generations deal with this departure of history and ideologies.

Semiotics effect consumers, advertisers and the general public on a consistent basis. The Greatest Generation (2013) album artwork is an artistic use of how semiotics can express extensive amount of information to a large audience, through minimal techniques. Through this creative design the Artwork is able to express the authorships message of comparing different generation experiences and identifying their struggles with struggles with anxiety and discovery of self purpose, while incorporating that themes of war, personal demons and catharihism.

Below is lyrical content that manages to incapsulates all the semiotics elements into a few lines. I searched through my great-grandpop’s memoirs For the devil in my bloodstream. Depression grabbed his throat And choked the life out of him slowly. I’ve got the same blood coursing through my veins And it’ll come for me eventually. I bet i’d a coward I bet I’d never have the guts for war.

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