"We are told about the world before we see it. We imagine most things before we experience them. And these preconceptions, unless education has made us acutely aware, govern deeply the whole process of perception. They mark out certain objects as familiar or strange, emphasizing the difference, so that the
slightly familiar is seen as very familiar, and the somewhat strange is sharply alien.”
Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (1922)
Even in silence, images can communicate a universe of meaning. In these two, taken from American magazine advertisements, the outlook of Western Civilization is laid bare, coldly stated in an eloquent if enigmatic instant.
The man in the looking glass (left) represents the decorum of the fine gentleman with whom he shares a frame. Positing a visual association between a man in a tie and one in an oil painting, these are the icons of reason, where culture and refinement reside.
The woman (right) represents the double bogey of animalistic inclinations. As a woman and as a dark-skinned person she is depicted as the wild repository of primitivism, assuming the blame for hypersexual danger, while the men on the left are potential victims of her primitive allure. Like the dusky world that lurks beyond the boundaries of civilization, she must be tamed, lest her crafty passions destroy us.