Everything You Know About the Dissidents
by Roland Barthes
Fascinating essays about semiotics.

I'll write more about this book when I get a chance--I found it fascinating. It was published in the late 50's, when semiotics was still an incredibly new field, and consists of Barthes' reflections about various readings of French popular cultural artifacts.

I started reading this book the night that I got into a huge argument with my friend Dorian about XXX II: The State of the Union. She was claiming that it was just entertainment (and crappy entertainment, at that) and that action movies couldn't be political. I was claiming that everything created with intention is certainly political, and that even a crappy action movie reinforces certain views of the world while denying others.

At any rate, imagine my joy when, a few hours later, I open up Dr. Barthes to read his essay on the subtexts of professional wrestling! Apparently, the "Amature Wrestling" in France in the late fifties is an exact analogue to American "Professional Wrestling", complete with the outrageous characters, the rivalries, the hammy acting, and the obviously faked matches. He has a fabulous essay in which he discusses the... the... damn, I don't have the book here. I'll find the quote later.

Anyway, the book is insightful and fascinating. The only problem that I had with it is that dealing, as it does, with French Pop Culture in the 50's many of the essays lacked a certain impact. Some of them were just as potent as ever (like the wrestling essay) while others didn't make very much sense anymore, like the essay on plastic (which was a revolutionary new concept back then). Other essays never did make much sense to me.

The final essay is not a popular one, but rather scholarly discourse on semiotics. I struggled through two-thirds of it--it is very dense, and must have been a bear to translate--before getting distracted. I still carry the book around with me, in the hope of finishing it some day.
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