Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The ClipArt Menace, or Texlahoma Lives

I don't have anything deep to say. Let's get weird.

I'm famous for my little crusades. My enemies list is broad and unique. At last check, it included: the cart guy at Ikea, the online ordering department at Sears, IHOP, the airport in Vienna, the Euro, Cafe Odeon in Dupont Circle, tequila, New Big Wong in Chinatown, Continental Airlines, and a few gypsy cabs. Unfortunately, Sarajevo doesn't have much in the way of consumer culture or pugnacity, so I don't really have much to assault. Instead, I've decided to focus my efforts on the evils of ClipArt.

In my office, we have a massive book and 16-disc set of Clip Art called Art Explosion. While it's fairly recent software, it has very 1950s notions of the world. Today, I was trying to find a health-oriented picture for a newsletter article I was working on. All of the doctors were male (except for one, a gynecologist no less). All of the nurses were female, and wore those quaint uniforms with the tricornered hats. So, out of curiousity (...as to how much I can get away with while being paid by the hour), I flipped back to the Index. The listings for women include Woman and Baby, Woman Cooking, Woman Teaching, and Woman Shopping. And then, these are the index listings for men: Man on Raft, Man on Motorcycle, Man on Construction Site, Man Driving, Man Traveling...I could go on and on. In the world of ClipArt midgets, the menfolk conquer the world while the womenfolk stand in front of chalkboards and ovens.

But Art Explosion is afraid of more than just progress. These ClipArt cartoon people live in a horrifically bleak, menacing world. It looks like one of those post-apocalyptic action films I've had to watch with at least half a dozen former boyfriends. All of the Health and Medical photos feature crutches, giant syringes, bruises, blue-green tongues, astoundingly large thermometers (which go you-know-where), pallid pregnant women, and wounded children with head bandages. I count six ClipArts of forceps alone. There are four ClipArts of cartoon men being chased by giant, menacing syringes. Worst of all, there is a ClipArt of a man encased in a giant condom. Lord knows spermicide inhalation would be a long, horrible death. There are no ClipArts depicting healthy lifestyles or positive health professionals of any kind.

The Art Explosion terror spreads to every facet of life. There is an entire folder devoted to cartoon car accidents. ClipArt people are stranded in airports, their wallets are stolen, their barbecues explode, and their hands are ripped apart by fireworks. The guy who chews tobacco sports a mullet. Motorcycle guys cruise around without helmets. Slackjawed children gape at their math homework. It's like the ClipArt universe resides somewhere in Texlahoma (in Douglas Coupland's novel Generation X, characters tell stories about Texlahoma, an asteroid orbiting the earth where it is perpetually 1974 and everyone keeps getting fired from the Woolworth's perfume counter).

So how do I battle the ClipArt menace? Write nasty letters? Irate phone calls? Suggestions are welcome.


Michael J. West said...

My suggestion: create and publish a book in which the story requires you to use every piece of clip art. Or at least make an illustrated blog entry that uses them to absurd effect. Nothing like using their own creation against them.

Shannon said...

I should've brought these crazy ClipArt people home. Or learned how to put clipArt into my blog entries. As soon as I do, I hereby promise and illustrated tale of the Art Explosion Menace.

Anonymous said...

Shannon, I agree that clipart people should have rights. Okay, maybe that's not where you were going with this blog, but it's Sunday night, and I have had bourbon.

I'm thinking a clip art union. God knows the AFL-CIO needs new membership.

I think I'll pick a mascot from among the several thousand clip artisans from whom I can select.

I see the union as a cluster of only white, brown-haired men and women who laughingly look over their shoulder and nervously giggle at some secondary clipart monster.

I call him Titus, and he is no real threat to you or I. But he promises a bewitchment to the clipart denizens. Be afraid.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I like Mike's idea, sort of like a ClipArt madlibs.


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