John started a discussion at BagnewsNotes yesterday about how images of hands can be used to signify political traits. Think of the clenched fist of resolve or the democratic wave of the hand. The images of Obama and Clinton are just a tiny part of the archive, however. John and I have begun collecting images of both hands and feet/shoes/boots, which, it turns out, appear in the news media every day. Why, we don’t know, but we’d like to know, which is one reason we’ll be posting examples here from time to time. One indication that these images are means of persuasion is that they are used by savvy designers. Note, for example, this poster for Michael Moore’s new movie:
It’s a visual joke, of course, and one that depends on the audience both recognizing the gloved hand as part of a specific medical practice (getting a vaginal or rectal exam) and understanding that Moore is going to perform the equivalent examination of his subject, the medical insurance complex. And if he does it with the sensitivity we have come to expect of an HMO, they have little basis for complaint. The idea that he’s going to do to them what they do to us depends on the metaphor of the body politic, which is carried by the metonym of the hand. When you think of it, the relationship between the heavy-handed insurance industry and the people is neatly captured by the visible hand and the invisible body it implies.