Thursday, November 19, 2009

Making the crazy people of Oakland just a little bit crazier.

Living in the Bay Area, I've seen outdoor advertising in languages other than English for several decades. When you think about billboards and signs on buses and the like, what are they? A simple to understand picture, a sentence and a half of text at the most, and a product. What's to understand?

For my gentle readers who do not read Spanish, lemme 'splain the ad above.

Beer = Breasts = Watching Sports.

If anyone really needed that help to understand this ad, I have to say that a career in advanced semiotics is probably not in the cards.

On the other hand, we have this ad, which I have seen at several BART stations and on bus stops, with text in Chinese except for the (B) in the middle of the screen. I don't read Chinese and there aren't any English translations of it posted in non-Asian neighborhoods. More than that, the image is vague and intentionally disturbing.

On the billboards, but not in this version found on the web, there is a URL that explains it. It's an ad from Bristol Myers Squibb recommending that people get tested for Chronic Hepatitis B, also known as CHB, a disease very rare in the United States but endemic in China. The ads target recent immigrants who may have limited English skills. There's no need to warn Americans yet, but since it is transmittable by bodily fluids and the main source of human trafficking in this part of the country is whores from Asia, there may come a time when the rest of us will need to know about this disease as well.

In the Lake Merritt neighborhood of Oakland, the ad is also targeting crazy people who don't read Chinese. The Lake Merritt BART station is a hangout for street people, and I have seen several of the regulars have animated conversations with the oblivious Chinese guy or the sneaky snake or maybe both.

To the person who designed this ad, congratulations! You wanted to make a disturbing image and you succeeded. But it's also disturbing the already disturbed, and those of us who live in the neighborhood really didn't need that, thanks all the same.


sfmike said...

Actually, hepatitis is a huge problem statistically versus the rest of the population in longstanding Chinese-American communities in Oakland and San Francisco, not just recent immigrants. I just found this out, by the way, covering a Chinese veterans ceremony where they had all kinds of hepatitis signage.

Matty Boy said...

Thanks for the info, Mike. I wonder if it's genetic, and if so, if it's a problem for all of China or just a few regions. Along similar lines, when sickle cell anemia became a news story, it was reported as a problem for black people. In fact, there are genetic predispositions for similar anemias for people from several regions around the world, including parts of Sweden and Sicily, and sickle cell is only a problem in a small part of Africa, but it is the small part of Africa from where most of the slaves sent to America were kidnapped.

If it's genetic, ads in English would be a great help, because there are a lot of second and third generation Chinese in this country who don't read Chinese.

Lockwood said...

You may have seen this already, but if not, here's another link for "your people."

Matty Boy said...

Thanks, Lockwood. Important members of My Tribe have been notified.

Lockwood said...

Also too, just found a video of her... haven't watched, can't vouch. Just sayin'.

Matty Boy said...

Are you sure you aren't one of My People, Lockwood? Just sayin'.

Anyway, thanks for all the legwork. I have an e-mail list of The Elders Of My People, and one of The Elders tells me that Eve is part of the transgender community in Los Angeles.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Lockwood said...

I like women... doesn't matter what size they are. ;)

I also like to make people smile. I came across the vid at BuzzFeed earlier, and thought "Matty Boy will get a smile out of this." And there you have it. I actually did watch the video after I sent you the link... like I say, I like looking at women. Both of them.