FRAMING PEPE

WHAT DO A PICTURE OF A DOG'S FACE AND A PICTURE OF SOME JEANS HAVE IN COMMON? At first glance, their respective referent systems would seem to be completely unrelated. They have nothing to do with each other. That is, until we make the connection suggested by the text frame: "Bow Wow." This silly handwritten, and hence more appealing, scribble uncannily connects the two images. Where for a moment there was no apparent relationship, one has now been supplied. The text has obvious relation to the image of the dog, especially as the image of the dog is a close-up in a rather blase, MTVish style: the representation reeks of a casual and slightly bored sense of humor. But this almost arbitrary connector - the text - not only justifies and somehow explains the relation of the two images, but determines how we relate the two and how that relation effects what we think of Pepe Jeans - the brandname that the ad seeks to boost in value..

The jeans and the mortise are the only two frames in this ad which are not caricatures. Yet the combination of all the other elements, blocked off by the hand-drawn border, gives these two frames (the jeans and the Pepe logo) simultaneous authenticity together with a sense of humor characteristic to those who make a show of not caring: bow wow, big deal. It is by using this sense of humor that the mocking "wow" can be truly accepted as such. That is, the jeans get credit by means of a form of discredit. This nearly mathematical formula made up by the frames, encourages us to make a meaningful connection between the originally unrelated items.

It is only by connecting the two separate pictures - by means of the text - that the unrelated images become construed as opposites. While at first the dog and the jeans have nothing to do with each other, the "bow wow" welds them into opposition: the jeans are very unlike the dog. They are hot, hip and have an attitude, just as we now understand the photographer of the dog and author of the text expresses a similar sensibility. And in a sense, we become that author. Because we now see through his eyes, and have been able to complete what Judith Williamson calls the "hermeneutic puzzle."

Successfully connecting the frames gives us the attitude (sense of humor) which enables us to appreciate the jeans like few others. The small text on the left hand side reinforces this ("Shakes the neighbors. At Macy's. Dayton-Hudson." by the jeans and "Wakes the neighbors. At night." by the dog in very small print). We are rewarded for the act of connecting - of "getting" - the meaning as we now see the formal completion of the semiotic equations. An equivalency has been established between the meaning of the comic dog picture and the meaning of the Pepe brand.

written by arjan schutte; edited by bob goldman