Code-X (6)
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: Codebreaking, Semiotics


Call this cleaning-products market category code: Less Clean, More Free.

Definition: This code expresses a demand for cleaning power that is gentle — on consumers (e.g., because of allergies and other physical reactions to chemicals) and the environment (pollution). Willingness to give up a certain amount of germ-killing, dirt-removing security in exchange for freedom to enjoy living naturally.

burts bees

* Burt’s Bees bodywash: “How do you get all the nourishing without the not-so-nice?”

Notes on this code: In political terms, this is a reversal of giving up freedoms in exchange for security; reflects a shift from a Bush to an Obama worldview. Also note how the suburban backyard is depicted as a rural meadow; the freedom offered here is not just freedom-to live naturally, but freedom-from urban, even modern life.


In Date Night, Tina Fey plays a controlling suburbanite who learns to let go, embrace life as it happens — though she doesn’t repudiate her suburban lifestyle. She’s just less anxious and uptight, from now on.



MORE SEMIOSIS at HILOBROW: Towards a Cultural Codex | CODE-X series | DOUBLE EXPOSURE Series | CECI EST UNE PIPE series | Star Wars Semiotics | Icon Game | Meet the Semionauts | Show Me the Molecule | Science Fantasy | Inscribed Upon the Body | The Abductive Method | Enter the Samurai | Semionauts at Work | Roland Barthes | Gilles Deleuze | Félix Guattari | Jacques Lacan | Mikhail Bakhtin | Umberto Eco



Joshua Glenn is a cultural and brand semiotician, and co-principal of the agency SEMIOVOX LLC. He is editor and publisher of HILOBROW and the Radium Age sci-fi paperback imprint HILOBOOKS. He is author of (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY (2008) and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY (2011), and editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY (2007) and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS (2012). With Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Tony Leone, Josh produced the popular family activities guides UNBORED (2012), UNBORED GAMES (2014), and UNBORED ADVENTURE (2015), not to mention two UNBORED activity kits from MindWare. In the ’00s, Josh was an editor and columnist for the BOSTON GLOBE's IDEAS section; in the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT. He was born and raised in Boston, where he lives with his wife and sons.