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 Boston-based semiotic culture and brand analyst. He is editor/publisher of HILOBROW and the Radium Age science fiction imprint HILOBOOKS. In addition, Josh is co-author of several books, including (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) the family activities guides UNBORED, UNBORED GAMES, and the forthcoming UNBORED ADVENTURE. 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.