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


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: The Double Exposure 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 an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.