A cultural signifier is just a symbol that identifies a particular language, country or culture. For example one might a string of onions, we identify as France, or in this case tatoos for Yakuza, and hats and tommy guns for mafia.
Advertisers use signifiers all the time, as a shortcut to your emotional identification with a fake history of a product they are selling. I made art on this theme.
This is a fairly fun blog about signifiers, a good beggining guide to start your interest.
analysis: With shows like Sopranoes, The Wire and the less complex Dexter and the immersiveness of video games that parallel and parody this culture of violence and reward the image of organised crime and criminals has never been more prevalent. And now with the internet, rumour and bravado can take the place of facts and history in the minds of those easily impressed.
This, i think is very similar to the culture and mindset of the real life criminals, who we are told play the same games and watch the same movies that we do. Unaware of the irony of their position. And now are allowed when they they finish, to sell a book on their crimes, star in documentary's all for an eager public already having lived their life by proxy through the games and tv shows.
One could argue , and it has been said , that this fascination with criminals is a delayed and frustrated primordial response to the flight and fight instinct.
Organised crime operates like a business, much like the business we see today dominate our cultural landscape,and they use the same tactics of cultural signifiers to develop an emotional connection.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ezk0e1VL80o This dodge ad i thought was a snl spoof at first.It's signifiers are egregious and only worth watching for the humour value.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6LZc5eCgAI&feature=related : Mcdonalds ad trying to identify an emotional connection by entering your personal history. Do you see how they are grabbing at your memorys?. What they want to do is develop your history to include Mcdonalds.
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