Mapping Objects – Reflection on McLuhan

During the study session we watched an advert about Bells Whiskey, the advert was released in 2016, South Africa, following an elderly man who is determined to learn to read and write. The advert show the gentleman looking longingly into a book shop at a book and over the course of serval months practicing to read and learning the alphabet at every opportunity he had. Eventually the advert ends by the gentleman reading thee book from the store which turns out to be his sons book, and his son looking happy/proud and buying him a bells whiskey to drink. 

We also looked at a piece of writing by McLuhan where he indicates that we are often judged on the products that we used and we are denied a extent of freedom because of the division caused by these products. In the text McLuhan discusses this idea of Whiskey being seen as this product only to be consumed by the upper class, which he says is due to the medias control over how a particular product is perceived. He argues from social change and no matter which class system you are from individuals shouldn’t be classified by the products they use. McLuhan doesn’t mention the idea of wealth which is interesting as it’s suggested that he talking about wealth in another means. 

Interesting it could be perceived that there is a link between the advert and the text.  However, in McLuhan’s text it states that the Whiskey is for individuals who are of a higher class, which during certain decades only people of a higher social status would be literate. Therefore it can be seen that having Whiskey is only for people with the ability to read and write. This is the folklore that the advert could be telling people, when in fact it should be telling that the Whiskey is for everybody no matter the social status they hold. However, the advert can also be highlighting that Whiskey is for celebrating personal victories, as he reaches his personal goal of reading his sons book. 

This ideology could also be linked back to further reading on Barthes and his ideas surrounding art. Barthes believes that art can be perceived differently by each individual depending on culture, upbringing and the time period in which they see it in. For example, an individual might see this as just an advert around celebrating his victories whereas an individual from an older generation might think that its relating to the struggle some people had trying to get equal rights and how this means that individuals who had these rights were seen as privileged and higher within social society. Both Barthes and McLuhan are post-structuralist, hence why they look beyond the initial thoughts and viewpoint that individuals might see when they view or read a piece of work.

I found that this study session was interesting, although I struggled to understand the relationship between the two and how objects can have such a deep effect on our lives. I think that I understand the text better now and by applying them to the context of the advert has helped me to consolidate my learning and understanding of the myth in objects. 


McLuhan, M. The Mechanical Bride, Routledge, 1967, p.v. 
Barthes, R., Plastics in ‘Mythologies’, Vintage, 2009, pp. 97 – 99

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