Images speak a thousand lessons. Certain images have such an innate power that they invoke an entire, dramatic, telling without you needing to know anything about the history of the characters or the provenance of the propagating emotion. Meet twins Willy and Lily. Lily is upside-down. We were sent their photograph over the weekend. They are the newest one-year-old members of our extended family in the Midwest. Willy and Lily are not Siamese Twins. Or are they? I suppose it depends on what you know and who you choose to believe.
When the photograph arrived in the mail, my beloved wife Janna cooed and ooohed over the image.
I, on the other hand, fought off a shudder and mistakenly asked aloud, “Why would someone take the twins and pose them like that to make it look like they are Siamese Twins connected at the head?”
My wife coolly replied without looking at me, “Only in the David Boles world would anybody think that darling picture is what it obviously is not.”
“Yeah, but,” I argued, “You have to admit they’re posed as if they’re joined at the head. Why do that? Why allow anyone to believe, even for a semiotic second, that the twins are conjoined?”
I was ignored.
Later that night, not knowing any better, and being image-obsessed, I started my inquiry again, “Okay, but why…”
I was cut off before I could finish. “Ask your blog people,” Janna said. “See if their first reaction is ‘cute pic’ or ‘Siamese Twins.'”
I was not allowed to bring up the matter for the rest of the night.
So, here we are in the light of today, and I ask you, dear reader, for your thoughts on the image. What was your initial gut reaction? Conjoined? Siamese? Just “cute” or something else?
No matter what our informal poll results reveal, I am thinking I will press forward the Siamese Twins idea in four years or so — just when the twins are young enough not to remember, yet old enough to argue with their mother — and I will ask them if they knew they were born conjoined.
When they refuse to believe me, I will show them this image as evidence.
“See?” I’ll say, between their screams, “This was you two before the operation to separate you. You were joined together at the head and were sharing one brain. It was a miracle the doctors were able to cut you apart. I helped draw the surgical diagram to make sure all your memories were kept separate.”
When the twins race in tears to their mother with the photographic evidence of the surgery that never was — I will have proven my revenge that I am not really that crazy and that any ordinary person could rightfully conclude — based on the photographic evidence alone — that the twins were, against their unspoken wishes, posed in such a way as to semiotically conjoin them forever in pixels, paper and ink.
I can’t help but write that this experiment is a little skewed because you introduce what you believe the photo to represent and discuss it at great length before asking what the viewer’s immediate reaction is. I thought of the twins idea but then I thought, maybe I wouldn’t have done so had I just seen the picture by itself, sans article. Hard to say.
It’s not an experiment and it isn’t skewed. The question is — does that image suggest conjoined twins or not? It doesn’t matter if they are or not. We’re dealing only with the message the semiotic sends.
Leave the twins alone. Be nice.
Right after I tell them about the “photographic evidence,” I’ll let them there is no Santa Claus. Mwa-haa-hoo!