The TaskRabbit homepage when I logged in this morning.
Larger image here.
In high school, we had a film teacher named “Mr. Luce”. He was one of the people who best showed us how to use critical thinking. He would show us how when watching something that our brain tends to switch off, and that filmmakers could use this tendency to get away with any number of tricks. This was more the case when they employed editing tricks, and the class involved him showing us some of those tricks.
One of the things he said that stuck with me all these years is that when you see a picture or the set of a TV show, everything in that picture or show has been precisely set like that. Every picture on the wall, every prop in the background, every item of clothing the characters wear – someone got paid to determine exactly what that would be and where and why. Someone else got paid to put those things in the exact places they were in when you saw the picture or watched the show.
He further pointed out that this was done on purpose – to draw the eye of the viewer in one way or another, or to suggest certain things to the audience. Frasier Crane’s apartment on “Frasier” didn’t have a grand piano in the back just because he and Niles liked to play; it had a grand piano because it suggests that he was cultured, and rich enough to afford a grand piano in his apartment.
When I saw the above picture on TaskRabbit.com, Mr. Luce’s training came screaming back. The picture is set – someone (or a group of someones) created the picture and chose to feature it on the front page of the site. Let’s examine it.
Of course, at the front is the woman, who has her eyes down and is smiling broadly. This suggests submission and happiness, and is of course a pose primarily geared to be pleasing to men. She’s wearing green, which may be a TaskRabbit color, but which also suggests money. There are moving boxes, suggesting that she’s packing, and the gentleman in the back appears to be packing as well. His checked shirt, black and white, suggests that he is indecisive (can’t pick a colour) and also lends itself to the continuity of the story happening in the pictures in front of him. (More on that in a second.)
The gentleman in the back is somewhat morose, and it’s expected that people who are moving would be so since it’s so unpleasant. (Note, though, that submissive happy girl in the front is really rather excited by the prospect.) However, it’s not the man’s moroseness that caught my eye, it’s the fact that he’s holding a phallic wine decanter. (I won’t get into the bubble wrap’s implication for the sake of the readers.) The phallic object is of course pointed towards the happy submissive woman who is really glad to be packing his things, one of which is a plate. When we continue to examine that, we have the masculine morose man in the back who is holding a phallus pointing at a submissive happy woman who is also holding out a food dish. It suggests a hierarchical method of thinking where the happy subservient woman also brings food. (I won’t get into the cultural implications of the participants, but arguments could be made there as well.)
Further examination brings us to the framed pictures in the back, which draw the eye from left to right. The first is what looks to be a young man with his hands in his pockets. The background is angular and and there are two darker lines which draw your attention to his face, and then to his posture, which appears to be slightly slouched with his hands in his pockets. The picture is in portrait, and most of it is black.
The second picture is worse. Showing what looks to be a smaller boy at the bottom of stairs, it is even darker than the first, Again in portrait, there’s an ominous shadow on the left and the railing that draws your eye down and to the boy.
To the right of the woman (also part of the story in the pictures!) we see a third picture in portrait. That same small boy is now barely visible, but there is a small glint of light over her shoulder and this picture is much, much brighter than either of the first two.
The final picture completes the story. Hung in landscape mode, it is significantly brighter, with a good amount of light on the right side. Its subject is cool and confident (note the smoking pose) and has someone behind him hanging on to him tightly. Everything about the central figure in the final picture suggests that things have turned out as they’re supposed to (quite literally, in that the picture is also turned to landscape) and that hiring the submissive happy TaskRabbit woman who may bring you food while you hold your phallus will make you cool, calm, and collected as well.
Keep in mind again that someone made this picture – set up the scene, posed the actors, and put the various pictures up behind the slightly morose gentleman. Someone told him to hold the wine decanter (after picking the most phallic one possible) and told him to hold it at that angle. She was told to smile broadly and keep her eyes down while holding the plate in front of her. All this was staged – it’s not an accident that this showed up on the front page of Task Rabbit. It’s all designed to convey a story, and they’re not being subtle about it either. That’s what amazed me so much about it – not that Task Rabbit is trying to convey a particular message – that’s what all people and companies do in some form or another – just that it was so blatant.