Panoptibillboards

I’ve been doing a lot of domestic travel this semester, namely to Massachusetts and Tennessee. I promise that I have no more thoughts to offer on the TSA beyond what I wrote in my most accidentally-found-post due to strange web searches: "TSA, Please Fondle My Bum.” However all my recent travel, lumped onto my trip to France last October for principal photography on Ignis Fatuus are making me think about a lot of things. Maybe they’ll end up in the new movie, maybe just here.

There’s an awful lot of billboards in the US. The only people who could think that there really ought to be more billboards are selling billboards. There’s a ludicrous number of cops in the US. The only people who could think that there really ought to be more cops have a material interest in the corrections industry.

But then it starts getting strange. The sheer number of billboards you see that are related to the corrections industry is breathtaking. I wrote about one series of them here (Stopping Power, First Responder), but that was just one. Cops in Tennessee really love billboards. When they're not specifically wagging their fingers at the underclass to justify increasing their numbers (see above Stopping Power post), they're purchasing billboards that say "Enter at your own risk, the city does not support public safety." 

But how many correctional billboards do you see on a trip across town? Remember not to drink and drive or we’ll put you in jail. Remember not to text and drive, or you know what? Probably jail. If you see something, say something, because someone probably needs to be in jail. So many enormous placards on ostensibly private property, projecting their images into public space, each warning imminent death, imprisonment, or probably doing unforeseen damage to that very cute child from a stock photo.

Just take note on your next drive. How often are you reminded that you are being watched? How often are you reminded that you could be watched at every moment?

(banner photo above by Mike McCaffrey, cropped and posted according to a Creative Commons 2.0 license.)