Response 1 – The Commercialization of Emotions (10.1)

By Ben Bennett-Carpenter, Oakland University

This engaging piece caught my attention with a number of particular ideas, beginning with the idea that “an image…captures a collective feeling”. I appreciate when Mavridou-Hernandez highlights that “kissing on V-J day was described as a sort of ‘national currency’” and further that this “image stands alone, apart from what the historical and cultural context within it was initially imagined, and functions on its own”.

Discussing imagery within the contexts of affect and the “collective” had me thinking of Arlie Hochschild’s (2003) The Managed Heart, along with Zuboff’s (2020) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. These works bring their own disciplines and particular new insights to strands contributed by, among many others, Durkheim’s work on “collective effervescence” and Freud on the “totem”. Mavridou-Hernandez brings us much more up to date by “using iconographic tracking as developed by Laurie Gries.”

As a reader/viewer of the work, we move through the slides/pages in a scrolling-down fashion, like turning the pages of magazine, except now flowing down a digital scroll.

In this piece, I appreciate the attention to how iconic images may operate ahistorically, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, how particular times and places in history do in fact make use of those icons in a particular way — such as within the dynamics of capitalist culture. Mavridou-Hernandez writes, “While the image of “The Kiss” depicts an important time in history,
the cultural interpretation and commercialization of emotions has greatly overshadowed this, particularly in more recent uses of the image. This can be seen throughout the frequent re-use of the image for marketing purposes or for the sale of products such as mugs and earrings.”

Mavridou-Hernandez rightly highlights, in light of feminism, the Me Too movement, and other consciousness-raising efforts: “As the image persists through a changing social context, its popularity and ethical implications are questioned by a society that seeks to re-evaluate the complacency with which sexual harassment has often been glossed over in favor of pre-
determined ideals of romance.” Strangely enough, maybe, I wondered if the “MAD Comic Spoof of ‘The Kiss’” that Mavridou-Hernandez cites ends up as one the closest examples of giving a MeToo era critique of this image?

In terms of particular decisions in her research, I found it notable that Mavridou-Hernandez used a Google Images search but then also turned to the Shopping tab where she found, among other things, “earrings, necklaces, mugs, cigarette cases, and t-shirts” making use, one way or
another of the iconic kiss image. She had me thinking of discussions surrounding material culture, material rhetoric, and literatures of “display” — even more so as she points to a “cigarette, a necklace pendant, and a tattoo.”

In the end, she sums it up best: “The re circulation trends show the way in which the original history behind the image has been erased in order to allow for more personal narratives to place themselves within the icon. In essence, the iconographic tracking report shows the ways in which the image plays to a larger rhetorical framework focused on the commercialization of emotions.”


Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 2003. The Managed Heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Zuboff, Shoshana. 2020. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. New York: Public Affairs.

Return to “The Commercialization of Emotions”