Caramels: a symbol of the masses

Yasuzo Masumara’s Giants and Toys (1958) is a comical representation of the struggle between human individuality and capitalism. The story begins with three rival companies, World, Apollo, and Giant, competing over domination of the caramel market in Japan. Masumara depicts the corporate world as an inescapable superficial force that deprives the human of emotion and individualism. The most essential aspects of this type of consumerist society are money, fame, and beating out competitors in a Darwinist “survival of the fittest” type of world. This is an ideal consistently portrayed in Giants and Toys as World’s head boss, Mr. Goda, strives to succeed in the corporate world through ousting his boss and violently forcing Kyoko, a naive broken-toothed girl, to be his advertising weapon, while his health deteriorates by such consumerist desires. Mr. Goda’s goal, much like many other businessmen, is to successfully create a mass consumer product for as many people as possible. In this corporate war between power-hungry businessmen, the true emphasis lies in how to produce and sell as many products as possible through mass media and ridiculous prizes. As you watch the film, the audience tends to forget that the product they are actually selling is caramel. Caramel is such a simple food that it seems almost absurd that these companies are spending so much on marketing and prizes like spacesuits. The taste, appearance, quality, or personal experience with caramel is completely irrelevant to the interests of these companies. Evidently, the caramels of each of the three rival firms are no different from each other.

Caramels are individually sliced and packaged to be distributed to thousands of children across Japan.

Caramel is being created, packaged, and sorted in the factory, ready to distribute to thousands of children after progressing through a highly repetitive mechanical process. The sound of the constant clicking of Mr. Goda’s broken cigarette lighter serves as another means of repetition in the background. The motif of the cigarette lighter may be symbolic of a broken society. As the film progresses through a tour of the factory production of caramel, it is essential to notice that each caramel is identical; there is nothing interesting or exciting about any one of them.

The caramels are merely a mass produced consumer product that is symbolic of the human condition. As the film began with a montage of images of Kyoko and a “human flood” of businessmen rushing at the sound of the factory horn, repetition mechanisms become key in tying the film together. As mentioned by Barthes, “the stake of these repetitions is not only the destruction of art but also another conception of the human subject…. The subject abolishes the pathos of time in himself, because the pathos is always linked to the feeling that something has appeared…”(Barthes, pg. 23). According to works of pop culture, Pathos, or emotion, is literally diminished by each repetition of an image.

Like the caramels, humans are being created, controlled, and depersonalized by greedy businessmen through desires for powesr, money, and materialism. As society becomes increasingly reliant on consumer products, companies have gained an overarching power to manipulate and control the masses through media and advertising.


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