Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Category: Stock Photo Hell (page 1 of 3)

Stock Photo Hell: The End

Stock Photo Hell

cartoon winking devil that looks suspiciously like Bob Dobbs

Live from the Satanic chapter of the Church of the Subgenius!

Circle Nine: Betrayal

Betrayal of Benefactors

If he used to be as handsome as he is now hideous,
And raised his eyebrows in contempt of his creator,
One can see how every bit of ire, envy, and despair

Derives from him. I was totally astonished
To see his head had three faces:
The one in front, facing us, was red;

There were two others, joined to the first
By a seam that began at the center of the shoulder;
The three became one at the crown.

-Canto XXXIV, Mary Jo Bang translation

 

And we come to the final canto, the final sub-circle of the final circle of Hell. And it is this: Satan, enormous, with three mouths, constantly chewing on the three worst traitors of all time: Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius. The wind from Satan’s six eternally-beating wings keeps the lake of Cocytus frozen; his tears and drool are what make up the lake. It is a literal lake of Satan’s frozen tears. Satan is only described in the 34th canto of Inferno, which is significant because Purgatorio and Paradiso only have 33 cantos. The entire Divine Comedy gets 100 cantos total, and that extra canto goes into Inferno because Inferno is the place of excess. And in that extra canto lives Satan. Dante’s final point is that the most-tortured soul in hell is Satan himself. Satan, condemned to forever masticate the worst of humanity. To never swallow or cease weeping. And in order to progress to Purgatory, Dante and Virgil climb down to where Satan is sunk deep in the earth…they climb down to the pit between his legs and through the earth itself, which apparently takes about three days (Jesus resurrection reference, anyone?). And then they’re out by the foot of the mountain of Purgatory, which was pushed up out of the earth on the opposite side of the world to where Satan fell (and has been stuck ever since).

Inferno ends with one of my favorite lines, which Mary Jo Bang translates thus: “And we walked out / To once again catch sight of the stars.” Try saying it in Italian to catch some of the spirit of Dante’s poetry: “E quindi uscimmo a rivider la stelle.” Not a bad note to end on, in my opinion.

 

Search terms: Satan, woman satan, business satan

I cannot believe that in all of Stock Photo Hell, I haven’t done this search yet. Because it’s pretty ridiculous. So ridiculous, in fact, that in lieu of the standard descriptions, I bring you Stock Photo Hell Satan Bingo:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Keep your eyes peeled for:

Satanic branding!
Things that don’t have much to do with Satan but look “devilish” to Stock Photo Land’s eyes!
Casual racism!
The Bride of Satan!
“Sensual Satan”!
Someone who couldn’t spell “satin”!
Fear of women in general!
“Dirty atheist teen”!
“Fashion Satan”!
An aspergillum (brush for flinging holy water) that looks oddly like a tiny tiny witch’s broom!
and so much more!

So. In the end, what is the outcome of Stock Photo Hell? Who is the Satan of Stock Photo Hell? Have I been playing Virgil to your Dante? Do we move on to some sort of DeviantArt purgatory, followed by a paradise in which real representations of actual people are made by well-paid illustrators?

…Or are we both the ones at the bottom of the pit, eternally chewing on these tropes, unable to unsee them? I’m not sure. I know that for me, this process has let me see through another veil of advertising, that many-veiled creature with its eternal hunger. This process has made me think specifically about women in advertising and stock photos. Women and people of color are dead canaries in the Stock Photo Land coal mine, and therefore worth paying attention to. Stock Photo Land is a warning, a reminder of the lowest common denominator blueprint of our society. And at the same time, stock photos are a tool. I use them sometimes, as a book designer. I don’t use the Cyber Woman Holding Corn or anything, but they’re all part of the web of stock photo illustration. I didn’t do this to condemn stock photos as much as the magical land of Stock Photo Hell, where all the stupidest tropes go to die.

Reader, I leave you to come to your own conclusions. In the meantime, let us go forth, away from this rectangular opening, and once again see the stars.

 

Next up: Something completely different.

Stock Photo Hell: Betrayal of Guests

Stock Photo Hell

stock-photo-angry-couple-divorce-metaphor-69382522Circle Nine: Betrayal

Betrayal of Guests

We kept talking and farther on came to other shades–
Their heads were crudely cocooned in ice;
Their faces, instead of bent down, were turned up.

Their very tears prevent them from crying.
The evidence of their grief is stopped at the edge
Of their eyes and backs up to increase their misery.

The initial tears freeze and form a glass ledge
That catches the next set and on and on until finally
The entire eye socked is filled with ice.”

–Canto XXXIII, Mary Jo Bang translation

This is it, everybody. This is, as Shepard Book says, the Special Hell, where those who have betrayed their guests go. (No official word on people who talk in the theater.)

The main person that Dante and Virgil talk to in this section, Ptolomea, is a man named Fra Alberigo. Well, more accurately, a soul named Fra Alberigo, because what he tells them is new and different even by the standards of the Inferno: Fra Alberigo isn’t actually dead, technically. As soon as he’s committed his particularly nasty sin, which in his case was inviting guests over for dinner and then eating them Hannibal-style, his soul was whisked down to Ptolomea while his body moves around on autopilot, “taken over by a devil,” until the end of its days. The name “Ptolomea” is likely from Ptolemy of the Book of Maccabees, who killed his kids and father-in-law after inviting them over as guests.

Search terms: cannibalism, betrayal of guests, bad host, bad hostess

So “betrayal of guests” was vastly too specific for either of my stock photo sites, “bad host” gave me nothing useful (some broken computer cartoons, an inexplicable Italian gay pride parade), “bad hostess” was mostly pictures of sold-out Twinkies.

But “cannibalism,” hoo boy.

Cannibalism pictures ranged from horrifyingly racist to delightfully surreal.

So let’s get the overt racism out of the way:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

::headdesk::

There’s a lot of shit like that, usually vector images rather than photos. It’s almost as if real people don’t want to make overly racist caricatures of themselves. (Er, thinking back to other bits of Stock Photo Hell, though, I guess I need to amend that to “don’t want to make overtly racist caricatures of themselves this one specific time.”)

And to be fair, there were also “editorial” photos of actual tribe members from headhunter tribes in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Also a picture of the Easter Island heads, even though cannibalism during the downfall of Easter Island has been generally debunked.

Anyway, moving on to the delightfully surreal:

She even has delicate cucumbers as a side dish. Like the delicate lady-head she is.

She even has delicate cucumbers as a side dish. Like the delicate lady-head she is.

So this picture provided interesting context for the next one...

So this picture provided interesting context for the next one…

This seems to have been part of a "cute child shenanigans" photo-shoot. Still comes up in a search for cannibalism.

This seems to have been part of a “cute child shenanigans” photo-shoot. Still comes up in a search for cannibalism.

Yep. Someone green-lit this project. There is presumably a client who thought, "Yes! This salami-armed guy is just what I needed!"

Yep. Someone green-lit this project. There is presumably a client who thought, “Yes! This salami-armed guy is just what I needed!”

"Evil Zombie Chef Thinking Up Unhealthy Food." BECAUSE UNHEALTHY FOOD IS LITERALLY A WORSE SIN THAN EATING HUMAN BRAINS IN STOCK PHOTO LAND GRRR ARRRG

“Evil Zombie Chef Thinking Up Unhealthy Food.”
BECAUSE UNHEALTHY FOOD IS LITERALLY A WORSE SIN THAN EATING HUMAN BRAINS IN STOCK PHOTO LAND GRRR ARRRG

And scene.

 

Next up: The Final Installment of Stock Photo Hell!

Spoilers: We get to meet Satan. Whoa.

Stock Photo Hell: Betrayal of Country

Stock Photo Hell

business-woman-holding-crossed-fingers-behind-back-oath-truth-rear-view-32808893Circle Nine: Betrayal

Betrayers of Country

[…] I saw two souls frozen
In the same hole, they were so close,
The head of one covered the other’s like a hood.

The way hunger makes you bite into a loaf of bread
The top one had his teeth sunk in the other’s neck,
Where the brain becomes the cord.”

-Canto XXXII, Mary Jo Bang translation

 

This canto could be summarized as “the section in which Dante is a huge asshole.” Really, since he got down onto the lake-of-frozen-tears-of-Satan, he’s been generally entitled, mean, and sort of power hungry, if learning the tales of the dead can be considered the source of his power. In this canto he grabs a guy by the hair and is generally abusive because the guy is like “leave me alone, I don’t want to tell my story.” Keep in mind everyone here is frozen in ice, usually up to the neck. So it’s not like Dante’s, y’know, physically threatened by anything. He’s just being a bully. (The thought here is that he’s been corrupted by Hell, which he then has to work off in Purgatory before he can be reunited with Beatrice and ascend to Heaven.)

Anyway, betrayers of country. The poor soul Dante does manage to harass into telling him its story is a guy who was a double agent in the Ghibbline/Guelf feud, a.k.a. one of the hottest political conflicts in Dante’s day. The whole “betrayal of country/party/political affiliation” area is named Anternora, after Antenor of Troy who was in on that whole Trojan horse thing and did other naughty double-crossing type things as well.

 

Search terms: Political betrayal, betrayer of country, traitor, spy

“Political betrayal” was…predictable. Office drama as a substitute for politics. Lots of backstabbing, although some of it was at least done with the knife the right way round.

James looked up. "Stewart, what are you doing with that knife?"  "Nothing. Um. Cutting up this apple." "You're doing the 'squishing your head' thing except with backstabbing, aren't you." "...a bit..."

James looked up. “Stewart, what are you doing with that knife?”
“Nothing. Um. Cutting up this apple.”
“You’re doing the ‘squishing your head’ thing except with backstabbing, aren’t you.”
“…a bit…”

Anyway. The “traitor” and “spy” searches were way more interesting. “Traitor” brought up this little gem:

Lindsey turned her face away. The shame! They had finally discovered that her binder was completely empty.

Lindsey turned her face away. The shame! They had finally discovered that her binder was completely empty.

Have I not talked about the women with empty binders thing? It’s totally a thing. In the part of Stock Photo Land that deals with business women, there have been enough photoshoots involving women with empty binders that they come up in many, many searches. There are women with full binders too, out there, never mind the whole “ring binders are not as relevant as they used to be, Mitt Romney,” aspect of the binder photos, but seriously. Keep your eye out for women with empty binders. They come up all too frequently.

Um. Yep.

Um. Yep.

But not to stray too far from our topic, let’s finish up with spies. Stock Photo Land spies are a sight to be had. One of their hallmarks is bewildering incompetence. Thus:

 

"American Spy" is apparently attending frat parties for intel, all while WEARING THE FLAG OF THE COUNTRY HE IS SPYING FOR ON HIS ARM. Not the sneakiest.

“American Spy” is apparently attending frat parties for intel, all while WEARING THE FLAG OF THE COUNTRY HE IS SPYING FOR ON HIS ARM. Not the sneakiest.

This "Arabian spy" ("arabian" being an EXTREMELY DUBIOUS label in Stock Photo Land to begin with) is under the misapprehension that he can brace both guns with each other at the same time and still have any kind of accuracy.

This “Arabian spy” (“arabian” being an EXTREMELY DUBIOUS label in Stock Photo Land to begin with) is under the misapprehension that he can brace both guns with each other at the same time and still have any kind of accuracy.

However, this spy is even worse at dual-wielding...the MP5ish gun will do poorly unless she's using both hands to fire it.

However, this spy is even worse at dual-wielding…the MP5ish gun will do poorly unless she’s using both hands to fire it.

Also, in terms of actual sneakiness, one could be a vastly less obvious spy if one did not parade around in a sexy outfit with nicely coiffed hair and a gun. I know, I know, James Bond and all the femme fatales would have it otherwise, but seriously. A boring temp with a gun taped inside her empty binder would be the best spy in Stock Photo Land.

Also, in terms of actual sneakiness, one could be a vastly less obvious spy if one did not parade around in a sexy outfit with nicely coiffed hair and a gun. I know, I know, James Bond and all the femme fatales would have it otherwise, but seriously. A boring temp with a gun taped inside her empty binder would be the best spy in Stock Photo Land.

 

Next up: Betrayal of Guests!
Spoilers: It is actually suckier than being up to your neck in ice?!

 

Stock Photo Hell: Betrayal

Stock Photo Hell

frozen-alaska-22539460

Circle Nine: Betrayal

When we were much lower in the dark pit,
Far beneath the giant’s feet,
And I was still looking up, marveling at the wall,

I heard a voice say to me, “Watch out where you walk.
Be careful not to step on the heads
Of the sad burnt-out brothers.”

I turned and looked down. Where I was standing–
And stretching out in front of me–was a frozen lake
So thick it looked more like glass than water.

-Canto XXXII, Mary Jo Bang translation

And so, lowered by giants* into the final pit, Dante and Virgil and us, dear reader, have reached the ultimate circle of Dante’s Inferno. Like the Malebolge, the circle of betrayal, a.k.a. Cocytus, is subdivided into four subsections. plus the chewy center of Hell, which we will get to in due time. In general, though, the final circle is a lake of Satan’s frozen tears, which is pretty gosh-darn metal. I also am that pedant who, when someone utters the phrase “when hell freezes over,” at least thinks about the very center of Hell being already frozen. Usually it’s inappropriate to geek-correct. Someday I’ll geek-correct someone and they’ll geek-correct me right back with Milton’s concept of Hell which has a burning lake of fire in the center, and then we will have to be best friends forever.

In any case, the first part of this final circle is called Caina, and reserved for those, like the Biblical Cain, have betrayed their kin. All the people in the circle of betrayal are stuck in the icy lake, but those unfortunates who landed themselves in Caina are stuck up to their faces in ice. He meets and chats a little bit with one guy, who tells him about some of the people there: a guy who’d killed his cousins, two brothers who killed each other, and presumably Mordred of the King Arthur tales.

My search terms: betrayal, family betrayal, traitor, traitorous woman, and for the header image “giants”

So…Stock Photo Land has decided that betrayal means one of two things: infidelity in a relationship, or else the sort of bad business deal that involves a lot of very literal back-stabbing.

Oh come on, get your back-stabbing technique right. That's just going to be awkward.

Oh come on, get your back-stabbing technique right. That’s just going to be awkward.

Otherwise this was the motherlode of pictures of infidelity, which almost always followed the exact same story: a woman discovering her man’s infidelity, usually by means of a brightly colored bra or artistic lipstick stains on the collar. Frankly most of them were very dull.

boooooring

boooooring

This one, however, can get folded into my secret Sister Mary Ann Fuckoff fanfic universe:

"I have realized the error of my ways and I am pledging myself to the Church of Jesus Tapdancing Christ. This is their holy sign.

“I have realized the error of my ways and I am pledging myself to the Church of Jesus Tapdancing Christ. This is their holy sign,” smirked Brad.

We’ll see if I can wrassle anything interesting up for other flavors of betrayal next week. Who knew Stock Photo Land could make betrayal so…banal?

Next up: Betrayal of Homeland
Spoilers: It’s still in Cocytus. The weather continues cold.

***

*The giants are not minions like the Malebranche demons, but also sinners being punished. For example, one of them is Nimrod, i.e. the Biblical hunter who helped make the Tower of Babel. He babbles unintelligibly and Dante and Virgil as they pass. The giants serve as the barrier between the circles of fraud and betrayal. Many of them are pretty mean, so Virgil totally has to butter one up with praise and manipulation in order to convince him to help them down into the final pit.

Bonus giants pic:

I actually kind of like this one? "Giant Business Woman"

I actually kind of like this one? “Giant Business Woman”

Stock Photo Hell: Falsifiers

Stock Photo Hell

WHY DID YOU NOT QUESTION THE BIOLOGY OF THIS

WHY DID YOU NOT QUESTION THE BIOLOGY OF THIS

Circle Eight: Fraud

Bolgia Ten: Falsifiers

I was hit by an atonal choir of discordant wails
That pierced me like needles, their tips dipped in pity;
I covered my ears with my hands.

What you had here was just what you’d have
If all the sick in the contagion hospitals
Of Maremma, Valdichiana, and Sardinia,

During the malaria season from July to September,
Were crammed together in one ditch;
A gag-inducing stench of gangrene rose off the crowd.”

-Canto XXIX, Mary Jo Bang translation

The falsifiers seem to fall into several types: counterfeiters, i.e. people who made false money or goods; con artists, who convinced people that taking this wooden horse into the city was a really good idea and it wasn’t a sketch move by the Greeks or anything; and the type of con artist that disguise themselves as others for evil purposes. These purposes ranged from a man who impersonated a dead guy to gain his inheritance to a woman who impersonated a stranger to have sex with her father. I mean, I’m not saying this bolgia is directed by David Lynch, but maybe it is?! In general the people in this final bolgia of fraud seem to have done worse things than the false counselors earlier. Like, I’m not entirely convinced the makers of fake Prada handbags would end up in this bolgia, but who can know the ineffable will of God and/or Minos? Minos (who is the critter in charge of wrapping its tail around a number of times corresponding to how deep you’re getting sent) might be a real fan of authentic Prada handbags, who knows? Anyway, certainly counterfeiters of money and the Talented Mr. Ripley would end up here.

Speaking of “here,” this tenth and final bolgia of fraud is a pretty icky place. People are afflicted with a variety of hideous diseases, from fever to gangrene to edema. Some of them seem to be thematic to the type of counterfeiting or conning the person enacted in life–the “Master Adam” (possibly Adamo of Brescia) who was a counterfeiter of gold coins, is afflicted with dropsy, i.e. edema: his legs and body are so swollen that he cannot move. This is possibly a symptom, Mary Jo Bang suggests, “associated with gold toxicity.”  The souls Dante talks to spend a lot of time bickering and being jerks to each other, arguing over who’s got it worse, etc. Satre says “Hell is other people?” Well, this canto certainly proves that.

 

My search terms: counterfeit, con artist, counterfeit woman

(PRO TIP: Never type “edema” into any kind of image searching site.)

Much of what I got back was more or less what you’d expect:

Do not hire Weird Al to do your accounts. He will scam you.

Do not hire Weird Al to do your accounts. He will scam you.

Pretty much all of the images of human scammers or con artists were white men.

...or, um, white women pretending to be white men?!

…or, um, white women pretending to be white men?!

As for other con archetypes, the doctor-in-handcuffs seemed to be pretty much always a woman, and when I typed in “counterfeit woman” I mostly got women in oddly elaborate hairdos investigating counterfeit money.

Thus.

Thus.

The best result I found does not really capture the freaky, diseasy aspect of this bolgia, but is sure does go full David Lynch and captures the surreal aspect of this bolgia:

Europa, amirite?

Europa, amirite?

 

That’s all I’ve got; frankly, I’m tired of Fraud and ready to move on to the final circle of this wacky adventure: Betrayal.

 

Next up: Betrayal.
Spoilers: Hell literally freezes over.

 

Stock Photo Hell: Schismatics

Stock Photo Hell

stock-vector-figure-about-to-be-cut-in-half-by-red-scissors-145512397Circle Eight: Fraud

Bolgia Nine: Sowers of Discord and Schism

All the others you see here,
While alive they spread strife and divisiveness;
That’s why down here they’re now torn in two

There’s a devil back there that sticks it to us
With such cruelty, cutting us all with his sword
As if we were a ream of paper

Every time we circle this sorry road,
Since all our gaping wounds
Will have closed before we pass him again.”

Inferno Canto XXVIII, Mary Jo Bang translation

There are more graphic parts of this canto, but it’s Monday, and there’s only so much ripping-in-half-with-organs-hanging-out that I can handle on a Monday morning.

Yes, the schismatics and sowers of discord are literally ripped into parts and reassemble only to be ripped apart again. Contrapasso, folks, is what’s happening here: ironic punishment befitting the crime. Dante and Virgil talk to people who caused wars and military discord, those who sowed political chaos, and those who caused religious schism. Dante places both Muhammed and Alí (Muhammed’s son-in-law, head of the Shiite order) next to each other in this bolgia, presumably both being punished for splitting Islam into two factions. They, particularly Muhammed, are displayed as stoic/heroic sufferers rather than braggarts or unrepentant sinners, which many of the folks Dante talks to seem to be. Gosh, if only Martin Luther had been around in Dante’s time, I’m sure he would have ended up here, too.

Anyway. My search terms were “discord” and “schism.”

The “schism” results, on the other hand, were mostly churches. Schismatic churches? Maybe. Also the image that graces the top of this post, which wins the Most Relevant to Dante award.

My stock photo sites mostly interpreted “discord” as “conflict,” although there was also one photo of a person doing karaoke. The conflicts seemed to break down into a few basic categories: internal conflict, a quarrel between two little girls, family infighting (husband/wife, mother/daughter, brother/sister), or BUSINESS CONFLICT. Demographically, the people involved in discord and schism were probably 90% white, and there was almost always a woman or girl represented in anything that wasn’t a guy yelling at himself.

on both sides of the frame, the same man in business clothing shouts at himself through a megaphone

Literally. Internal conflict. Internal shouty conflict.

The BUSINESS DISCORD was all v. dramatic. My personal favorite was the most dramatic office of all time:

"Take your TPS report and shove it," Carl muttered under his breath. "Shove it right up your butt. In triplicate."

“Take your TPS report and shove it,” Carl muttered under his breath. “Shove it right up your butt. In triplicate.”

Marilyn ignored Carl’s prattling and continued to type in her Google query: water cooler compatible arsenic

actually titled "business fight"

9AM: quarterly budget reports filed, ready for analysis. Some disagreement as to budget allocation still unresolved.

Generally the “marital discord” pics were of people literally in wedding clothes scowling, although there was also a pair of secret agents getting married that got stuck in with the other couples:

Formalwear plus guns equals secret agent, obvs.

Formalwear plus guns equals secret agent, obvs.

In an unsurprising twist, I found lots of cheesy images of spousal abuse, too. There were women hitting men with pans, men hitting women with belts, and then this couple going mano a mano with vaguely gender-coded boxing gloves:

Actually his should be blue. Otherwise we might not understand that this is a battle of the sexes. Come on now.

Hers could stand to be a little pinker. And his should be blue. Otherwise we might not understand that this is a battle of the sexes. Come on now.

And finally, this image, which I can only presume is a young wife becoming angry at her husband for refusing to join the Discordian Society.

"Look, Shelly, I don't want any pie, nor do I want to find the Goddess or contemplate the nonsensical madness of life. What do you say to that?" She look his face in her flour-coated hand and whispered, "Fnord."

“Look, Shelly, I don’t want any apple pie, nor do I want to find the Goddess or contemplate the nonsensical madness of life. What do you say to that?”
She took his face in her flour-coated hand and whispered, “Fnord.”

 

Next up: The final bolgia of Fraud!
Spoilers: It’s pretty gross. I know I say that a lot, but really.

Stock Photo Hell: False Counselors

Stock Photo Hell

THAT IS NOT EVEN HOW SUDOKU WORKS

THAT IS NOT EVEN HOW SUDOKU WORKS

Circle Eight

Bolgia Seven: The False Counselors

He took me down to Minos, who wrapped his tail
Eight times around his rigid back,
Then, in a snit, gnawed the tip of it and said,

‘Put this one in the fire for deceitful schemers!’
Which is why I’m here and, as you can see,
Lost and dressed in this, going about in bitterness.

When he’d finished what he sad to say,
The flame, in anguish, ran off,
Twitching and flicking its pointed tip.

-Canto XXVII, Mary Jo Bang translation

 

At first when he and Virgil reach the bolgia of false counselors, Dante is confused because he doesn’t really see anyone. Or rather, he sees only countless flames. Virgil explains that there is a human soul inside of each flame, each “wrapped in blanket that burns it.” (Canto XXVI, Mary Jo Bang translation) The spirits talk directly out of the flames. Spirits Dante talks to include Odysseus and Diomedes, who are there because of the Trojan horse incident, among other things. In general, the people in this bolgia are guilty of subterfuge and tricking other people into schemes. I can only imagine that pyramid schemers, Ponzi schemers, and Scientologists would land here as well.

 

Search terms: evil scheme, false counselor, bad advice, counselor,  adviser

So “false counselor” was way to specific a term for my stock photo searches to understand, although I did get some photos of false eyelashes. And when I typed in “evil scheme” I got pretty much an entire page of the SCHEMING HANDS that have been documented earlier in the circle of fraud:

SCHEMING HANDS. Literally an entire page of this.

SCHEMING HANDS. Literally an entire page of this.

So I figured I’d at least try to get into some new territory with the stock photos, that being counselors and advisers. In general “adviser” meant money or real estate, and “counselor” meant feelings. Frankly, most of the advising images were very…standard slick stock photo images. They did have a surprisingly well-balanced representation of races, genders, and ages.

stock-photo-financial-advisor-talking-to-senior-couple-at-home-128132966On the other hand, a disproportionate number of the “counselors” who looked like they were dealing with feelings (as opposed to an academic counselor) were women. I mean…there was this guy:

I am not sure I would trust this man with matters of mental health. Then again, wearing a Mister Rogers Meets Bill Cosby sweater does not necessarily mean anything. He's got scheming hands, though. Never trust scheming hands.

I am not sure I would trust this man with matters of mental health. Then again, wearing a Mister Rogers Meets Bill Cosby sweater does not necessarily mean anything aside from a love for bright colors?!

And there was this gross misunderstanding of the Freudian analysis method:

The point is that the patient isn't suppose to give the psychologist "WTF" looks, gosh.

The point is that the patient isn’t suppose to give the psychologist “WTF” looks, gosh.

But mostly it was FEELS:

fig. 1: FEELS

fig. 1: FEELS

As for “bad advice,” there wasn’t a ton interesting going on, aside from that “advice” seemed to be conflated with “gossip.”

"We're being secretly controlled by the Patriarchy, Marsha. Don't tell."

“We’re being secretly controlled by the Patriarchy, Marsha. Don’t tell.”

My favorite image, and I believe the winner of this round, is the following false counselor/guy who knows a guy who knows a guy, knowwhatImean:

It's called "SIT DOWN DISCUSSION." Perhaps the discussion is about his female lackey's lack of business casual? One can only assume.

It’s called “SIT DOWN DISCUSSION.” Perhaps the discussion is about his female lackey’s lack of business casual? “Jeans are not appropriate for the workplace, Susan.”

NEXT UP: Schismatics

SPOILERS: “SCHISM” is a great word to remember when you have no vowels in Scrabble.

Stock Photo Hell: Thieves

Stock Photo Hell

lizard-brown-white-background-33432430Circle Eight: Fraud

Bolgia Six: Thieves

After speaking, the thief emphatically thrust
Both fists in the air, middle fingers extended,
And shouted, “Take this, God! It’s just for you!”

-Canto XXV, Mary Jo Bang translation

The bolgia of the thieves is a strange and interesting place, and contains to my mind one of the more horrifying punishments in hell. Thieves steal the things people need to live, parting people from their goods. (A herd of cattle is one of the mentioned items stolen in Canto XXV.) They may cause great misery and anguish, but are generally not there to see it, having left, as they say, like a thief in the night. They’ve transformed goods, money, identities…into their own. And so the theme of transformation, or more accurately, metamorphosis, infuses the bolgia of thieves.

The bolgia is full of reptiles: snakes, lizards, some fanciful six-legged lizard. The reptiles slither up and absorb the bodies of the thieves, sometimes through tangling or…orifices…or else through bizarre melting together, as described below. In general, the idea is this: they took away people’s material agency, and now their bodily agency is forfeit. People turn to lizards turn to people get wrapped up with snakes and it’s all very squicky. This is perhaps the squickiest metamorphosis:

The meeting of the corresponding parts went like this:
The reptile divided its tail into two tines,
While the wounded one drew his feet together.

The man’s lower legs thighs
Stuck to each other so completely
That soon there was no visible seam.

The divided tail took the shape of the legs
The other was just losing; the one’s skin turned soft
While the other’s was becoming enameled.

I watched while the man’s long arms retracted
Into his armpits; in turn, the creature’s short forelegs
Lengthened in direct proportion.

Then the lizard’s hind feet twisted together, becoming
That member a man keeps hidden behind his zipper,
While the unfortunate one issue two new feet from his.

-Canto XXV, Mary Jo Bang translation which is really so good go buy it now

This is one rare and shining moment when the stock photo searches are way less disturbing than the cantos they came from.

Search terms: thief, female thief

It’s funny; we’ve got a very specific cultural construction for what a thief looks like, and it’s this guy:

stock-photo-thief-with-bag-isolated-on-white-174747545

Strangely enough, white men wearing stripes and/or small fashionable hats are not followed around in the department stores, even though they’re clearly one mask away from being obvious thieves. It was interesting; most of the pictures I found were of kinda hairy white men, mostly in the ninja suit.

stock-photo-burglar-in-black-balaclava-with-crowbar-and-flashlight-at-night-92801941Of the women, which came up about 15-20% of the time in a generic search, there seemed to be two basic thief modes:

1. Ninja

She's actually part of a ninja pizza delivery service, but I can understand your confusion.

She’s actually part of a ninja pizza delivery service, but I can understand your confusion.

2. Catwoman

female-thief-seductive-running-away-over-rooftops-34063300

Seriously. It’s Catwoman.

Occasionally, there would be a picture of a potentially well-executed crime…

fig. 1: Actually plausible con scheme.

fig. 1: Actually plausible con scheme.

…but mostly, there were some impressively bad/weird/incompetent criminals out there.

fig 2.: cleverly grabbing a wallet out his front pocket while he's busy being confused by how payphones work.

fig 2.: cleverly grabbing a wallet out his front pocket while he’s busy being confused by how payphones work.

"Concept photograph of a female grave robber in terrifying makeup stealing human limbs and body parts." Presumably this means that someone buried their relative's bright red/bloodsoaked flesh in separate little adorable body-part-sized coffins. What.

“Concept photograph of a female grave robber in terrifying makeup stealing human limbs and body parts.”
Presumably this means that someone buried their relative’s bright red/blood-soaked flesh in separate little adorable body-part-sized coffins. What.

 

Next up in Stock Photo Hell: the Evil Counselors

Spoilers: We’re not talking about crappy girl scout camp. Although on that note, you should all be reading Lumberjanes or you are remiss in your duty of reading awesome comics.

Stock Photo Hell: Hypocrites

Stock Photo Hell

stock-photo-businessman-covering-his-face-with-a-cardboard-on-which-is-drawn-an-angel-face-124098439Circle Eight: Fraud

Bolgia Six: Hypocrites

we found a painted people, who moved about with lagging steps, in circles, weeping, with features tired and defeated. And they were dressed in cloaks with cowls so low they fell before their eyes, of that same cut that’s used to make the clothes for Cluny’s monks.

Outside, these cloaks were gilded and they dazzled; but inside they were all of lead, so heavy that Frederick’s capes were straw compared to them. A tiring mantle for eternity!”

-Canto XXIII, Mandlebaum translation

So the Malebranche (see previous post) got bored of the escort quest and had proceeded to give Dante and Virgil bad directions and then menace them until they ran away. They sort of slide down a rock face and end up in the sixth bolgia, home of the hypocrites. The main form of punishment for the hypocrites is to wear cloaks that were gilded and glittery on the outside, but made of crushingly heavy lead on the inside. Then they’re forced to walk for eternity, exhausted. Irony! Contra passo! Hooray! The cloaked hypocrites also get to walk over a crucified guy who was laid flat on the ground. The guy on the ground is Caiaphas, a member of the the council of Pharisees, and the guy who argued in favor of martyring Jesus. Logically, then, Virgil kneels down, politely asks him for directions, and he and Dante go on their merry way.

And now, a brief rant about words. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of “hypocrisy” reads as follows: “The assuming of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, with dissimulation of real character or inclinations, esp. in respect of religious life or beliefs; hence in general sense, dissimulation, pretence, sham. Also, an instance of this.” The root of the word comes from a verb referring to acting on a stage. I think I have seen “hypocrisy” used in a more general “do as I say not as I do” context, but that all falls under the same umbrella, I think.

The word I wanted to rant about here is “pretentious.” In this, the era of hipsters and irony and ironic commentary about hipsters, the word “pretentious” gets tossed around a lot. I see people use “pretentious” often to describe literature or art that they don’t understand. In a world where words are used like I want them to be used, “pretentious” art means “pretending to have thought behind it and actually having the appearance of thought with no substance.” Unfortunately, I see people using “pretentious” as code for “intellectual,” “referencing literature I’ve never read,” and “I dunno, arty shit, what.” In conclusion, fuck anti-intellectualism, pretence means pretending to be something, words have meanings, arg.

Moving on.

Search terms: hypocrites, hypocrisy, hypocritical woman

In general, hypocrisy was fairly gender balanced. I guess it’s a quality that unites us all, or something.

In Stock Photo Land, hypocrites are really obvious. You can tell because of all the SCHEMING.

man with clasped hands lookin' scheme-y

fig. 1: light scheming. Safe for most situations.

fig. 2: medium-level scheming. Use caution: they may see right through your clever ruse.

fig. 2: medium-level scheming. Use caution: they may see right through your clever ruse.

fig. 3: heavy-duty scheming. Appropriate only when plotting downfalls in secret lair.

fig. 3: heavy-duty scheming. Appropriate only when plotting downfalls in secret lair.

Sometimes, they also just have face-masks. And I mean literally; that wasn’t a metaphor for cosmetics.

stock-photo-women-choose-a-mask-hypocritical-disguise-insincere-two-faced-female-107167814

Best of all, though, is the literal knife stabbing while looking as crazed as possible:

fig. 4: extreme scheming. Use with extreme caution.

fig. 4: extreme scheming. Use with extreme caution.

 

Insert clever commentary about the hypocrisy of bad acting in stock photos.

Next up: Thieves
Spoilers: It’s weird and gross and some guy totally flips off God.

Stock Photo Hell: Grafters

Stock Photo Hell

Man in red hood and devil mask with pitchfork gives exaggerated "OK" sign

This guy wins the Most Relevant to Dante Award for the canto.

Circle Eight: Fraud

Bolgia Five: The Grafters

Confession: This is my absolute favorite part of hell. Why, you ask?

  1. There is a demon whose name, literally translated, is “Badass.”
  2. This bolgia consists of a boiling lake of pitch filled with corrupt politicians, lawyers, and probably used car salesmen. When I think of hell, I think of this and cackle.
  3. This section contains my favorite quote in the entire Inferno:

And their leader made a trumpet of his ass.”

-final line of Canto XXI, Pinsky translation

This phrase is emblazoned in my brain forever. It’s the demon leader’s signal to his followers as they are leading Dante and Virgil through the bolgia. Demon fart jokes aside, this canto is notable because Dante and Virgil interact with this band of wacky demons called the Malebranche, who are the most talkative of the…uh…employees of hell so far. The Malebranche seem like pretty typical demon fare, as in wings and pitchforks. Pitchforks in this case is a very literal term, because the Malebranche seem to spend most of their time shoving the various grafters (a catch-all term for those who cheated others out of money and power) back down into the lake of boiling pitch whenever they attempt to escape. Dante and Virgil spend two entire cantos in this bolgia. They spend the first canto hiding from the demons, then negotiating with them for safe passage. During the next canto, they make it through, and talk to a sinner on their way who tells them a little more about who’s in the lake of pitch with him. But frankly, it’s not the sinners that stick with me from this section, it’s the demons.

I really like the Malebranche. They’ve got personality, and verve, and they all have names. There are twelve named Malebranche, which are often left in Italian but are pretty hilarious when idiomatically translated into English. The Italian names roll nicely off the tongue: Malacoda, Cagnazzo, Scarmiglione… but there’s something kind of awesome about a troupe of demons named Badass, Nasty Dog, and Troublemaker… I really just want a Wacky Adventures of the Malebranche spinoff series. Or perhaps a Sister Mary Ann Fuckoff vs The Malebranche series…hmm….

Let’s talk about translation ever so briefly. I’ve been using the Alan Mandlebaum translation, which is a 20th century standard, and conveniently available online. There are a bazillion translations of Dante, everything from literal to poetic to modern. My favorite is the poetic and lovely translation by Robert Pinsky; however, I am super-excited for a new translation of the Inferno that I just got. It’s a modern, colloquial translation by Mary Jo Bang. She does some, for lack of a better term, localization of references and names, making some things more relevant to the 21st century. For example, she translates the Malebranche’s names as things that are strongly suggested by the Italian but are more relevant to modern history, such as Qaddafi (in Italian Libiccoco) and Killer Clown (Alichino, a clown character in commedia puppet shows). Mary Jo Bang translates my favorite bit at end of Canto XXI as “each [demon] used his tongue to signal their leader with a raspberry; He, in turn, responded with a toot from his bugle-butt.” Epic. The text has great notes, too, and I am excited to read it an use it as a resource for the rest of our trip through Stock Photo Hell.

Speaking of, Stock Photos!

Search terms: corrupt politician, demon with pitchfork, lawyer, corrupt lawyer

Frankly, a lot of the “corrupt politician” stuff was boring and similar to the “corruption” stock photos from Bolgia Four. So I’m going to skip it and instead focus on two things.

One: a brief discussion of Demon With Pitchfork.

I was actually pleasantly surprised at Commedia Mask Guy, who appeared at the beginning of this post. He’s very Malebranchian.

I actually unironically like this mask.

I actually unironically like this mask.

And she gets to wear it, too! Although with less clothing.

And she gets to wear it, too! Although with less clothing.

The rest of the results were cheesy vector images of demons with pitchforks, terrible CGI images of demons with pitchforks, and of course sexy lady demons with pitchforks. Because we can’t not have that in Stock Photo Land.

The creators of AutoCad are experiencing inexplicable nausea right now.

It’s a bad CGI sexy lady demon. Worst of both worlds.

There was also this nun with an axe, whom I can only assume heads the Social Justice committee at the Convent of Jesus Tapdancing Christ, a.k.a. home of Sister Mary Ann Fuckoff.

There was also this nun with an axe, whom I can only assume heads the Social Justice committee at the Convent of Jesus Tapdancing Christ, a.k.a. home of Sister Mary Ann Fuckoff.

Two: I have discovered another Secret Trope of Stock Photos (see also: women laughing alone eating salad). I found this one when searching “lawyer.” Stock Photo Land certainly does have both male and female lawyers, they sure do! There were some shots of just one female lawyers, which were pretty much what you’d expect.

black woman in lawyer robes with glasses, dossier, book of law

I AM THE LAW

I don't trust this law book, though. I mean, the title is in Algiers. ALGIERS WHO USES THAT #fontsnob

I don’t trust this law book, though. I mean, the title is in Algiers. ALGIERS WHO USES THAT #fontsnob

But, at least at Shutterstock, in a business deal that involves three or more people, there will be a token woman who is at the meeting but not necessarily active, maybe watching or listening. I call this trope “women watching men shake hands“:

stock-photo-business-people-shaking-hands-finishing-up-a-meeting-130099706stock-photo--businessman-shaking-hands-to-seal-a-deal-with-his-partner-149002700stock-photo-two-business-colleagues-shaking-hands-during-meeting-137933048stock-photo-business-people-shaking-hands-finishing-up-a-meeting-195028946

GOOD GODS IT NEVER ENDSSS I NEED A LAKE OF BOILING PITCH, STAT

GOOD GODS IT NEVER ENDSSS

Jeezy creezy. I need a lake of boiling pitch, stat. And it’s the stock photographers that are getting dumped in it.

Next up: Hypocrites!

Spoilers: Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

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