In Metro, 25 Nov 2016
(A big thank you to Hariod for the delightful pun <3)
This is a short titbit in Metro (UK) from last Friday. It tells of how Prince Harry, visiting the Caribbean Island of Nevis, helped conservationists monitor turtle hatchlings.
As a sociolinguist I ask: What is the aim behind this short extract? What are the (hidden?) ideologies that drive this publication and what are the linguistic features that enact this?
I propose that this is a demonstration of the power of the monarch and the royal family by extension.
Let’s have a look, first of all, at some of the linguistic features of this:
- Fourth paragraph: After releasing the babies
This alludes to Harry’s position of power and agency over the turtles. You could almost say that since this portrays a relationship of power between a human and animal, it’s as though the Royal Family has dominance over nature itself.
The fact that the writer chose the word babies and not hatchlings or even baby turtles, could point to a symbolic reference to the Royal family being in the role of protector (of women and children).
The fact the there is any mention of a release is peculiar, given that in the previous paragraphs there is no mention of imprisonment, just ‘monitoring’. Why do the baby turtles need to be released? And from what?
2. First sentence: “Prince Harry pointed five baby turtles towards the sea and shouted: ‘Go, go, go… that way!'”
First, note how Prince Harry is given agency as actor doing something to the baby turtles who are relegated to the position of goal, meaning that they are passive, something is being done to them.
Why do the turtle hatchlings need pointing in the right direction? Well, since hotels were erected very close to the coastline, the bright light that shines from their illuminations, obscures the light of the moon, confusing the hatchlings to follow their bright light leading away from the shore. Therefore, one could conclude that with Harry’s busy schedule, standing there every hatching night to physically direct turtles to sea is not an efficient use of his time. Instead of tackling the real problem, the Royal family spends funds for the prince to play in the sand, under a masquerade of ‘conservation’.
Semiotic and multimodal analysis or: let’s analyse the photos:
The large picture shows the prince from the side, he is not making eye contact with the reader. This may suggest that we are not invited to help or to be on the level of the great power of the monarchy, this is a Royal Family duty. In the short extract it is reported that Harry was ‘helping conservationists’. However, the beach seems deserted, as though Harry and the cameramen are there alone. There’s no group photo endorsing the Royal Family’s support. This, in turn, could confirm my premise that this is a Royal Family publicity opportunity, as there is no mention of the organisation that helps the turtles. They mention volunteers and conservationists but they are not in the photo.
Note the way Harry has his sunglasses in his mouth – we could claim this demonstrates that his help is in fact a token gesture: momentarily remove the sunglasses to crouch down for the photo.
The enhanced, close-up frontal photo has the turtle hatchling between the prince’s thumb and his palm, evoking once again the power and dominance of not only human animals but the Royal family itself.
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