A new piece of art commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) re-imagines William Hogarth’s classic 1751 cartoon Gin Lane. It depicts a society preoccupied by junk food rather than gin.
This is pretty amazing timing, considering this is the focus of my Disease and Society lecture this week!
According to the BBC, the original showed the damaging effects of a gin craze sweeping London as well as a population suffering from deadly infections common at the time. Cholera. Syphilis. You name it. In contrast, Thomas Moore‘s new picture shows how obesity and mental health issues are today’s big health threats.
The updated version shows a mother salivating over yummy junk food, which she is also feeding her child. In contrast, Hogarth’s 18th century version focuses on a mum more interested in gin and snuff, who is suffering from syphilis sores.
Another stark difference is the prominent payday lender shop, replacing the pawnbrokers of 1751. (Just need a betting shop in there!) Moore’s modern version highlights the popularity of high street chicken shops today, while Hogarth’s work shows people almost skeletal with starvation.
FULL BREAKDOWN OF CHANGES
The overall scene is the same street as presented in the original, but has been developed and modernized so that it is representative of a typical street scene in London, or indeed anywhere in the UK today.
- The central character has been reinvented. Where the original depicts a mother who is drunk and too pre-occupied with taking snuff to care for her baby, Gin Lane 2016 instead shows the mother preoccupied with eating junk food, which she has also fed to her child.
- A pawnbroker is one of the significant and thriving businesses in the original piece. In the modern version, this has been replaced by one of the payday lenders which have become a feature of many high streets, and are perhaps a 21st century equivalent. The desperation of one of the customers leaving the payday lender represents the mental ill health associated with debt.
- The chicken shop is a representative feature of the obesogenic environment which is at the heart of Gin Lane 2016 – busy, vibrant, and packed full of glum looking customers.
- The man contemplating throwing himself off the top of a building is a nod to the original in which a barber is seen hanging, having committed suicide because his customers could no longer afford to have their hair cut. Suicide is now the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
- The original arch has been converted into Gin Lane tube station, with commuters glued to their smart phones – a depiction of the busy, potentially lonely existence of many Londoners today.
- Junk food adverts provide another reflection of the ubiquitous power of marketing in our obesogenic environment.
- The distillery from the original piece has become a busy pub, replete with rowdy drunk customers.
- A news vendor hands out a paper with another headline about the threat posed by obesity.
Courtesy of https://www.rsph.org.uk/about-us/news/gin-lane-2016-iconic-artwork-reimagined-for-the-21st-century.html
My lecture this Friday will definitely be connecting the past with the present…
GIN AND JUICE