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Counterpunch

'Mutated': A Mistake of Giant Proportions

September 13, 1993|CHERYL POINDEXTER | Poindexter is president of Poindexter Design, a Studio City company that produces graphics for films, television and corporations. and

My first look at the "Mutated Love" billboard came by fax.

My background is in entertainment advertisement design so I assumed I was being called on for some kind of comment. But I shied from it because the art of a man and woman in a romance-novel embrace against a background of stored radioactive waste struck me as botched and amateurish. I assumed it was designed to promote a very low-budget movie, like "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes."

There is even a space in the upper right corner where the date and theater for a new movie could be inserted.

I had never heard of Americans for a Safe Future, the group that sponsored the billboard in West Los Angeles, nor had I heard of the growing protest against plans to build California's first low-level nuclear waste facility in Ward Valley, a federally owned desert area 25 miles west of Needles.

I simply didn't get the connection between the billboard and its environmental pitch.

A few days later, much to my surprise, there was the bad movie billboard again--only in color and on the front page of Calendar (" 'Mutated Love' Promotes an Anti-Nuclear Message," Aug. 19). Why was such a bad movie billboard getting such play? So, I read Chuck Philips' article and I was embarrassed that this was the first time I had ever heard of plans to turn Ward Valley into a radioactive waste dump. I was enraged, not only by this latest federal blunder but also because of the ineffectiveness of the advertising message.

The group was on the right track putting the issue before the public, but my heart goes out to them for pinning their hopes on something not only incomprehensible, but spread over 14-by-48-feet, a mistake of giant proportions.

Without someone there to point out that the people featured on the mock movie ad actually suffered from deformities somewhat subtly rendered by artist Mark Heckman, the sign says nothing!

Given the kind of attention passing motorists and pedestrians are likely to give to billboards hovering above them in the urban clutter, it would be easy to miss the fact that the man has a foot where his right hand should be and the woman's blouse drapes over the contours of three breasts.

Furthermore, nuclear waste and where to put it is not something to be dismissed by a scratch of the head if you don't "get it" or a snort if you finally do.

In this case, there simply has not been enough public recognition of the Ward Valley controversy to use satire as an effective weapon.

I think this well-intentioned campaign should try again. For starters, they could cover up this eyesore. A lot of space is being wasted that could be used for a very good cause.

Something like Ward Valley, for example.

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