Icarus and Goliath: mixed metaphors, Mardi Gras 2013 and the politics of representation

Justin Ellis1
1Sydney Institute of Criminology. Sydney Law School. University of Sydney NSW

Visual representations of police-public encounters are often reduced to a minimum number of parts, with individual motivation seen as the origin of action. This decontexualisation creates space for metaphorical interpretation of complex power relations that rarely fit neatly. Media reports of public order policing are particularly susceptible to such simplification. Using competing mainstream and social media images, this paper examines the visual representation of the police excessive force at the 2013 Mardi Gras parade for metaphorical analogies and what they reveal about police-public relations. It considers the extent to which the symbolism in these mixed metaphors reflects the tension between the Mardi Gras as a protest-turned-celebration within a broader history of paternalistic policing. Scrutinising these differing interpretations provides insight into the power dynamic between authority and resistance and the role the media can play in shaping public discourse on legitimate use of force.


Justin Ellis lectures in Criminology at the UTS law school. His research examines the impact of digital technologies on negotiations of legitimacy. Previously he was a legal affairs journalist in Sydney and spent close to a decade living in Japan where he reported on gay, lesbian and transgender rights for Asia region publications. @justRellis


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