Marvelous Movie Mondays Mortality Blooms

EPFC | May 6th, 2019

guest curator: Karen Azoulay


For the month of May, I will be posting a selection of films that are punctuated with floral and bomb imagery. Flowers can be used to remind us of vulnerability, mortality and the fleeting nature of time. This motif is paired with the brief and the sudden depiction of a bomb. A blooming mushroom cloud clearly evokes war, fear and death. Contextualizing the films within a specific historical moment and place, we cannot forget the political reality that each film was created in.

Aside from cinema, there are many cultural moments that depict our deep connections between flowers and war.

Inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae, red poppies are a symbol of remembrance to the fallen soldiers of WWI.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row…

The Flower Power movement used flowers to advocate for peace and love in protest to the Vietnam War. Two iconic photographs were taken in 1967 at the March on the Pentagon. Marc Riboud captured Jan Rose Kasmir as she offered a chrysanthemum to a member of the military police battalion while a bayonet is pointed towards her face. Bernie Boston captured George Edgerly Harris III (aka Hibiscus, cofounder of performance troupe The Cockettes) gently placing a carnation stem down the barrel of a rifle. In response to these events, Allen Ginsberg stated “Flower power meant more than just walking around with flowers in your hair. It really meant the power of Earth. The dissolving power of the pentagon was symbolized by that moment”


My first selection is ‘Peace, Little Girl’
credited to the DDB Agency and Tony Schwartz.

In 1964, only two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, this television commercial ‘Peace, Little Girl’ used scare tactics to bolster Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign in the Presidential election. In the age of Vietnam and the Cold War, his approach was inspired by his opponent’s aggressive attitudes regarding the military. Goldwater had previously expressed his willingness to use nuclear weapons if necessary. Stoking fear in order to manipulate voters may seem all too common place now, but this ad is considered to be one of the earliest and most controversial attack ads of all time.

It was only aired once as a paid spot on NBC. It was quickly pulled, which was perhaps a calculated move. Considered a scandal, it was continuously replayed and discussed on several news and talk shows which created a viral effect. The ad is considered to have had a big impact on L.B.J’s landslide victory.

In Western culture, daisies symbolize innocence and purity. Like a child, flowers can been viewed as fragile. Exploring the significance further, several associations come to mind. The phrase ‘pushing up daisies’ is a euphemism for ‘dead and buried’, alluding to wildflowers sprouting up from a burial mound. The act of plucking petals conjures the divination game “loves me, loves me not”, which is a solitary pursuit played in times of infatuation and uncertainty.

The single stem with no more petals to pull reminds us that time is running out…
“Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”