"Fool the Axis -- Use Prophylaxis!"
August 17, 2014 6:36 AM   Subscribe

"The posters are paragons of graphic design principle—but beneath their tidy exteriors are convulsions of pure lust and panic." From the Paris Review, Sam Sweet draws our eyes to Ryan Mungia's "Protect Yourself: Venereal Disease Posters of World War II." Brief interview with Mungia, plus a few more images, here.
posted by MonkeyToes (27 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I found this very interesting, thank you!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:00 AM on August 17, 2014


More than a little Marlene in that image...
posted by jim in austin at 7:19 AM on August 17, 2014


I like how direct these are, particularly for the WW2 era. "Soldiers are going to be having sex with prostitutes, so let's at least address it with them".

The iconography in Fool the Axis.. Use Prophylaxis is really weird and way more detailed than the others. Hitler carries a syringe of Syphilis, not-human Hirohito carries a syringe of text I can't make out ("chan..cr"). But then Mussolini doesn't have a syringe, he has a woman with a pop-top head, and I believe under his epaulets he is naked. And all so bulbous, it's just weird imagery.

The Let Nothing Stop You image is lovely. It could be the cover of a pamphlet for Scientology.
posted by Nelson at 7:30 AM on August 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


i have the "Booby Trap", "Men Who Know" and "Syphilis: All of These Men Have It" images from here as desktop backgrounds and they never cease to make me happy.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:41 AM on August 17, 2014


Occasionally the artists tasked with doing "be safe" and "the enemy is listening" type of posters would get a little confused...

(Actually a National Lampoon parody poster from the early 70s.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:57 AM on August 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I suspect that the syringes are full of penicillin that you'd need to treat the STDs. The Let Nothing Stop You seems a mite suggestive with stairs towards an opening.
posted by arcticseal at 7:59 AM on August 17, 2014


Nelson, I think Hirohito's sash is for chancre, while Mussolini's celebrates gonorrhea. What I don't understand about Mussolini here is the identity of that protuberance clutching the knife handle near his knees.
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:01 AM on August 17, 2014


Also that may be Tojo instead of Hirohito.

I'm finished now.
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:15 AM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


More posters--some are British, I think. WWI and depression posters here.
It's a quibble, but I don't understand why the writers call him an "archivist"--he's a researcher. He doesn't maintain an archive. (I work in a somewhat related field and have noticed people tryin to tell me I'm an archival producer, which isn't accurate.)
posted by Ideefixe at 9:29 AM on August 17, 2014


GrammarMoses - I think the middle guy's disease is actually chancroid as that's the name of one of the venereal diseases where chancres are the type of lesion that forms.
posted by pulposus at 9:30 AM on August 17, 2014


the identity of that protuberance clutching the knife handle near his knees.

It's the leg on the viewer's side - he's wearing short pants - the knife is presumably hanging from a belt, on the opposite side of the body.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:37 AM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Actually a National Lampoon parody poster from the early 70s.)

Aha! I saw a print of that in an antique mall recently, thanks for clearing up the mystery.
posted by rifflesby at 9:37 AM on August 17, 2014


The artist of the "Fool the Axis" poster is (I would bet) Arthur Szyk. You can see more of his stuff here. Seriously weird style, this guy.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 9:42 AM on August 17, 2014


Thanks, pulposis and Dr Dracator! I learned something about VD today.
posted by GrammarMoses at 9:50 AM on August 17, 2014


Wow, those Szyk's are fantastic and weird and amazing.

As for chancre/chancroid, I'm putting my money on "chancre". In my pre-AIDS scare-the-kids sex education, chancres were the star. The only pictures of genitalia they'd show us would be ones with a big old chancre on 'em. It doesn't name a single disease, just a symptom, but even now I get a shudder of revulsion just from seeing the word. I'm betting the GIs got similar training.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:05 AM on August 17, 2014


1940s: "We don't have antibiotics, so here are some cartoons!"


Future: "Antibiotics no longer work, so here are some cartoons!" *picture of vaguely Arab/South Asian stereotype with shawarma cart marked "Hyper Clap"*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:47 AM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


> The iconography in Fool the Axis.. Use Prophylaxis is really weird and way more detailed than the others.

And all three fellas are in advanced states of the diseases they're carrying: Hitler is sallow and heavily scarred, Tojo is pustulent and Mussolini is pockmarked all over his body. I dunno whether the artist felt ambitious or if the specification really was to combine a health message with vilification of the enemy. Either way, job well done.
posted by ardgedee at 12:22 PM on August 17, 2014


I dunno whether the artist felt ambitious or...

Check out the other work of his already linked to by HDY. It's his style.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:46 PM on August 17, 2014


> What I don't understand about Mussolini here is the identity of that protuberance clutching the knife handle near his knees.

Diseases aside, Mussolini's state is also probably a dig on Italy's dire, impoverished state in the latter part of the war. He's wearing worn-out hobnailed boots with the uppers separated from the sole, and his sleeves are in tatters. Poor guy probably spent too much money on gold epaulets to afford pants. The other guys' regalia is, um, unusual but not shabby.
posted by ardgedee at 12:49 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


what
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:10 PM on August 17, 2014


Leda and the Duck.
posted by GrammarMoses at 2:30 PM on August 17, 2014


Explains this.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:47 PM on August 17, 2014


Also that may be Tojo instead of Hirohito.

Based on the lips, I'm going Hirohito
posted by IndigoJones at 3:47 PM on August 17, 2014


I don't know if it's the subject matter and/or just me, but the staircase in the "Let Nothing Stop You!" poster looks like a sperm.
posted by sfkiddo at 5:19 PM on August 17, 2014


The artist of the "Fool the Axis" poster is (I would bet) Arthur Szyk

Previously, 2002: Arthur Szyk. From that FPP: Arthur Szyk: Artist for Freedom -- Online Exhibition.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:02 AM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


#YesAllTheseMen
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:25 PM on August 18, 2014


Oh, and for anyone who'd like to compare "Fool the Axis" to a sample of Szyk's depiction of Hitler/Tojo/Mussolini, see his "Self-Portrait," here (scroll down), and other wartime works.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:28 PM on August 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


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