Title: Loose talk can cost lives

Creator: Holmgren, R. John, born 1897 – died 1963 (designer)
               British and American Ambulance Corps. (issued by)

Date: 1942

Format: Poster 

Where it was published: Distributed in order to obtain funds for ambulances by the British and American Ambulance Corps,                      420 Lexington Avenue, New York City

Where it is now: Victoria and Albert Museum 

Link: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O122402/loose-talk-can-cost-lives-poster-holmgren-r-john/

This poster, like other American propaganda posters from World War 2, provides a warning to the American people through cartoon. It depicts two attractive, unsuspecting Americans having a conversation that is of interest to a devious looking Hitler. The text at the bottom reads, “Loose talk can cost lives,” which reminds me of another phrase found on posters around this time—“Loose lips might sink ships.” This type of war propaganda is interesting, as it seems to have been carefully crafted to do its job (instill a sense of vigilance in the citizenry) without creating extreme paranoia and fear. I think the use of cartoon images and bright colors, as well as the “put together” and healthy look of the Americans, softens the serious message of the poster by making it appear familiar to average citizens. The ideals and values of the 1940s are made known through this poster, including the ideal of heterosexuality and those regarding gender roles, masculinity, and femininity. Hitler’s enlarged ear presents the idea that the enemy is lurking, ready to gather information in order to complete its task at hand (shown by a war newspaper literally in Hitler’s hands): defeating America and winning the war.



3 thoughts on “”

  1. At first glance this is just another World War II poster trying to scare people into watching what they say because the enemy could always be listening. The message “Loose talk can cost lives” is written in red with a black border to further place this threatening idea that conversation can cause death. However, the poster does portray a perfect depiction of “the ideal of heterosexuality and those regarding gender roles, masculinity, and femininity” as you so astutely pointed out. Frankly this poster presents the stereotypical sexism of the time period. The female is gazing into the male soldier’s eyes as she purses her lips to hear the interesting and “loose” information he is divulging. This poster not only contributed to the insanity that was McCarthyism but the stereotypical sexism as well.

  2. I think that this poster is just a World War II poster, I don’t think it is portraying anything else. The idea behind the poster is that servicemen shouldn’t be speaking about any sensitive information because you never know who you are talking to or what is around you. As for the sexism in the picture, I don’t necessarily see that as much. I’d say that the serviceman is trying to show off for the woman in the picture by giving out information, but I think this is shown to warn against sharing secrets with anyone.

  3. I do agree with Lilliana’s interpretation that this portrays sexism via a “perfect image”, but i think that is what makes this photo so powerful. The propaganda poster shows that even the best people (represented by the idealized image of both the soldier and the girl) can make mistakes. This image would have a much different impact had it seen as the opposite.

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