"Against All Odds" -- Cliché as Probe

  • The simplest definition of cliché is a “probe” (in any of the multitudinous areas of human awareness) which promises information but very often provides mere retrieval of old clichés. (Marshall McLuhan and Wilfred Watson, From Cliché to Archetype 58)

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Within a very small frame-of-reference, Maris' accomplishment was "against all odds." He broke a record that was not meant to be broken, he did it in an environment that was hostile to his accomplishments, and he hailed from a place that was not supposed to produce heroes. His son, in the Roger Maris Museum video, says that chasing the record brought his father many wonderful things, but the process was "hell." Maris' single-season accomplishment was long remembered; his career achievements are often forgotten.

  • All media of communications are clichés serving to enlarge man’s scope of action, his patterns of association and awareness. These media create environments that numb our powers of attention by sheer pervasiveness. The limits of our awareness of these forms does not limit their action upon our sensibilities. Just as the rim-spin of the planet arranges the components of high- and low-pressure areas, so the environments created by linguistics and other extensions of our powers are constantly creating new climates of thought and feeling. Since the resulting symbolic systems are numerous, they are in perpetual interplay, creating a kind of sound-light show on an ever-increasing scale. (McLuhan and Watson 56)

Eli Reed, photo journalist, narrates the Lost Boys' journey and achievements. Reed cannot help but imply clichés (against all odds), and use clichés: "through total hell," "a kind of heaven," "strangers in a strange land." One boy says, "Please don't forget me." Could there be a more ill-fitting, yet effective cliché, than Peter Pan's "Lost Boys?"


What does it mean, say, and/or signify that we--including and especially me!--use roughly the same language to describe Maris' 61 in '61 journey, and the 1,600 mile journey some of the young Sudanese boys, girls, and adults made? What language / text / image will it take to remember the plight of the Sudanese amongst us, the Sudanese struggling to survive in Africa, and what language / text / image will it take to stop the first genocide of the 21st century ? Are these clichés the best tools we have? Can they provide new information? What cliché is needed? What words can be invented? What is the what?

The UNHCR has designed a web-based simulation game so all of us can experience the life of a refugee fleeing his or her home. It is called "Against All Odds ."

  • Clichés “provide a sting of perception and the shock of recognition” (McLuhan and Watson 59).