A Fool and his Money are Soon Parted: A Critical Examination of Credit Card Websites

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This paper critiques the idea that a fool and their money are soon parted by using multimodal analysis to explore one of the ways in which people are parted from money: credit cards. I analyse the homepages of two products, the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ as rated by UK consumer organisation Which? In order to understand the range of communication used in these websites, I employ a multimodal analysis of their language, choice of colour, typeface, layout and images (Kress & van Leeuwen 2006; van Leeuwen 2005, 2011). Together, these show that the individual is constructed in different ways by the two products. For the card rated best, the viewer is constructed as a trustworthy consumer who is rewarded for this with further opportunities for consumption. For the card rated as worst, the viewer is positioned as a failed, but redeemable, consumer. The different constructions of the consumer also suggest that ‘credit’ is desirable but ‘debt’ is not. Taking into account the moral complexity of debt, I suggest that the lexical item credit card would be better changed to debt token . I argue that the real foolishness is the system itself, the one that credit cards (‘debt tokens’) index and exemplify. Taking the two sites together, I show that consumption is constructed as both desirable and risky. As credit cards construct the individual as an (isolated) person with few rights and great responsibility (Henry 2010), I suggest that these sites index the central role of the individual as a consumer. A good citizen is parted from their money.

About the authors

Annabelle Mooney

University of Roehampton

Email: a.mooney@roehampton.ac.uk
Professor of Language and Society at the University of Roehampton, UK. Her research interests include the language of money and financial literacy, and the language of human rights Department of Media, Culture and Language, London SW15 5SL, England


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Copyright (c) 2019 Mooney A.

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