The interpretation of symbolic structures is forced into an infinity of symbolic contextual meanings.
M. M. Bakhtin
Historically, Lions have been symbols of power from the Persian to the British Empires, from Hinduism (Narasimha) to Judaism, Islam and Christianity (see Kings, Judges, Proverbs, Samuel, Isaiah, Daniel, Numbers, Revelations, etc. and of course The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). In Meso and South American traditions Jaguars are associated with creation stories and shamanism. From Mesopotamia to the Americas, cats and the divine have enjoyed an intimate relationship for at least 10,000 years. Big cats (genus Panthera) have been deployed as markers for power, virility, nobility, the numinous, and more recently as mascots for Apple’s operating systems.
Apple Inc. has been naming (and code-naming) their operating systems after big cats since the release of OS X 10.0 (Cheeta) in 2001. Their newest release, scheduled for Summer 2011 is called “Lion.” It turns out they’ve chosen a stock photo of a Lion for their marketing materials that was also used by a Belgian anti-immigration nationalist party (Vlaams Belang) in 2007 along with the slogan “Flemish Force.” Gizmodo reports that the photo, previously available from stock agencies Shutterstock and Fotolia, is called “The King” – though it’s now been removed.
Vlaams Belang’s Lion (2007)
And, as ZDnet’s Apple Core blog points out, this isn’t the first unusual encounter Apple has had with stock imagery of big cats. For the current release of OS X, 10.6 aka Snow Leopard, they chose to remove blood from the predators mouth.
The message with Snow Leopard? OS X is fierce, but not too fierce. Now Apple may be asking: how do you remove the ‘stain’ of an anti-immigration nationalist party from your cat?