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Representation In Music Videos

Introduction
Whenever an event, group of people or issue is presented through a media text, it becomes a
representation due to the fact that meaning is constructed through mise en scene, camera work,
editing and sound and the entire truth of a matter cant be fully presented. Often times,
representation is constructed through the use of stereotypes to make issues, groups of peoples and
events easier identify but this creates its own issues spoken about in a number of theories. Music
videos, like any other media text, create representations that audiences use to create their own
specific readings from and so Im carrying out research into representation in music videos to
determine how positive and negative representations are created in music videos, what techniques
are used to do so, and how I can the information when constructing representation in my own music
video.

Breezeblocks
The music video to breezeblocks creates a shifting representation of gender through its use of
editing which starts with men being dominant and women subordinate. This representation is
created at start of the music video when we the audience see the man chasing the woman and
attempting to strike her with a cinder block but in reverse order.

In reverse order, we see the man


chase and attempt to strike women
until he ultimately strikes her with
the cinderblock in the bathroom and
drowning her at the very beginning
of the video.

Facial expressions show that the
man is filled with malice while the
woman, in increasing capacity, is
afraid of him.

While chasing her (in the first


image) hes able to grab at her
jacket

Michael Esin

His face of aggression and hers of fear connotes a binary opposition between the two where in
which the male character is dominant (Strauss) which would conform to stereotypes of gender and
its many, many inequalities. This allows the audience to feel sympathy for the female character
because they know her fate as well as malice for the seemingly aggressive, perhaps abusive, male
character. This however is only one reading of the video that doesnt take the entire text into
consideration where the audience are able to learn how the event represented actually started.

We later see the two characters on equal standing and even see the woman fighting back.

The struggle between characters is


fairly equal (though obviously the
man wins out at the end)


In this image, the woman has just
thrown a glass bottle containing
flowers at the man.

Her facial expression is now one of


fury and its revealed the bottle
came from the counter, holding
flowers.

The reading this creates is a spat


between two lovers tearing their
house apart as well as each other.

Michael Esin

At this stage, the audience feel some relief that the woman is at least on equal standing with her
assailant and any struggle that the man faces is met with no sympathy whatsoever. This also
destroys any notion of fragility on the womans part and begins to develop her character outside of
any stereotypes; however the man is still reduced to the simple characteristics of anger and
aggression for his representation.

Finally, at the denouement of the video, the developed representations of the man and women are
flipped, twisted or shattered with the introduction of a second woman and more dangerous
iconography.

Michael Esin

The knife on the floor is shown on


its own in a close up which later
shuffles off screen and is later seen

in the womans hand. She
immediately becomes a more
dangerous character and its at this
point that the audiences perception
of her may begin to alter.

Michael Esin
The action of freeing the woman in
the closet makes the male character
more sympathetic and contributes
to the altering of representation

within the video. He is still a
dominant character however
because he is effectively saving the
damsel in distress.

The male character becomes more complex in the final moments of the music video which alters the
narrative from a possibly abusive male partner to a hero fending off an assailant and rescuing
someone. This destroys his stereotype but inadvertently reduces the woman represented to simple
characteristics again. Instead of being a fragile princess in need of saving, the first woman
becomes a sort of jealous lover bent on revenge and the second woman portrayed becomes a
damsel in distress and in need of saving by the male hero (Propp). The representation in the music
video further supports Halls theory of representation where in which stereotypes as a form of
representation only reduce a character to core traits as the audience see this with the dangerous
woman and the woman in need of saving. His theory further explains that these occur where there
are inequalities of power which I first pointed out for the beginning of the video; despite how the
music video presented the characters at the end, the women were still subordinate.

Saudade
Saudade is a portugese word best defined in English as a deep feeling of nostalgia and longing for
and object or person an individual is missing or has lost. While the connotations and true meaning of
the word are ultimately lost to English speakers, its featured prominently in love songs and poems.

Us The Duos music video for the song by the same name starts with a definition before commencing
a music video that represents children in a more complex light than stereotypes would have
audiences believe. The start of the video gives context as to why the song was written and the music
video created before focusing on the protagonist, and only character in the video, a small girl.

Michael Esin
I submitted my story to Us The
Duo about a month after my
dad passed away. I challenged
them to write a song about
Saudade, a Portuguese word
that talks about the feeling of
missing someone but with a
sense of joy because it reminds
you of all the good moments
that make you long for that

person. Every time I think of my
dad, I experience Saudade
Mariana

The audience know what the narrative will focus on from the spoken words at the start and so
theres an expectation for the girl to have little understanding of the emotional depth of the
situation. Furthermore, her costume is a white dress which connotes purity and innocence.

This stereotype of nativity is perpetuated throughout most of the video with mise en scene and
costume.

Michael Esin

She wears a blazer, flat cap and pair of glasses backwards, presumably pretending to be her father.
Furthermore, shes smiling the entire time. Her facial expression suggests shes having fun while
playing pretend which contradicts the sombre theme left by the message at the start of the video.
This helps create a polysemic audience who either pity the girl after connecting the message to the
ensuing narrative at the beginning or are as enjoyed as her childish innocence.

The video continues along the same linear narrative with camera work hinting at and revealing a
greater tragedy.

Michael Esin

Michael Esin

As the girl walks out of her living room theres a focus pull toward a picture of a man in the
foreground. This is the same picture on the fridge shown later on as the camera zooms in on both it
and the girls expression. Her looking at the picture on the fridge is the first time the audience see
her facial expression from a smile to a frown which remains until the end of the video. The change in
expression suggests a tragedy has taken place and this is the point where the audience gain the
same reading of the characters representation; its clear now that shes grieving and this is her way
of coping. The stereotype of nativity and childhood innocence is shattered as is the definition of her
character being only a few traits, challenging Hallss theory of representation. Furthermore, despite
the numerous binary oppositions, its difficult to pinpoint any one side as subordinate; the young girl
feels grief for her deceased father but is she still alive. With this in mind, taking the title of the song
into consideration, it could be argues that the concept life is dominant while death is subordinate as
Suadade is meant to be a celebration of a life lived.

Blow Your Mind


The music video to Blow Your Mind creates a powerful representation of women through its use of
camera work and mise en scene depicting women in an array of fashion styles. Representation is
first constructed through low angles used throughout the video when presenting the singer and all
the extras.

Michael Esin
On top of low angles, Dua
Lipa holds her head high
when singing into the
camera.

The woman on the far left of


this shot is Jiratchaya Kedkong.
She is a Thai fashion and
winner of the fourth cycle of
Asias Next Top Model

The extras are featured as


prominently as the singer
putting all characters on
equal standing

Michael Esin
The songs instrumentals are briefly
diegetic with this shot of the woman
in the middle pooping her gum.

This represents the women as powerful and as authoritative figures. Moreover, all the extras are
women which further suggests that, taking only into consideration the gender binary, woman are
dominant while men are subordinate (Strauss)

A representation of power is further constructed through the use of costume.

Michael Esin
Many of the women featured in the
video wear many different outfits
which, for the most part, are
colourful and contribute to the
songs upbeat party tone

Michael Esin

Some of the costumes in the video are revealing and others arent which suggests that the video
isnt a performance for the male gaze (Mulvey) as the only extras are other women; none of them
are objects for the audiences pleasure but are instead represented as woman as authorities of their
own bodies suggested by the low camera angles. While it can be argued that both revealing and
non-revealing outfits are eye-catching by design, it doesnt objectify the women represented which
challenges aspects of Zoonens theory.

Conclusion
Through research, Ive discovered the importance of representation that avoids the sole use of
stereotypes. When producing my own music video, I dont want to rely on stereotypes to quickly
build a character as that quickly isolates potential members of the target audience. On the other
hand, I do believe stereotypes can be used correctly when built upon to create a character with
more depth however; I will likely avoid this method of creating representation in my video as it could
cause issues amongst my target audience.

Michael Esin