And so, we begin. With Kelly Clarkson which you have to watch on YouTube (though initially it was because it was on Vevo, but now it is saying the video player is too small - either way, it wants you on YouTube) because it is annoyingly catchy and it makes me lose Punk Points (TM) as, try as I might, I can't hate it. And, by all that is good in the world, do I want to hate it. The world is a bad / mellower / odd combination of the two place.
KELLY CLARKSON CARRYING AN INVISIBLE LADDER OVER HER SHOULDER, ABOUT TO EMBARK IN SOME SLAPSTICK ROUTINE WITH PASSERS-BY AND HER EFFORTS TO NOT KNOCK THEM OVER WHICH WILL ULTIMATELY LEAD TO THE EXACT OPPOSITE HAPPENING AT LEAST THREE TIMES.
This is just a taster, a brief one. There'll be much more detailed one along one weekend. But on a different video. One which doesn't make me feel compelled to shoe horn in references to 1960s comic books, ideally. Having watched the video repeatedly all interest in the song has, indeed, passed. This is a good thing.
So, narrative - the way in which the storyline is imparted to the viewer and how it is constructed. This is not the same as 'what happens'. Remember, I am going to be pushing very strongly for your music videos at A2 to have a narrative element to it, it doesn't have to be wholly or predominantly narrative, but if the section 1 question pulls out narrative and as the thing you have to write about then you'll be stuck writing about AS or, worse, making stuff up - so make sure your coursework has a narrative element to it.
There are loads of narrative theories, some of which we've already looked at at AS. This will try to apply a slimmed down version of Todorov's narrative theory to the video. NOTE: Todorov's theory is about NARRATIVE and not music video itself. It is being applied to music videos but can also be applied to any other narrative. Just throwing that out there.
The video comprises of many mini stories using conceptual symbolism to develop the narrative told in the space of around 5 seconds each. This makes applying a range of theories to this in any depth silly. However, they do show the three most important stages of Todorov's narrative theory quite well.
Todorov' narrative theory splits the structure of a story into five stages:
Disruption of equilibrium;
Recognition of disruption;
For the purposes of this we'll split it into three:
The equilibrium (balance, order of things at the start) is an implicit utopia of the light side of the characters' lives before the video begins. It is clear that things have gone wrong and, as the development of the piece intends to show an audience that things can and will and do get better (especially if you gratify your needs by downloading this track from iTunes).
Then the video subverts our expectations of a traditionally structured narrative and launches straight into the disequilibrium. The cause of each character's disequilibrium is shown thrown a series of conceptual images which the audience interprets and applies to the characters they have seen (unhappy lady, black and white images of shadows arguing, newspaper advert for a divorce lawyer, shot of suitcase for example).
A new equilibrium is achieved through a Clarkson-inspired epiphany whereby each character's dark side is accepted as a part of their pasts / their characters / their experiences / the idea which people really seem to struggle with that we are not all beautiful and unique snowflakes....
Two different performance venues - in front of the blackened wall (the significance of which is probably obvious but will be discussed later) which serves as the back drop to both Clarkson's more hopeful performances and also the introduction of the characters in the video.
The second performance occurs under a bridge. There is a long tradition of using the underneaths of bridges in pieces to indicate some kind of outsider status / confer upon the subject a notion of isolation. And that is what has been done here. The contrast between the use of the two settings is striking, the bridge setting is to introduce Clarkson's dark side and so separate the darker image of the performer necessary for the audience to accept for the development of the video from the more hopeful image. It also helps to establish the development of the narrative in the scenes set against the blackened wall aside from the bridge performance parts which are designed to set up the impending new equilibrium, occurring in the other performance setting which will happen because of Clarkson's light side, and not the dark side which languishes under the bridge with an air machine making her hair all blowy
And as a postmodern remix at varying degrees of intertextuality (Kelly Clarkson is well into all that, apparentlly) I give you two additional interpretationss. The first is based on a graphic novel. The second a piece of 500 year old metaphysics. You lucky people.
Kelly Clarkson as omniscient narrator - possessed of god-like powers but, ultimately, forbidden from intervening directly in human affairs until 3:26 when she forgets the vow she made after inadvertently sparking the total nuclear destruction of the planet of Prosilicus and just goes wild with all the hugging and smiling and patting and soothing and the hope, oh the stench of the hope.
Or Clarkson as arch solipsist who is the only person who exists, everything else is a figment of her imagination and the power of her lyrics conjure these people into existence for her to then mend their ruined lives (which she created in the first place, lest we forget and, therefore, is responsible for the ruination thereof in the first place) through the power of the lyrics. Talk about having your cake and eating it.
See narrative, basically. But I'll briefly pick apart some of the symbolism here in two sentences or less to reduce the urge to go all tangential and weird.
Written codes - the word "No!" appears. No is a negative word. It is superimposed on the man's face. He is clearly feeling sad and struggling. It all ties in to having a dark side. That was four sentences, now five technically, but they were short so it counts.
The barbed wire below the motel sign - carries with it both the connotations of Motels providing acommodation for those fallen on hard times as well as the contrasting notion of a place of safety which is, in turn, juxtaposed with the harshness of the barbed wire.
The abandoned yoyo is so truly naff and reminiscent of really hammering home the point to the viewer in case we'd missed it that any attempt at analysis will turn in to a rant, and this must be avoided at all costs. Naff.
The falling pink beauty sash links the events occurring to the characters with Clarkson herself through colour matching, the fact it is falling is immediately a reference to the despair of the lyrics (and also, possibly but unlikely, Heidgegger's notion of dasein). Juxtaposition at work again, the positivity of 'beauty' contrasting with the way in which the image is presented as well as the set of images which together make up this mini narrative section. Sign / Signification / Saussure.
BUT WORRY NOT! IT SUDDENLY ALL GOES FINE!
The blooming pink flower, followed by the pink filter and then the rapid cut to the sun coming out from behind a cloud. Oh, and then the seagulls take off. And then there are pink hearts.
After 3:00 everyone starts smiling.
Kissing and butterflies.
MESSAGE ABOUT ARTIST
Other than her real name is Uatu?
Innocence / trustworthy / force for good is shown through the use of a bright pink costume which sets her apart from her background as well as the dark side Clarkson (or Nega Clarkson to put it in the terms of late 1990's Japanese role playing games) versus having a dark side.
La Clarkson is just like you, just like all of us. She is homely but also has a dark side (be aware, if not already, this phrase will be appearing rather a lot throughout this piece but will have endeavoured to come up with original and entertaining ways in which to express this lack of light to the side).
With the importance of religious belief in America's 'heartland' (the landlocked bits) it is unsurprising to see some religious references as well. It may very well be a reflection of Clarkson's own beliefs, I don't know, but it certainly is also included to make sure she is established with a large portion of her target audience as wholesome, all-American and moral.
And plays invisible netball.
COUPLE OF THOUGHTS ON EDITING
Soft blur filter - does this suggest it is all imaginary, or all a potential set of events rather than a concrete path set in stone by a harsh unfeeling universe (which Clarkson can help you beat if only you'd download this blasted song, damn you)? Or it might suggest the softness of Clarkson, hint at hope...something
Blink /Fade out - Fade in creates a sense of immediacy as the viewer is more directly involved in the lives of the characters to which they are introduced. It could also, and contrastingly, be the same as my first suggestion for the use of the blur.
In an effort to try and slim down the mise-en-scene-heavy focus some people fall into, this will be very brief.
Black wall = dark.
Pink shirt = hope.
Black dress = dark.
Shadow = dark.
Under a bridge = isolation
LINKS BETWEEN VISUALS AND LYRICS
Could be here hours, so just a couple...
"It reminds me who I really am..." Ooooh, dark (fitting, albeit laid on with the Massive Trowel of Symbolism (patent pending)). Who this bloke is is a mentally scarred, amputee war veteran. Ah Kelly, you are so posi. Well, you become so at the end. It grates a little.
"Everybody has a darkside" and we see a lot of peoples' dark sides, a lot of very different people. If you took the 7 exam focuses of the AS representation question you'd probably cover all of them. With the notable exception of sexuality in terms explicitly relating to homosexuality (unless I've missed something), presumably in relation to the need to appeal to the heartland again? Or just me being overtly PC.
Also, no representation of regional identity which I can see from a UK audience's perspective and I'm not getting het up by that. Hypocrite. However, I did get het up by ITV's Ireland v Croatia commentary which included the description of the Irish fans as being there or up for some form of "craic" twice not five minutes after I'd predicted to my wife they'd do just that. It was a wonder they didn't call them leprechaun botherers, laugh about alcoholism or adopt an Alan Partrige approach to Anglo:Irish relations...
MISCELLANY. ADDENDA, POP-CULTURE REFERENCES, ADMISSIONS OF PLAGIARISM AND THE OBLIGATORY REFERENCE TO A SMALL FURRY ANIMAL, OR IN THIS CASE SEVERAL SPECIES OF THEM, IN A FUTILE ATTEMPT TO APPEAR 'ZANY' AND, THEREBY, IN NEED OF SOME KIND OF SUSTAINED TALKING TO.
The Kelly Clarkson:Uatu, the Watcher comparison is lifted almost wholesale from a Stewart Lee routine only it replaces Stuart Maconie with Kelly Clarkson. Like one might do if you were a football manager and needed a better right back.
Posi - pronounced 'pozzi', but not in an Italian way nor in one informed by Waiting for Godot. Let's throw in a few extra zeds to make it clear. Pozzzzzi. Short for positive / positive hardcore (or posicore for short) - a sub genre of hardcore punk dealing mainly with being positive role models. the importance of community and helping old ladies across the road*.
*possibly, though not inevitably, whilst moshing.
Hop becomes Hope with magic, magic E.
Inevitable Fight Club reference to snowflakes.