1. Find a music video or song to deconstruct. It should focus on relationships or gender roles in some way. It must not have any swear words or erotic images.
2. Fill out the chart and answer the questions about the song to help you think about your critique.
3. Write a critique of the song’s message, using the video or lyrics for evidence. Your audience is a casual reader (reading a blog or magazine) and your purpose is to persuade and to entertain. This means you can use a casual, humorous, or even snarky tone.
- The critique cannot be longer than two pages, typed, double-spaced.
- You may organize it in any order you like, but if you want structure, you can follow this:
- 1 paragraph intro. Hook the reader, stating the song, title, video director (if any), and provide a summary of the plot of the song/video. End with the thesis about the theme.
- 1-3 body paragraphs examining how the song and video prove the theme. Use specific images and lyrics. You might use the ACE-IT formula here.
- 1-2 paragraphs questioning or supporting the theme. State whether or not this message is valid and/or appropriate to its intended audience.
- You may use “I” sparingly and discuss personal observations if you choose (i.e. relating your real-life observations about the theme to the video).
Extra questions to help your analysis
Answer as many of the questions as you need to develop a point-of view about the message of this piece and whether or not it is helpful or harmful to viewers.
- What gender does the piece’s perspective reflect?
- How are subjects of the piece dressed?
- Describe the relationships between the men and women: Are they long or short term? Casual or serious? Broken up or together?
- What are the men/women doing?
- How are the men/women dressed? How much skin is revealed?
- Are there more, fewer, or the same number of men as women?
- Describe the body language of the men/women?
- What cultural ideals of masculine and feminine behaviors/beliefs does the piece convey?
- What conflict arises in the piece?
- When does the conflict surface? How do you know?
- Does value reorientation occur? In other words, throughout the course of the piece does the narrator change what he/she values or does he/she maintain the same values?
- Who or what makes the change in values happen?
- Is that which is culturally valuable presented as masculine or feminine?
- What evidence can be found that one gender is devalued in the piece? Look for visual and/or verbal symbols.
- Does the piece challenge the typical hegemonic structure or support it? In other words, does the piece go against what most people see as typical or support it?
- Do you think this belief system is helpful or damaging to the viewer/listener?
- What beliefs about relationships or gender roles does the piece attempt to convey to the viewers?
“Wide Awake”: A Feminist Love Song Gone Wrong
The world has grown accustomed to the fact that girls will always pine for boys and then feel inadequate when he doesn’t put a ring on it. But Katy Perry offers all the newly-single ladies an antidote to the popular belief that, in Tom Cruise’s words, “you [, dude,] complete me.” In the video of her 2012 hit “Wide Awake,” Perry encourages her viewers to challenge cultural norms by telling us that a woman don’t need no man to make her happy–all she needs is herself. So this Valentine’s Day, don’t spend money on valentines for boys. Just write one that reads: To: Me. From: Your One True Love, You.
Let me applaud for her attempt to dispel boy-frenzy (or, as I like to call it, “lady-brain”) in the promotion of self-knowledge. The whole video revolves around the conflict between two mutually exclusive beliefs: I love my man and I love myself. The video starts with Perry biting into a strawberry with a very Eve-like profile; she has, supposedly, eaten the fruit of the strawberry-vine of the knowledge of good and evil. And we are to assume, I suppose, that the knowledge she gains is that she is good and men are evil. Soon enough, her childhood doppelganger shows up to guide Perry through her maze of confusion to the brilliantly-lit hill of self-knowledge. The exposition is simple: our heroine has been dumped and now she sees the world for what it is: a dark place filled with jerks who will break your heart (Duh, anybody who’s watched even one episode of Friends knows this). But the story goes on from here: it’s not just a tale of heartbreak, it’s a journey to find herself.
Perry’s lyrics and images of consciousness, alertness, and wisdom are clear: she’s “wide awake” (clearly, based on her ginormous well-mascaraed eyes), she’s “not blind anymore,” she has exited the darkness of the labyrinth (a symbol for sleep? or a nightmare where she’s been transformed into a sexy witch from Hocus Pocus?) and entered the brightness of the garden where she is able to successfully punch her impossible prince-charming (riding an impossible unicorn, no less). She is aware that the world is trying to trick her, from the masked minotaurs to the lying prince to the hypnotist feline shrubbery.
But what’s the underlying assumption at work here? That women need to be told “Know thyself”? That we are so hormonally imbalanced that we will all sink into a labyrinthine depression every time a boy kisses us with his fingers crossed? Despite her valorous attempts to empower women, Perry’s message reveals a disturbing underbelly. Her song operates off the grounds that women are inherently weaklings, like Eve in the garden, and their lady-brains are easily tempted–tempted by patent-leather shoes, princes in pink garters, and even cunning serpents. Let’s stop playing blind-man’s buff; next time, acknowledge that we’re all already awake before you start a relationship.
Perry, Katy. “Wide Awake.” Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection. Capitol, 2012. Web.