Music Video: ‘The Dreamworld?’
Sut Jhally‘s work at the Media Education Foundation (where Jean Kilbourne also produced much or her work) draws a connection between the aesthetics of pornography and the codes and conventions of the music video.
There’s no such thing as communication that doesn’t have something behind it, that it is always constructed by someone. And I want people to be active in the construction of their own world because if you’re not active in the construction of your own world then you’re a victim of someone else’s construction.Sut Jhally, link to quote here
Dreamworlds 3 offers a unique and powerful tool for understanding both the continuing influence of music videos, as well as how pop culture more generally filters the identities of young men and women through a dangerously narrow set of myths about sexuality and gender. In doing so, it inspires viewers to reflect critically on images that they might otherwise take for granted (from press release to Dreamworlds 3, full document below)
Jhally, illustrates with specific reference to a wide range of music video clips how a dreamworld is created in music videos based around a range of predictable codes and conventions, many of which are borrowed from the genre of pornography. At the centre of the dreamworld is the female body and drawing on the key concepts introduced by Mulvey (objectification, voyeurism, scopophilia, fetishism) it is clear both how the dreamworld is constructed and who it appears to be constructed for. In much of the work from MEF, the theme links content analysis (what we see) to audience behaviour, for Jhally this is around violence towards women.
As a class activity, it is important for students to recognise the ideas that have been put forward and to apply them to their own case studies. Further, to discuss the implications of significance of these ideas as they resonate and collide with their own experiences and preconceptions. The link between content analysis and audience behaviour, is of course, very difficult to establish without rigourous enquiry and some form of evidential support. However, this does not undermine feelings, emotional responses and conjecture that can be ellicited from students in a classroom context.
Have a look at some of the controversy surrounding this song and think about how it relates to the ideas that are covered in this post. See this link for example.