der and RepresentationTelevision Soaps: The Cultural Construction of Gender and RepresentationSoaps but more importantly music videos can be said to interrogate thecultural construction of gender and representations of identity. The videosuggests a set of images to the viewer and usually these are a blurring ofgender and identity. Music videos predicate on the representation of femalegender experience. The two interrelated sign systems- access signs anddiscovery signs- will be discussed. Music clips that will be focused on areMadonna’s Burning Up’, Express Yourself’, and Justify My Love’.
The singer,who has been labelled Our Lady of MTV’, has an amazing video appeal due to herplay with gender and identity. No other single artist has produced as manymixed images as she has.
Television soaps tend not to interrogate the construction of gender and therepresentation of identity. They do not seem to cross any boundaries. Peoplewatch soaps to relax and somehow relate, so if they were to experiment with thetheatre of gender, it may be seen as a threat to viewers.
Soapies usually havethe males in typically male dominated occupations such as doctors, car salesmenand chefs. Women in soaps are usually secretaries or housewives. There doesnot seem to be any attempt for a switch of roles. Females are feminine, malesmasculine. There has been one exception, which was Kylie Minogue’s character,Charlene, on Neighbours. She was a mechanic and tomboy. This is one of the fewoccasions where a soap has interrogated the cultural construction of gender andrepresentation of identity.
A music video is footage that accompanies a song. They can have astoryline related to the song, displays of images or simply focusing on theartist/s performing. Music video is forever crossing the lines of gender andidentity. It is able to do this as it is seen as a form of art, therefore thereis no threat to viewers. It is ironic that Boy George has said that video wasthe worst thing to happen to music, when he himself looked and acted like hewas crossing the lines of gender and boundaries back in the 1980’s. Madonna ismost famous for creating videos with no boundaries for gender or identity. Mostof the time, she deliberately plays with surfaces and masks. Madonna visualstyle engages and hyperbolises the discourse of femininity- she has bleachedhair with dark roots, street smart image yet glamorous. Gender play is the mixand match of styles that flirt with the signifiers of sexual difference, andMadonna is always doing that. The three music videos of Madonna to be analyseda re ‘Burning Up’, Express Yourself’, and ‘Justify My Love’.
Pouring money into the visuals, she is the first female artist to fullyexploit video. In the three videos to be discussed, there is a mixture ofsuggestion and aggression. Burning Up’ involves her and a man. She iswrithing in the middle of the road while he is driving towards her. At themoment where she seemed submissive, she was actually about to take over-suddenly he disappeared and at the end of the clip she was behind the wheel. Itwas like she was powerless, but then she turns that image upside down by showingwho had the control. ‘Express Yourself’ is very similar. It shows her as beingpowerful and also as being weak. She plays with gender through her wearing of apin-striped suit ( the male sign of power and success) and her crotch grabs. Italso shows her with a chain around her neck. Madonna says:”It’s just an image I thought was powerful…It showed an extreme. Extremeimages of women: one is in charge, in control, dominating; the other is chainedto a bed…”It is evident in this video that she interrogates the cultural constructionof gender and representations of identity. “Justify My Love” is the same. Thebanned video showed how gender roles could be swapped, blurred and played withto create different identities. It showed men who looked and acted like womenand women who looked and acted like men. It totally changed the typical genderroles and behaviour around.
E. Ann Kaplan (1897) stated Madonna’s feminism is part of a larger post-modernism phenomenon which her videos also embody in their blurring ofsacrosanct boundaries and polarities such as male/female, high art/pop art,film/TV, fiction/reality and private/public.
Two interrelated sign systems developed from videos predicated on femalegender experience- access signs and discovery signs. These can both be seen inCyndi Lauper’s 1983 hit Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Madonna’s 1984 song Borderline. Both are set in the street not feeling threatened, which is theaccess sign. The discovery sign is being female. In Borderline it is thefact she gets discovered to be a model. Music and Movies
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