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TVWW Internal Memo: Your Mission, Eric Gould, Should You Decide to Accept It...
July 12, 2010  | By David Bianculli

The website upgrade is coming along great. Lots of progress on all fronts this weekend. Meanwhile, our website designer, Boston architect Eric Gould, posted one wildly entertaining column, analyzing Lady Gaga's latest video. So I have a challenge for him, which I'm sharing with all of you...


Dear Eric,

There's nothing I want completed so much,or so quickly, as the redesigned website. But you're clearly having so much fun in your new hobby as a TV critic -- and doing so well at it -- that I thought, after you did so well deconstructing Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" video, that I'd steer you towards a few others that are crying out for comment, if not explanation.

So here we go: Three other videos, all current, and all by popular female artists. In one big column, or taken separately, compare and contrast. I dare you. Meanwhile, keep working on those last few TV WORTH WATCHING web pages...

1) MILEY CYRUS, "Can't Be Tamed."


One image from this video is posted at the top of this column, showing Miley Cyrus spreading her wings defiantly while being gawked at, caged like a bird. The rest of the video follows this theme, of a preteen and tweenage idol making her first steps at, quite literally, leaving the nest.

The visual symbolism of all this should give you lots of material with which to work (my mind goes straight to Barbarella, for example), but don't neglect some of the lyrics. In spots, I doubt she's singing what I think she's singing -- but there's room for interpretation.

2) CHRISTINA AGUILERA, "Not Myself Tonight."


This video clearly reacts to the Lady Gaga phenomenon, so I'll let you work through the dark range of intentionally outrageous images here -- images meant to outrage, anyway.

Some of the settings, as with Gaga, seem to go back to mid-career Madonna -- dark, smoky sets, lots of imposing stairs, period clothes, nods to Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

But other parts are just imagery for imagery's sake -- until you explain otherwise. Why are monocles suddenly popular again? What interpretation is intended as Aguilera, on all fours, crawls hungrily towards a bowl of milk?


And if there's no larger message to be gleaned from this video, and if it's not art at all, why don't I mind?

3) KATY PERRY, "California Gurls."


Snoop Dogg plays a sexy game of Candyland here, as Katy and her cute cohorts cavort around a board full of confections. In one scene, she lies naked, like a Coppertone kid, atop a cotton-candy cloud. In another, she ascends undulating candy canes that have heads like snakes. Make of that what you will.


I particularly like one dress, in which Perry is costumed in the minidress equivalent of those old-fashioned candy dots that used to come attached to long narrow strips of waxed paper. I know nostalgia probably wasn't the reaction the video was going for there -- but hey. What can I say?

But Eric, I'm waiting to see what YOU have to say about this video, and whether any of it, to your trained eye, honestly resembles art.


Is it art, for example, when she attaches whipped-cream projectile guns to -- well, she attaches two of them -- and aims them in our direction? You be the judge.



P.S. You -- ANY of you -- can see these videos, on MTV's website. Click on the titles to see the videos.

Miley Cyrus, "Can't Be Tamed."

Christina Aguilera, "Not Myself Tonight."

Katy Perry, "California Gurls."





Neil said:

Oh David, David, David. More and more, your blog entries are drifting in an, um, interesting (one might say creepy) direction. Lucky for you that fewer and fewer psychiatrists are doing actual psychoanalyzing these days (or so I hear from the tease for tomorrow's Fresh Air), because a modern-day Sigmund Freud could have a field day with you.

Gotta be more careful about letting us readers view the inside of your repressed, late-50's Boomer psyche. (And I speak from experience!)

[Dear Neil -- Your response made me laugh out loud. I'd be insulted -- but you're too much on the money. And I can't WAIT to hear Eric's take. Meanwhile, anyone out there who wants on chime in, let's go. It's Music Video Analysis Day at TV WORTH WATCHING... -- David B.]

Comment posted on July 12, 2010 1:33 PM

Greg Kibitz said:

Funny, to me David's Freudian Psych 101 observations were much the same as those I would have made (and none of it is really any different than Madonna 1.0). Wonder what that says about me too.

Of course, as soon as I saw & heard the Miley Cyrus spreading the wings stuff, I imediately though of Rod Stewart's classic from my very precocious adolescence in the 70's. Sorry, but since I was about 5 years old, I just could not help it. And to this day, I think very purient thougts when someone literally sings, "Spread your wings and let me come inside." I guess those with normal brains think wings as open arms, real or metaphorical, and coming inside as letting someone into your life, but for me wings and coming (sp.) are surely something much less mentionable, in mixed company at least.

What I don't get is why these young women, who so desperately crave respect and recognition of their artistic talent, do all this spectacle based stuff. Isn't that the real psychological question worth asking?

I know each and every one of them is very talented and could be very successful without all the spectacle. You only have to hear their words, music, voices and instrumental work to know that. Just close your eyes and listen to the music or see them unplugged and you will soon agree.

But with all this other extraneous crap, they just undermine themselves and make themselves seem far less talented than they really are. But them again, it (sex and spectacle and controversy) sells records, and that is what they really seem to desire, and transforms them from superstars to uber-stars. and I guess that is what we teach here in the good old US of A, that unless you are the number 1 singular best, then you are little more than second best. Never enough to be One of the Greats. It is only acceptable to be The Great One. Sad, very sad.

The real irony of it all is the way they all make such a big deal of all the negative aspects of their being so much in the public eye, even in their music, as if they were all Jesus or Joan of Arc Incarnate, and yet clearly they themselves make every effort to put themselves there. Can anyone say that maybe they are not the sadists and egoists that they often portray in their videos but rather totally identity-less masochists!

I wonder what Freud would say? Of course, Jung would not even waste his time with them. At this point, I am through with them as well. But I do likes me a bit of Katy Perry. She's hot and she's just so neat and oft naked and me likey!

[Fun stuff to read, Greg. I think the difference between Katy Perry's "California Gurls" and the other two videos I selected for Eric to analyze also goes to the difference between her and Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus in general. The others are determined to be taken seriously, while Katy Perry generates everything with a giant stage wink and a sense of absurdist fun. Lady Gaga? My guess is that she leans towards the latter, but is being swept away by the former.

And by the way, there's more on this topic to come. Eric is working on his "assignment," while another TV WORTH WATCHING contributor, Tom Brinkmoeller, has weighed in with a whole column making fun of me... for finding the TIME to watch videos. I'll probably run that tomorrow... if I can find the time. -- David B.]

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