Cultural approaches to the rhetorical analysis of selected music videos
Karyn Charles Rybacki and Donald Jay Rybacki
Music video has gone from being a means of selling more records to a rhetorical form worthy of study in its own right. Videos typically take one of three forms: performance, narrative, and conceptual. While these forms could provide the basis for a content analytic analysis of music videos, the authors of this paper argue that one of a number of cultural approaches to criticism may offer greater insight. It does so by providing brief analyses of six music video using a variety of cultural approaches.
The Social Values Model examines the ways in which society resolves conflicts between basic values through rhetorical activity, either synthesizing or transforming incompatible values. In Bon Jovi's video for "Wanted: Dead or Alive" the band uses the mythos of the Old West to symbolize the tension between individuality and community that exists between artists and their fans. Public Enemy's rap, "By the Time I Get to Arizona" concerns the group's outrage at that state's unwillingness to make Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday a state holiday. Narratives of violence and non-violence are juxtaposed visually in a way that suggests that the white violence against blacks that occurred during the days of the Civil Rights Movement may be replaced with black violence against whites unless things change.
The Jungian Psychological Model is based on examining dream images and archetypes as they reflect the struggle between one's public and private selves. The Eurhythmics video for "Sweet Dreams" is replete with symbols of the conflict between what women must project as part of their public persona as opposed to what their private, shadow self really is. Guns N' Roses video for "November Rain" is staged as an extended dream which turns into a nightmare, the joyous celebration of a wedding that turns into a somber funeral marking the bride's death....