The Representation of Women, Men, and Sexuality in Music Videos

Topics: Popular culture, Music video, Human sexuality Pages: 26 (9702 words) Published: April 26, 2012
In this second update of 1991’s groundbreaking Dreamworlds, Sut Jhally critically examines the representation of women, men, and sexuality in music videos. Jhally’s primary argument is that music videos, not unlike other forms of advertising and popular culture, represent the pornographic imagination by offering a degraded and limited view of female sexuality based on narrowly defined adolescent heterosexual male fantasies. Locating the stories and images of music video in a wider context, the film explores how American popular culture, more generally, encourages and excuses men’s violence against women, and argues that we need a wider range of stories about femininity, masculinity, and sexuality. Special Note: This video features images of graphic, sexualized violence. It is important that educators preview the film prior to screening it with their students. It is also advised that ample time for discussion of the impact of these images is allowed at each screening. PRE-VIEWING DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Do you watch music videos? Why or why not? When you do watch them do you enjoy them? What are some of your favorite music videos? Why do you like those particular videos? 2. Have you ever thought about how music videos portray men, women, and sexuality? What are your initial thoughts about this? How do you think music videos define and portray "femininity"? What stories do music videos tell about female sexuality? How do you think music videos define and portray “masculinity”? What stories do music videos tell about male sexuality? What stories do music videos tell about race? Why do you think certain stories are told but not others? 3. Compare the experience of knowing a song without knowing its video to knowing both the song and the video. MEDIA EDUCATION FOUNDATION |

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* Since MTV debuted in 1981 music videos have become a central part of our popular culture. They are now found on multiple television channels, in many different media, and across most genres of music. The images and stylistic conventions of music video have influenced other types of film, television, and advertising. * Music videos essentially function as advertising for the recording industry and, like other forms advertising, have long relied on provocative images of female sexuality to attract viewer attention. * Across the media culture— in movies, television, advertising, and more—stories that link women’s identities with their bodies and sexuality are everywhere. However, these stories are especially prevalent, and intense, in music videos. * Looking closely at the stories music videos tell about both male and female sexuality provides us with insights into our own identities, and helps us understand what the culture teaches about what it means to be a “normal” man or a woman. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Why does Sut Jhally say that music videos are advertisements? Have you ever thought of them in this way? Do you agree with this statement? How does looking at them as ads help us to understand their functions and the role they play in our culture? 2. Why do you think graphic images of female sexuality are so common in popular culture? Other than in music videos, where else do you find these sorts of images? 3. What does it mean to say that music videos tell a story about male and female sexuality? MEDIA EDUCATION FOUNDATION |

This study guide may be reproduced for educational, non-profit uses only. 5
© 2007
4. Do you think that aspects of your own identity have been shaped by media images and stories? In what ways? Are your friends and peers influenced by media? How? 5. In the previous question, if you said that you are not very strongly influenced by media but your friends are, why do you think so many people seem to believe this? What does it...
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