Portfolio – Part Two

In the Week 6 class, we covered music videos. I found it really fascinating so I decided to do a bit more research on music videos. First, what is a music video’s purpose? Basically, it is to promote an artist, song or album (Tennear, 2012). However, there are many levels to music videos, including intertextual, social and popular culture references. According to Andrew Goodwin, music videos should possess six basic qualities that will define them as ‘good’ videos: demonstrate genre characteristics; a relationship between lyrics and visuals; a relationship between music and visuals; close ups of the artist; voyeurism; and intertextual reference (Ewa B., 2012).

Intertextuality in music videos refers to how a music video is shaped or inspired by other media texts such as films, television shows, fashion, video games and pop culture. There are countless music videos that have intertextual references. Lady Gaga’s Telephone, Gwen Stefani’s What You Waiting For?, Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, Robbie Williams’ Let Love Be Your Energy, Linkin Park’s Breaking the Habit or Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Californication to name a few.

click for larger size

A specific example, however, is Madonna’s Material Girl, which references Marilyn Monroe’s Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend very closely, , including identical costume and similar mise en scene. The reason for these kinds of references in music videos, according to a few of the articles I have read, is ‘so the music video will get more views’. However I believe in something like Madonna’s video there is more to it. It isn’t just that people would recognise the iconic Monroe scene “therefore gaining Madonna more viewers on her music video” (High, 2012). Madonna’s video uses the icon of Marilyn Monroe to enhance the meaning behind her song. The lyrics are ‘We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.’ The entire song is about how the only thing that will interest her is expensive luxuries, and what better way to emphasise that in her video than to draw the audience’s attention to something like Monroe’s iconic song.

Things I want to research more:

–       Semiotics – for example in Muse’s Uprising. The song itself is one big reference to Orwell’s 1984, and the music video has some very interesting semiotics. There is also a great article on semiotics in Afrika Shox and Sunday Bloody Sunday here)

–       Social references, such as Psy’s Gangnam Style which is actually a social commentary on class and wealth in contemporary South Korean society.

–       Popular culture (and Quentin Tarantino) references in Lady Gaga’s Telephone as mentioned in an earlier lecture.


B., E., Intertextuality in Music Videos, Ewa’s Music Video Blog,

Goodwin’s Theory, Ewa’s Music Video Blog,

Colin Hay in Friday Night Videos, 1983, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7vVE83xOlU&list=PLOIhtBSSHmzDNAHeK8FUplMgmQOxZIJ_1&index=120>
Quote taken from Holdstein, D. H., 1984, Music video: messages and structures, Jump Cut, no. 29, pp.1-13

High, A., 2012, Intertextuality in Music Videos, Adam High A2 Media Portfolio Blog,

Tennear, N., 2010, Analysing Music Videos, A Media Studies Blog,


Portfolio – Part One

In class, have been studying semiotics. I began this course knowing nothing about semiotics and so it was really interesting to find out all about it. The fact, however, is I did know about semiotics and engaged with signifiers constantly, without even realising it. Tom Streeter explains semiotics using a painting by Rene Magriette (left) which has the caption ‘This is not a pipe’. He explains Margriette’s point as one so simple we don’t even think about it. “We forget that the signs and symbols all around us are just that, signs and symbols, and not things themselves, we can come to take for granted, take as “natural,” aspects of life that are anything but.” (Streeter, 2012).

Semiotics is really quite astounding in the sense that we all recognise signifiers in everyday life. It made me question things I’ve always taken for granted. Take, for example, the traffic light. Without even consciously realising, traffic lights are “systems that attempt to impose a strong social control over the most fundamental of human behaviours, whether to move or be still.” (McShane, p.379, 1999). All drivers, even young children or non-drivers, know red means stop and green means go. It’s because we’ve been raised to believe this. But I wonder at what point it was that someone decided red should mean stop, and how it became a widely-known fact. I actually went out of my way to find out by looking at several sites online (see image to right).

When it comes to Peirce’s semiotics, with icons, indexes and symbols, it’s fascinating to see how something, for example a logo for a business, can have several meanings inside these categories. In the lecture, we saw the ‘men at work’ icon, index and symbol. Take now, the McDonald’s Golden Arches as an index: if we are driving down the road and see the golden arches we recognise that a McDonald’s is nearby. However we wouldn’t think, if we saw the arches on our TV screen at home, that a McDonald’s restaurant was about to come crashing through our wall. We see it as an index to explain that whatever is on the screen is in reference to McDonald’s.

 McShane, C., 1999, “The Origins and Globalization of Traffic Control Signals”, Journal of Urban History, Vol.25, No.3, pp.379-404.

Streeter, T., 2012, “Semiotics in Advertising”, University of Vermont,

Adams, C., 1986, “Who decided red means “stop” and green means “go”?”, The Straight Dope,