6 November 2019
Kinder, Marsha. “Music Video and the Spectator: Television, Ideology and Dream.” Film Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 1, 1984, pp. 2–15.
This essay is one of the earliest important writings on the subject of broadcast music video and MTV. It offers a clear and substantive analysis of music videos within the realm of television and mass media. It asserts that music video is a medium dominated by images, and then goes on to explain how those images combine with narrative structures via television and commercial advertising in a powerful postmodern mix. Philosophically, this essay accepts music video and television on its own terms. It refers to Freudian psychology and cinema only as points of comparison, not as explicators.
Importantly, this essay outlines a useful categorization system for the music videos in circulation on MTV at the time of the essay’s writing. It presents three categories based on narrative structure: performance (documentation of a musical performance), narrative (in which the video is a mini-film and follows conventional cinematic tropes) and dream (a non-logical narrative employing images that do not make temporal or spatial sense and ignore traditional cinematic convention). Most music videos, we are told, do not remain within a single category but are a mix of more than one. Music video’s natural proficiency at the dream category is unique within mass media as marks it as a native postmodern art form.
How does it relate to scenography?
Scenography (AKA set design) is a field dominated by images, and specifically how those images relate to narrative. This essay provides useful tools for understanding and talking about those relationships, particularly outside of the conventions of art history, Freudian psychology and film studies. The discussion of the dream category would be particularly useful for designers and theatre-makers interested in performance styles beyond realism and naturalism.