I assume you've read the title of this post and therefore know what you are getting yourself into. Allow me to once again point out that, even though I am an editor for ReadWriteThink.org and dole out information about the site, my personal views (particularly those I am about to give) are not reflections of those of the site, the other editors of the site, the various organizations behind the site, nor do they represent good teaching practices, as I have never been a school teacher.
Yes, I started this post with a disclaimer. That's a good indication of how this one is going to go.
A little background as to how this all came about: I am a Glee fan. My wife and I watch it together. My radio choice is hard rock and
heavy metal, so Miley Cyrus is not typically on my radar. However, she's hard to ignore completely considering she's been in the news, so when Glee did their version of Wrecking Ball, I recognized the song as Miley's, though it was my first time actually hearing it.
Despite my listening to heavy metal, I do still enjoy the stupid teeny-bopper pop tunes. I really do. Call Me Maybe? Love it. These songs get stuck in my head for days until I eventually go seeking them out on YouTube to listen to them again--and then I see the video. If you've never see the Call Me Maybe video, I recommend it: 3:06 - 3:10 make the whole thing worth it in my opinion!
Which brings us to my love for music videos. I used to collect them back in college, because there was no source for them like YouTube back them. I love how a video can add to the story of a song, expand on the message, or even tell a completely different story than you would get from the lyrics (November Rain and Give You ****, I'm looking at you).
So, with Glee's version of Wrecking Ball bouncing around in my mind, I fire up YouTube so I can get the real deal. And I see the video. The one I read about in the news with all manner of unkind things being said about Miley's decision to do said video. I can understand the media's reaction, but I disagreed with it (more on that in a moment). I'm going to be discussing the video in some depth, so if you are interested in my commentary (and you've made it this far, so I assume you are) and haven't watched it, you really should.
As I tend to do, while watching the video I read the comments below the video. There was much negativity there, which I expect from online comments. There were also people saying the director's cut was better, and Miley should have released that instead and not been so sexually charged. So I watched the director's cut.
First off, I will say Miley's face-only performance was amazing. I think she sold the pain and loss and heartache of the song extremely well in the director's cut. The song itself does a great job already--it is a raw, emotional tragic song!--and the director's cut emphasized that pain wonderfully.
I disagree that it is better than the released version. I believe the director's cut tells a different story than the released version. The story the director's cut tells is that of loss and pain of a relationship that didn't work out--the same story of the song, but more emotion in that we see the visual as well. It is terrible and awful and we get that. Good stuff. Miley conveys the sense of being wrecked from the fall out of the relationship.
The story the full version tells is a little darker and even more tragic than what is in the lyrics. That's the story of a young woman who is madly in love with a guy (or girl, I suppose--we don't know, but for pronoun ease, I'm sticking with a guy). She is so in love with him and so wants to win him over so badly that she gives him her virginity. Alas, this does not actually make him love her, and she is left emotionally broken and tormented by having given something precious over to someone who doesn't return her love, and maybe only used her for sex in the first place.
A sobering poignant tale, and one that is a really relevant to modern teens with a sensible moral: be careful who you love.
"Poppycock!" You might say. "Total malarkey!"
To which I reply, "Awesome word choices! But please allow me to break this down."
There is not a wide variety of imagery in the video: The 3-wall concrete structure (first seen at 0:42) symbolizes the man in question. He's got 3 walls rather than 4; he's not totally closed off as to be emotionally stunted or socially awkward--he's not an emotionally damaged Pink from Pink Floyd's The Wall (yeah, I go for classic rock as well). But this guy does not let people in; he does not fall in love.
Miley first walking around the dark walled structure before any demolition takes place represents their first meeting perhaps? Or maybe the moment she fell in love? She struts about knowing she wants to start demolishing the concrete barrier.
The breaking down of the walls represents getting to deeper emotional levels within him. Upon breaking down all three walls, Miley will have gotten in and claimed his heart. And thus the various demolition implements (most the sledgehammer and wrecking ball), represent Miley's attempts to win this guy's heart. Who's to say what forms these flirtations take: poetry, make-out sessions in a parked card, sexting, mixed tapes? Doesn't really matter.
Throughout the video, Miley is showing sensuality and sexuality. She is in no way coy in her attire (underwear), glances (seductive), and actions with the hammer (suggestive is a loose term). This gives some clues as to what form the flirtations were taking, but also reveals a young girl who is sexually aware and "ready," though overt and thus possibly naive. All the while, though, Miley looking very calm and confident (and still suggestive) as she wields her hammer and rides the wrecking ball. She's slowly getting through to the boy, making emotional connections, and she feels sure she can win his heart.
At 1:14 she's naked on the wrecking ball. This is the moment maximum escalation--this is the representation of Miley and the guy having sex, and her losing her virginity. But she is still confident, still in control: This was her decision to use sex to try to win him over and make him love rather than him coercing her into it. At 1:36 we see the structure is now down 2 walls, and there is but a single wall remaining.
At 2:53, Miley leans against the last wall--still standing despite the impact mark. This wall is never knocked down despite all her efforts, and Miley is no longer calm and confident in her interaction with the wall/structure. She smacks it with her hands, looking wounded and weary she puts her head on her knees (3:12). She never got "in" and thus, despite her momentous use of "force," (i.e., trying to charm him with sex) she never claimed the guy's heart.
That is exactly how I read the video the first time I saw it, and I find that a more interesting--and more tragic--tale than the lyrics or director's cut suggest. I was profoundly surprised by the depth that was shown, especially considering the media hype I had read.
The Glee version parallels this reading specially because of their less sexualized spin. [SPOILER ALERT!] When Marley rides the wrecking ball, she remains fully clothed, which makes sense because she loses the love of her life not after having had sex with him (which I suggest the nakedness in the Miley video represents) but because she refuses to have sex with him. She tried to take down his walls with love alone, but he wanted more. It's only right, then, that she remained clothed as she keeps her "innocence."
I can't say that this is what Miley or her director were going for, but then when it comes to art, we often do not know exactly what the artist intended, and much is left to our own interpretations. This is mine.
I understand the disappointment parents might feel when their children's idol Hanna Montanan suddenly starts riding around construction equipment naked: not really something parents want their daughters doing. But with a some critical thinking and deep reading of the "text" (in this case, the infamous video) there is a profound teachable moment in there. I feel like that gets missed by assuming that there the video has nothing deeper than the idea that sex sells and therefore she's naked only to get more people to watch it. From most of the comments I read, that does seem to be people's take, and as said, most people were very negative and expressed disappointment that this is what Miley did with her career (though reactions to the song itself seemed positive).
And that is my deconstruction of Wrecking Ball, a look at an actual meaning and moral to a video that seems to be demonized by the media. There are thousands of examples of things like this, where we see something at face value, or worse, are told by some outlet or another that something is a particular way. We need to be able to see for ourselves whether there are deeper layers. Students need to learn to think critically and dig deeper.
So many valuable lessons to be learned, even in something like a pop song music video.