Perfection Reconsidered

Reflection 1

This project was the first experience I’ve had creating a remix. I’ve created a video for one other class in the MA in Writing program, Information Architecture, but what I produced was not nearly as complex as this video. Although this is my first experience creating a remix, it is not the first time I’ve used iMovie. I mainly used iMovie to create slideshows, but I have never pulled together so many different components to create one remix. I have also never used others’ materials (other than music) to create a video. This is certainly much more difficult to create.

Since I’ve had experience with iMovie before, I was pretty comfortable using the software. The technology aspect of the project was definitely the easiest for me to handle. The most difficult aspect of completing the project was finding the videos I wanted to use in the remix. In this way, creating the video was much harder than writing an essay about my topic. Each time I thought of a clip I would like to use, such as video of a little girl getting into a fender bender in her toy car, I had to find just the right clip on YouTube. Often, I couldn’t find the video that would illustrate the message without the aide of textual explanations and I had to think of something else. Sometimes I wished I could close iMovie and open my word processor.

I am also a very literal thinker. This made it even more difficult for me to find the videos that would best visually illustrate my point. Associative thinking takes quite a bit of effort on my part, so when a lyric says that the singer is “on your shoulders,” it is almost impossible for me to think of anything else other than a child on an adult’s shoulders. I hope that, with this final draft, I have branched out a little from the literal and closer to the associative.

Because of my literal tendencies, I think my song choice, “Free To Be Me” by Francesca Battistelli, made this process even harder. Although I love the message of the song, which promotes the idea that women do not have to be perfect, I think the lyrics (as I see them) are too easy to read literally. I think this restrained my ability to be more creative. However, I don’t think that an instrumental song would have the same effect, especially since the song ends with the phrase “I’m free to be me.”

Overall, I’m pleased with my final product. This was definitely one of the most difficult assignments I have “written.” I can only hope that my viewers will take away from my video what I have set out for them to understand. Although it was difficult for me to locate clips that accurately illustrate the meanings I wanted to convey, I feel that the messages that they do convey have the potential to be much deeper than I understand myself. Just as a reader brings her own experiences to the text, my viewers’ experiences with the clips I have included will inform their interpretation of the video. In this way, my remix is much more dynamic than anything else I have ever written.

Reflection 2

The purpose of this remix, “Perfection Reconsidered” was to highlight the images of perfection that young girls and women are bombarded with daily. Growing up, I loved Disney movies and expected that one day, my life would be the same as the princesses I watched singing toward happiness. While I still believe in the idea of happy endings, they’re just not as easy to come by as Disney would like us to think. Most importantly, however, these images push the idea of achieving perfection, rather than ensuring that children know they do not need to strive for it. Have you ever tried to tie your hair with a ribbon? It doesn’t work. Ever. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t (and don’t) try.

Disney isn’t the only company that feeds women images of perfection. For decades, advertisers have preyed on women’s desire for perfection, and this remix aims to highlight some of the implications of these images. My video asserts the idea that people need to be aware of the effects these images of perfection can have on young girls and women. As described in Richard Edwards and Chuck Tryon’s “Political Video Mashup as Allegories of Citizen Empowerment,” my mashup demonstrates “a desire for change that doesn’t identify the solutions per se but emphasizes the problems needing remedy” (Conclusion, para 4). Although I am not specifically stating how I think these changes should occur, I make it implicitly clear that the changes need to happen. If nothing else, people need to be aware of the absurdity of perfection.

I attempted to achieve this emphasis through multiple techniques. First, I employed juxtaposition throughout the video. According to Edwards and Tryon, a remix is successful with it “generates new meanings through the juxtaposition of the original source materials” (para 1). One specific verse during which I tried to employ juxtaposition was “Perfection is my enemy.” As this phrase appears multiple times throughout the video, I chose multiple images that people associate with perfection: size 8 (today, size 0 is more like it), Barbie, and runway models). Because the lyrics state that these images are the “enemy,” the clips take on a new meaning. The usual positive concept of perfection now has a much darker, harmful connotation.

I also attempted to use proximity to highlight the meanings I was applying to the images. According to Sean Hall in his book This Means This This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics, “placing things in images in a certain way, or presenting objects in a certain way… is important if you want to draw attention to them” (p. 86). One example of my use of proximity is the two clips of models. In the first clip, a high fashion model walks down the runway as the lyrics say, “Perfection is my enemy.” The second clip, another high fashion model, plays while the lyrics say, “Alone I’m so clumsy,” as the model falls on the catwalk. The proximity of the two clips highlights the remix’s assertion that perfection isn’t actually ever achieved in real life; even runway models have flaws.

I used–and aimed to refute–multiple stereotypes in this video. One of these stereotypes is the idea of bad female drivers. Hall states this stereotype specifically, when he states, “the stereotype of a woman car driver is of someone who lacks a certain competence in driving” (p. 142). I worked to visually speak against such “observations, thoughts, or prejudices that may or may not be grounded in fact” (Hall, p. 142). At the beginning of the video, I chose clips for the phrase, “I got a couple dents in my fender,” that showed this stereotype. As the video progresses, I challenge this stereotype by showing a female mechanic working on a car. At the end of the video, I show young girls driving over a bumpy curb to highlight my belief that girls shouldn’t have to worry about these stereotypes.

One of the most important aspects of this remix is my attempt to create “greater audience involvement in decoding and debating the meanings of [this text]” (Conclusion, para 3, Edwards & Tyron). Although I clearly have my own agenda in creating this video, I cannot control how viewers interpret it. While I may have had very specific associations in mind when I chose the clips I incorporated into the video, viewers may–and likely will–create their own, very different associations and meanings.

References

Edwards, R., and Tryon, C. (2009). Political video mashups as allegories of citizen empowerment. First Monday, 14(10).

Hall, S. (2007). This means that: A user’s guide to semiotics. London: Lawrence King.

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This entry was written by Emily and published on May 9, 2012 at 9:11 am. It’s filed under Remix, Semiotics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Perfection Reconsidered

  1. Bill on said:

    Emily, you’ve done an excellent job composing this video and enacting the theories Edwards and Tryon and Hall discuss in their texts. Especially nice are some of the subtleties that a viewer might miss on first viewing, such a the 60s ad for a size 8 dress. I understand your concerns about being too literal and the words from the song perhaps getting in the way, and I do think you might be reinforcing that potential issue by having the video clips literally depict the words in the chorus. As I watch the women be clumsy I am struck by the words of the song which suggests that the woman can only be herself when she has her mind beside her. So, she’s “free to be me” but only with her man by her side or boosting her up on his “shoulders.” I should have caught this before because I wonder if it runs counter to the larger issue of women’s independence which is running through the video. Also at 2:34, with the phrase “try to put the pieces together” we go to a montage from college to marriage to baby, and I was struck by how in the movie Mona Lisa Smiles, which we discussed, that is exactly the progression that Julia Roberts’ character is fighting against. I can’t tell here if you are including it to be ironical or cynical, but if not I wonder here, too, if it is actually working against your subtext of arguing against women in stereotypical roles, which is what your early montage of the ironing board and shopping cart are doing in juxtaposition to the lyrics. So, those are the concerns about message that stand out to me—and, as we know from semiotics, transmitting the message is the most difficult thing with composing with images, so perhaps I am reading (or receiving) these moments incorrectly. Overall, though, a very though provoking and engaging piece (as you can see from my lengthy comments). Well done.

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