; narrative-analysis
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									Alyssa Martin

May 27, 2010

BIS 333

Prof. Susan Harewood

                                 Narrative Analysis: “Can't Be Tamed”

       Miley Cyrus' music video for her single “Can't Be Tamed” is about over coming societal

pressures and expectations and coming into your own identity, being free to define who you are for

yourself and no one else. Through examination and analysis of Cyrus' video the message of

individuality and identity formation was very clear and present. Through further analysis and

explanation of characterization, symbolism, representation, and ideologies, this individualistic theme

will become even more evident by viewing the processes behind it.

       Miley Cyrus' music video for her song “Can't Be Tamed” begins by opening up to a formal

black tie event at a natural history museum. With all the attendees gathered around a large covered bird

cage the curator announces the new exhibit, a rare creature, “Avis Cyrus” (Miley Cyrus), that is being

held in captivity for the first time. The cage is unveiled and inside a large bird nest sits this creature.

Noticing the audience, Cyrus gets up and walks towards them. A photographer snaps a picture. In doing

so the flash goes off causing Cyrus to shield and cover herself with her large wings. At this point the

music begins to play and Cyrus along with a slew of back up dancing begin to dance and escape out of

the cage. The group of wild creatures storm through the museum hall ways trashing the other exhibits

along the way. After wrecking havoc on the place, Cyrus returns to her cage at the conclusion of the

song and the video ends.

       In her video, Cyrus plays the character of “Avis Cyrus.” This character is introduced as being a

very rare creature that was actually thought to have been extinct. This rare creature being, in fact, a
bird. This is apparent as she is wearing wings, is in what is typically known as a bird cage, the term

“Avis” is in her name which actually means “bird”, and the use a feathers in her costuming is abundant.

Being such a rare creature, she appears to feel trapped and caged in like a prisoner. Observing her body

language and facial expressions whilst trapped in her giant bird cage, she appears to be very

uncomfortable and even angry. It is clear that she does not want to be trapped any longer as she

eventually escapes the cage. Avis Cyrus comes of as being very dominant, aggressive, and is in a way

masculine yet feminine at the same time. She is a very dominant character in that she is, for the

majority of the video, wearing a leather leotard along with leather straps and other bondage like attire.

Leather is typically associated with both male biker gangs and dominatrix fetish gear, both being very

aggressive and masculine images. She is also dominant in that throughout the video she is front and

center within her gang of backup dancers who are constantly following her lead. In the video Cyrus

also display dominance through her dancing. She is constantly coming at you and is in your face wit

her dance moves which consist of, among other things, fist pumping, pushing her dancers off of her,

and all of the moves are done with very dark facial expressions, there is rarely if any smiling. Cyrus

also displays her seductive feminine side with lighter and brighter colors in an outfit change during a

scene where she is lying on her back caressing the skin above her chest all while staring and singing

into the camera longingly.

       Other signs and symbols used in this video include a giant cage, the natural history museum

setting, peacock feathers and the idea of a peacock, the bird characterization, the photographer and

audience, and the usage of dark colors and lighting. Both the giant cage and the natural history museum

setting symbolize feeling trapped and very much on display. This symbolism is reinforced by the

audience and photographer as well. Cyrus, being a celebrity, in everyday life is always on display and

under constant criticism. The audience in the video directly represents the audience of people who are

constantly following her every move and mistake, while the photographer represents the paparazzi who

capture her every move. Peacocks symbolize pride, beauty, vanity. Clearly Avis Cyrus is proud of the
person (creature) she is and just wants to break free and be able to be herself. The characterization of

being bird also represents her individuality and wanting to break free and fly away. The dark colors and

lighting used in this video represents a large deviation from the character she typically plays on the

Disney Channel, which signifies her escape from that persona to move in a new direction, one that is

more true to who she it.

        Cyrus intentionally interpellates the audience into feeling like they are a part her video.

Throughout the video she is constantly singing directly to the viewer who is essentially the person or

persons who is holding her back. That person or persons being the man or men that are currently

lusting after her as the lyrics state. Her constant eye contact with the camera and finger pointing at the

camera suggests that she is sing directly to the view all while singing “don't change me” and “if you

wanna be my man understand...” Through the lyrics and her body language Cyrus turns the viewer into

the male she is singing to.

        In her video Cyrus contests the ideologies of individualism and feminism. Individualism the

concept of is the overarching ideology present in this video. The lyrics of the song are about how she

can't be tamed, how guys have tried to change who she was before, and how she is not going to change

the person she is for any reason or for anybody. The plot and concept of the video reinforce the

individuality of her lyrics. She has a large number of people trying to coop her up in a cage for their

own amusement but she is so strong willed that she escapes. She refuses to conform to the expectations

of others. Feminism and sexuality are also present in Cyrus' video. In the video Cyrus crosses typical

gender barriers and norms. As a female she portrays a very dominant character and has both man and

woman following her and lusting after her. In society women are not usually dominant beings nor any

they usually able to be both dominant and feminine, but in her video she manages to pull it all off and

still be sexy.

        Cyrus' video makes reference to a couple of other videos as well as to other artists. The line

dancing and backup dancing Cyrus used in her video makes reference the dancing Michael Jackson had
previously used in his videos “Thriller” and “Bad”. Some of the dance moves in Cyrus' routines seem

to be directly from Jackson's “Thriller” video. Also, the concept of dancing and running throughout an

empty space with a gang of backup dancers is also reminiscent of Jackson's “Bad” video and the

concept of dressing the backup dancer up like wild animals resembles the ghouls in Jackson's “Thriller”

video. Another artist Cyrus drew from was Lady Gaga as she followed suit on the weird is hot trend

and the usage of robotic and other worldly seeming dance moves.

       In conclusion Cyrus' “Can't Be Tamed” music video strongly stresses the ideas of feeling

trapped, being yourself, and not changing for anyone. Through looking at the characterization,

symbolism, representation, and ideologies that exist within the video these themes are evident.

The “Can't Be Tamed” video places a claim on reality that you can and should be exactly who you are

and you want to be. This construction of reality ultimately effects anyone who is listening as it the take

home message can ideally be applied to everyone. It can apply to the high school student who feels like

she needs to give in to peer pressure and it can apply to Cyrus' critics in that she is not going to change

who she is just so they will stop talking.

Can't Be Tamed. Dir. Hales, Robert. Perf. Cyrus, Miley. Hollywood Records: 2010, Film.

Bad. Dir. Scorsese, Martin. Perf. Jackson, Michael. MJJ Productions Inc.: 1987, Film .

Thriller. Dir. Landis, John. Perf. Jackson, Michael. MJJ Productions Inc.: 1982, Film.

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