The Man – masculinity models in The Killer’s music video

Directed by Tim Mattia, the music video for the lead single ‘The Man’, from the Wonderful wonderful album, was released in June, 2017. Drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr stated the lyrics were

largely about how when we were younger we felt invincible. What it meant to a ‘man’ in your 20s. Sort of chest out, the breadwinner, nothing could stop you, invincible sort of thing. It’s sort of tongue-in-cheeking that, how that is not really the point of being a man at all. It’s actually more about compassion and empathy.

The Killer’s vocalist, Brandon Flowers, believes the song is a response to the more delicate songs of earlier albums:

Those songs came and it was like, ‘These are more tender or contemplative than we’ve ever been, how did we get to this point?’

Wikipedia

In exploring the risk-taking world, and ultimate failure, of traditional modes of masculinity, the music video presents us with five personas who each follow their own disappointing narrative arc.

Filmed in Las Vegas, the ultimate fantasy landscape, each persona – daredevil, cowboy gambler, suave entertainer, cabaret singer and karaoke enthusiast – is linked by their personal obsession with fame.

When analysing a music video, pay attention to the film techniques that take us into the world of each persona, and consider how the music emphasises each element of the persona’s narrative. Finally, examine the lyrics to identify and explain specific poetic techniques that support the meaning of the music video.

The Man lyrics

The response to their egocentric bravado is shown through a series of shots that capture the boredom of different audience members.

As an audience, we are positioned to agree with these responses, despite the high production values and sometimes glamorous settings. Here’s an interesting writing activity we did in one lesson:

  • choose an on-screen audience member
  • develop a word bank / hoard that contains both descriptive and emotive terms: two minutes
  • write a dialogue between ‘the man’ of your choice, beginning with your audience character: 10 minutes
  • remember to write back and forth, line by line – she/he said is not always necessary: what alternative terms could you use? Would a reader be able to follow the conversation if the structure is clear?
  • aim to include language features such as a simile, truncated sentences, colloquial language
  • read back over your writing to identify the overall tone. Is it negative or positive? One minute
  • discuss what you have written with a partner: two minutes for both to share
  • staying with the same characters, write a dialogue displaying the opposite tone: 10 minutes
  • discuss what you have written with a partner: two minutes for both to share
  • whole class discussion:
    • which came more naturally – positive or negative?
    • was this the first dialogue written?
    • suggest reasons for this
    • were you able to sustain perspectives for each character, or did it become somewhat farcical?

Dialogue can be difficult to master. One way to capture a credible conversation is to pay attention when others are conversing. Do we have different ‘voices’ for different social situations? How does emotion affect our speech? Which language features allow us to capture this effectively?

Read these online articles. Who is writing, and what is their target audience?

Different Types of Manliness

There are seven types of masculinity, which one are you?

Masculinity

Toxic masculinity

Why toxic masculinity is on the rise

About the boys: Tim Winton on how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny

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