July 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
In “American Honey” by Lady Antebellum, the video shows the ideal American female as both a skinny, white, carefree child and a skinny, white, attractive teenager. The ideology of the video portrays the male, in American heterosexual relationships, as the more powerful and dominant gender, while the only power attributed to females is their sexuality. The female is delegated to the passive role in the relationship while the male takes on the more aggressive role.
Ideologies are stories people tell about the way the world works. According to Hall, ideologies “do not consist of isolated and separate concepts… they ‘work’ by constructing their subjects.” (pg 9) The ideology in “American Honey” is about the distribution of power between the male and female, and how the American ideal constructs those genders.
Opening “American Honey” is Hillary Scott, the only adult female in the group, lying vulnerable in the grass. The video cuts to clips of two men, one sitting, one walking; the more active positions of the men imply them as the more powerful gender in the video. Hillary’s exposed position puts her on display as fragile, weak and in need of protection. The sexuality conveyed by Hillary’s position, according to JHally, acts as “a resource that can be used to get attention and communicate instantly.” (pg 253) The initial clip of Hillary in the grass uses sexuality to lure in the viewer, even though the video focuses on the younger female portrayed as the “American honey.” Neither of the males in the group use sexuality, exemplifying men’s first-class status over women. Women are considered more vulnerable and weak, as well as more sexual, while the men are considered powerful, dominant and physically stronger. In the video, the only power given to women is of a sexual nature, while men hold all of the more dominant power.
During a scene in the video, a teenage boy teaches a girl to skip rocks in the lake, implying that skipping rocks is something women do not know how to do. This perception is especially reinforced when the teenage girl tries to skip a rock and it falls into the river, showing that even at relatively simple tasks, the male is better than the female.
In another scene, the teenage boy and girl kiss, the girl is up against the tree while the boy stands in front of her, taking charge of the situation. The scene expresses the male’s dominance over the female, even as teenagers. The idea of male dominance is also portrayed when the teenage male carries the female and spins her around, metaphorically perpetuating the idea that she cannot hold her own weight and needs him to pick her up and take care of her. As the video continues, a cut to the next scene shows the male putting his head on top of the female’s. This is another example of his dominance, as he stands above her, able to put his head above hers.
Differences in the portrayal of a female and male child also demonstrate common stereotypes. The girl picks and smells flowers, while the boy rides his bike. These two activities have been categorized as male and female activities in America, displaying the male as more active and the female as more delicate.
American ideology, according to “American Honey”, consists of white, not overweight, children and adults who live in the country and experience love and joy as Americans. There is no person of color, nor anyone overweight, pictured in the video. The video implies that the true “American Honey” is a white, skinny female, which complies with the American ideology of the ideal American girl.
The genre of this video is Country. Many Country songs and videos refer back to stereotypes of the American dream or the American woman. Country videos tend to depict mostly-white Americans living the “American dream.” The power in Country songs tends to be given to the men, where women are depicted as either passive or sexual. This is reinforced in the “American Honey video.” Given this is a Country-music video, the genre probably had a larger influence that affected the production context by depicting the “American Honey” as a white, skinny and attractive teenager and a white, skinny, carefree child.