Title

Love, Lust, and Loneliness: A Critical Examination of Country Music Videos

Date of Award

1997

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Mazharul Haque

Advisor Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to isolate and identify the values present in country music videos. Nearly 100 of the most popular examples of the genre were examined to determine their dominant televisual techniques, symbols, signs, narrative themes, and characters. Together, the major stories, characters, and symbols revealed a set of values that was specific to this form of popular culture. Unlike the videos on MTV, which exhibit sleek, modern design settings, an emphasis on luxury items, and few working-class settings; country music videos are dominated by the stories of life in rural, white, working-class America. There are few African Americans in these stories, and no homosexuals. Nor are there any members of the top echelons of the social structure interacting or participating in the videos' stories. There are, however, lots of blue jean-wearing "country people" living common lives and dealing with life's everyday problems. The televisual formats of country music videos don't always follow conventional construction patterns. In a manner of presentation which many have called postmodernistic when referring to MTV videos, country music videos either have no logical order/structure or offer lyrics that detail one story and visual images which depict another. Although they contain the traditional story and discourse elements of a narrative, and often arrange events in a logical order, they don't normally evolve through a beginning middle and end as an open narrative would or start with an ending and work backward in the manner of a closed narrative. The major themes of the lyrics of country music videos are love, lust, loneliness, confrontation, divine intervention/fate, the country lifestyle, success/failure, fun/adventure, and human relationships. They detail the differences between the sexes, and offer examples of how well and poorly people treat one another. They provide exhibitions of sexism and emotional trauma and reveal how divine intervention and fate can play roles in people's lives. Mostly, however, they tell stories of love lost and love found, of "the power of love," and of love's value.