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Textual analysis of a music
video
Narrative
The video starts like we are watching a horror movie but then we see that
it is actually people in a movie theatre watching. We see Michael and a
girl who walks out because she is scared. Michael starts teasing her and
they walk to the graveyard, which is where the song begins. Michael then
turns into a zombie along with other people who come out of the graves
and they start dancing. The dance is reflective of Michael Jackson as an
artist and people will be able to recognise his unique style and link it to
this song, which makes him stand out. The narrative continues as the girl
runs away (like in the movie they were watching in the beginning) and he
follows her, he turns back into a normal person making people think that
it was a nightmare the girl had but when he looks back into the camera
we see he is still a zombie. This narrative will make people want to watch
the music video instead of just listening to the song because it shows a
Narrative theories
5 stages of narrative in Thriller:
1. Beginning – Michael and girlfriend watching film in cinema then he walks
her home.
2. Disruption – Zombies rising, Michael and girlfriend being surrounded.
3. Recognition – girlfriend realising Michael has become a zombie.
4. Attempt to solve disruption – girlfriend runs away
5. Resolution – girlfriend thinks it was a dream, but when Michael faces the
camera we see that he is still a zombie.
Strauss’s binary opposites theory
• Thriller contains mostly the opposites of good vs evil, good being Michael
Jackson and the girlfriend and the evil being the zombies these can also be
linked to life vs death. Also dark vs light is presented, it is dark when there
is zombies and tension but is light during the resolution.
Mise-en-scene
• From the costumes of the characters in the movie scene we
can tell that it was the 50s shown by the bright colours and
long skirts. And we can also tell that the main music video
is from the 80s because the girls outfit changes into a lot of
denim and high-waist jeans with permed hair.
• The main part of the video is set in a graveyard which is a
typical thriller convention, because it is closely related to
horror and zombies. There is smoke and low-key lighting
which sets an eerie atmosphere and creates suspense so
we expect something supernatural to happen.
• The colour red is used frequently, which can be associated
with rage and blood, both of which are also typical horror
conventions.
• In terms of positioning, Michael and his girlfriend are being
surrounded by zombies, this shows them as being
powerless and alone and the zombies as dominant.
• The make-up makes Michael and the dancers look
like common characters that might be seen in a
stereotypical thriller film (werewolf and zombies).
This is important because the more effort that is put
into making the production of the video as good as
possible the more people are likely to watch it and
the more people that watch it promotes the song
further making it a ‘classic’. At the current time the
music video for Thriller has 329,966,320 views on
YouTube demonstrating that people are still
watching it to this day, presenting the impact a
music video can have.
• The costumes also complement the lyrics to the
song and if you were to just listen to it, it would
make you wonder what is actually happening and
this brings it to life.
Camera angles, Shots and
Movement
• There are close-ups throughout the video of
Michael Jackson and his girlfriends face. Close-ups
are usually a big part of music videos as they show
expressions of the singer so we as an audience can
relate to their emotion. In Thriller a lot of the close-
ups present fear in the girlfriends face when she
sees Michael turn into a werewolf in the movie and
a zombie in ‘real life’. We also see a close-up zoom
at the end when Michael turns to face the camera
and he still appears to be a zombie but it shows
that he is smiling because his girlfriend doesn’t
know which lets the audience into the secret.
• There is a two-shot of Michael and his girlfriend in
a car, this helps establish a relationship between
the two of them. Michael is shown as the main
focus in the two-shot and this helps to identify him
as the main character.
Sound and Dialog
• At the beginning when the title is being shown there is non-
diegetic sound of breathing over the title. This means that the
people watching/listening will expect it to have a chilling
ambiance because eerie breathing is a common aspect of
thrillers/horrors.
• Non-diegetic sound effects such as: creaking door, thunder,
creaking floor, dogs howling and strong winds, can be heard.
These effects emphasis the horror genre of the music video.
• When the zombies being to surround Michael Jackson and his
girlfriend there is non-diegetic commentary in the background
said in a ominous way to create the presence of fear and
horror.
• At the end when the screen freezes there is more non-diegetic
sound of a man laughing portentously showing that Michael is
still a zombie. Leaving the end of the story to our own
interpretations.
Editing
• Throughout the video there are not many cuts to the beat, but
more of Michael Jackson and the zombies dancing to the beat. It
hasn’t got many cuts to the beat because it has been created to
be more like a movie not like a music video.
• However one important cut in the video is when it cuts from the
cinema screen to Michael and his girlfriend then zooms out to
show the whole cinema. This is significant in the video because
after they leave the cinema similar events happen like the girl
screaming and running away after Michael turns into a monster.
This again emphasises how they wanted the video to look like a
horror movie.
• In the last part of the video there is a lingering freeze frame on
Michael Jackson’s zombie-like face so that the audience has time
to see and react to the shot. This is also where the credits start
making it seem even more like a movie.
• There is also a zoom shot used to show the zombies emerging
from their tombs in the graveyard, this is done to draw attention
to them as we see them before Michael and his girlfriend do.
Andrew Goodwin’s 6 features of
music videos:
Demonstration of genre characteristics
In this music video ‘Thriller’ follows the genre characteristics of ‘pop’
music as it exhibits many stereotypical aspects of a pop video that
the audience can associate with. For example, dance chorography is
demonstrated in the video which is commonly associated with pop
videos to make it more entertaining and enjoyable for the audience,
especially in this video because it is Michael Jackson who was know
as the ‘king of pop’ and the dance is now iconic worldwide so
persuades people to dance along.
This video could be seen as challenging traditional pop
characteristics because it doesn’t have many bright colours and the
theme isn’t very happy. However, some may see it as fun to make
zombies dance as it isn’t what it associated with them, and the main
Relationship between lyrics and visuals
• There is a clear relationship between the lyrics and visuals
within the music video. For example, when Michael sings
“you feel the cold hand and wonder if you’ll ever see the sun”
he takes on the physicality of a zombie and places his hands
on his girlfriends back.
• Another example is when he sings “you hear the door slam
and realize there’s nowhere left to run” he makes a
movement that symbolises a door slamming. This line could
also foreshadow the ending in which the girl slams the door
and starts screaming when the zombies appear.
• The lyrical content of ‘Thriller’ contains various references to
supernatural beings (zombies, werewolf's etc.). These lyrical
references have a literal presence in the music video for
example “night creatures call and the dead start to walk in
their masquerade”, “cause I can thrill you more than any
ghosts would ever dare try”, “they’re out to get you there’s
demons closing in on every side”.
Relationship between music and visuals
• The music begins during the movie at the beginning when a full
moon appears. The music is mysterious and puts emphasis on
the full moon which is typically associated with werewolves. As
the music gradually intensifies so does the plot as Michael turns
into a werewolf.
• The actual music for the video begins after they leave the cinema
and we see a sign for the movie named ‘Thriller’ so we can guess
that the music video will be based off that film. From the very first
beats you can tell that this is a pop song because it seems quite
upbeat with a dance vibe.
• As Michael and the girl are being surrounded by zombies the
ominous commentary ends a it goes silent, as the tension builds
the music begins again, but it’s not upbeat it is similar to that of
the movie and the full moon. This could tell us that something is
about to happen and just like in the movie Michael turns into a
monster. When we see this it is very sudden and the music
intensifies mostly when we see his zombie-like face. After this the
Notion of looking
• The notion of looking is clearly shown
within the video as the preliminary events
in Thriller do not actually occur within the
‘reality’ of the music video but exist only
as part of a horror movie which is being
viewed by a cinema audience that
includes the two protagonists (Michael
and his on-screen girlfriend).
• We don’t know until the shot cuts to the
cinema that they are actually watching a
film and this creates mystery at the
beginning of people wondering what is
Intertextual reference
• There are many intertextual references to the
codes and conventions of the ‘horror genre’.
Sound effects such as wolves howling, footsteps,
doors creaking etc. as well as the inclusion of
supernatural beings such as werewolves and
zombies are examples of typical codes and
conventions of horror films which Thriller includes.
• More intertextual references are shown through
the presence of classic horror movie posters such
as ‘An American Werewolf in London’.
• Michael Jackson hired John Landis (the director of
‘An American Werewolf in London’) to direct
Thriller and as a result the transformation of
Jackson’s character (in the horror movie that he’s
watching beforehand) shows similarities to that of
David’s character in AAWIL.

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Textual analysis of thriller

  • 1. Textual analysis of a music video
  • 2. Narrative The video starts like we are watching a horror movie but then we see that it is actually people in a movie theatre watching. We see Michael and a girl who walks out because she is scared. Michael starts teasing her and they walk to the graveyard, which is where the song begins. Michael then turns into a zombie along with other people who come out of the graves and they start dancing. The dance is reflective of Michael Jackson as an artist and people will be able to recognise his unique style and link it to this song, which makes him stand out. The narrative continues as the girl runs away (like in the movie they were watching in the beginning) and he follows her, he turns back into a normal person making people think that it was a nightmare the girl had but when he looks back into the camera we see he is still a zombie. This narrative will make people want to watch the music video instead of just listening to the song because it shows a
  • 3. Narrative theories 5 stages of narrative in Thriller: 1. Beginning – Michael and girlfriend watching film in cinema then he walks her home. 2. Disruption – Zombies rising, Michael and girlfriend being surrounded. 3. Recognition – girlfriend realising Michael has become a zombie. 4. Attempt to solve disruption – girlfriend runs away 5. Resolution – girlfriend thinks it was a dream, but when Michael faces the camera we see that he is still a zombie. Strauss’s binary opposites theory • Thriller contains mostly the opposites of good vs evil, good being Michael Jackson and the girlfriend and the evil being the zombies these can also be linked to life vs death. Also dark vs light is presented, it is dark when there is zombies and tension but is light during the resolution.
  • 4. Mise-en-scene • From the costumes of the characters in the movie scene we can tell that it was the 50s shown by the bright colours and long skirts. And we can also tell that the main music video is from the 80s because the girls outfit changes into a lot of denim and high-waist jeans with permed hair. • The main part of the video is set in a graveyard which is a typical thriller convention, because it is closely related to horror and zombies. There is smoke and low-key lighting which sets an eerie atmosphere and creates suspense so we expect something supernatural to happen. • The colour red is used frequently, which can be associated with rage and blood, both of which are also typical horror conventions. • In terms of positioning, Michael and his girlfriend are being surrounded by zombies, this shows them as being powerless and alone and the zombies as dominant.
  • 5. • The make-up makes Michael and the dancers look like common characters that might be seen in a stereotypical thriller film (werewolf and zombies). This is important because the more effort that is put into making the production of the video as good as possible the more people are likely to watch it and the more people that watch it promotes the song further making it a ‘classic’. At the current time the music video for Thriller has 329,966,320 views on YouTube demonstrating that people are still watching it to this day, presenting the impact a music video can have. • The costumes also complement the lyrics to the song and if you were to just listen to it, it would make you wonder what is actually happening and this brings it to life.
  • 6. Camera angles, Shots and Movement • There are close-ups throughout the video of Michael Jackson and his girlfriends face. Close-ups are usually a big part of music videos as they show expressions of the singer so we as an audience can relate to their emotion. In Thriller a lot of the close- ups present fear in the girlfriends face when she sees Michael turn into a werewolf in the movie and a zombie in ‘real life’. We also see a close-up zoom at the end when Michael turns to face the camera and he still appears to be a zombie but it shows that he is smiling because his girlfriend doesn’t know which lets the audience into the secret. • There is a two-shot of Michael and his girlfriend in a car, this helps establish a relationship between the two of them. Michael is shown as the main focus in the two-shot and this helps to identify him as the main character.
  • 7. Sound and Dialog • At the beginning when the title is being shown there is non- diegetic sound of breathing over the title. This means that the people watching/listening will expect it to have a chilling ambiance because eerie breathing is a common aspect of thrillers/horrors. • Non-diegetic sound effects such as: creaking door, thunder, creaking floor, dogs howling and strong winds, can be heard. These effects emphasis the horror genre of the music video. • When the zombies being to surround Michael Jackson and his girlfriend there is non-diegetic commentary in the background said in a ominous way to create the presence of fear and horror. • At the end when the screen freezes there is more non-diegetic sound of a man laughing portentously showing that Michael is still a zombie. Leaving the end of the story to our own interpretations.
  • 8. Editing • Throughout the video there are not many cuts to the beat, but more of Michael Jackson and the zombies dancing to the beat. It hasn’t got many cuts to the beat because it has been created to be more like a movie not like a music video. • However one important cut in the video is when it cuts from the cinema screen to Michael and his girlfriend then zooms out to show the whole cinema. This is significant in the video because after they leave the cinema similar events happen like the girl screaming and running away after Michael turns into a monster. This again emphasises how they wanted the video to look like a horror movie. • In the last part of the video there is a lingering freeze frame on Michael Jackson’s zombie-like face so that the audience has time to see and react to the shot. This is also where the credits start making it seem even more like a movie. • There is also a zoom shot used to show the zombies emerging from their tombs in the graveyard, this is done to draw attention to them as we see them before Michael and his girlfriend do.
  • 9. Andrew Goodwin’s 6 features of music videos: Demonstration of genre characteristics In this music video ‘Thriller’ follows the genre characteristics of ‘pop’ music as it exhibits many stereotypical aspects of a pop video that the audience can associate with. For example, dance chorography is demonstrated in the video which is commonly associated with pop videos to make it more entertaining and enjoyable for the audience, especially in this video because it is Michael Jackson who was know as the ‘king of pop’ and the dance is now iconic worldwide so persuades people to dance along. This video could be seen as challenging traditional pop characteristics because it doesn’t have many bright colours and the theme isn’t very happy. However, some may see it as fun to make zombies dance as it isn’t what it associated with them, and the main
  • 10. Relationship between lyrics and visuals • There is a clear relationship between the lyrics and visuals within the music video. For example, when Michael sings “you feel the cold hand and wonder if you’ll ever see the sun” he takes on the physicality of a zombie and places his hands on his girlfriends back. • Another example is when he sings “you hear the door slam and realize there’s nowhere left to run” he makes a movement that symbolises a door slamming. This line could also foreshadow the ending in which the girl slams the door and starts screaming when the zombies appear. • The lyrical content of ‘Thriller’ contains various references to supernatural beings (zombies, werewolf's etc.). These lyrical references have a literal presence in the music video for example “night creatures call and the dead start to walk in their masquerade”, “cause I can thrill you more than any ghosts would ever dare try”, “they’re out to get you there’s demons closing in on every side”.
  • 11. Relationship between music and visuals • The music begins during the movie at the beginning when a full moon appears. The music is mysterious and puts emphasis on the full moon which is typically associated with werewolves. As the music gradually intensifies so does the plot as Michael turns into a werewolf. • The actual music for the video begins after they leave the cinema and we see a sign for the movie named ‘Thriller’ so we can guess that the music video will be based off that film. From the very first beats you can tell that this is a pop song because it seems quite upbeat with a dance vibe. • As Michael and the girl are being surrounded by zombies the ominous commentary ends a it goes silent, as the tension builds the music begins again, but it’s not upbeat it is similar to that of the movie and the full moon. This could tell us that something is about to happen and just like in the movie Michael turns into a monster. When we see this it is very sudden and the music intensifies mostly when we see his zombie-like face. After this the
  • 12. Notion of looking • The notion of looking is clearly shown within the video as the preliminary events in Thriller do not actually occur within the ‘reality’ of the music video but exist only as part of a horror movie which is being viewed by a cinema audience that includes the two protagonists (Michael and his on-screen girlfriend). • We don’t know until the shot cuts to the cinema that they are actually watching a film and this creates mystery at the beginning of people wondering what is
  • 13. Intertextual reference • There are many intertextual references to the codes and conventions of the ‘horror genre’. Sound effects such as wolves howling, footsteps, doors creaking etc. as well as the inclusion of supernatural beings such as werewolves and zombies are examples of typical codes and conventions of horror films which Thriller includes. • More intertextual references are shown through the presence of classic horror movie posters such as ‘An American Werewolf in London’. • Michael Jackson hired John Landis (the director of ‘An American Werewolf in London’) to direct Thriller and as a result the transformation of Jackson’s character (in the horror movie that he’s watching beforehand) shows similarities to that of David’s character in AAWIL.