A Partial Requirement in the Course
Selected Topics in Gender Studies
A Clip Analysis Interpretation of the Music Video
F R E A K by LFO

Submitted By:
Marie Antoniette G. Mendoza
0453037

Introduction:
The advent of music video creates so much impact in the lives and culture of today’s generation, so much so that its effect is undeniable. The manner in which one dresses, speaks, and even thinks are avenues that can be looked into to prove such point. On the other hand, today’s generation and culture is likewise reflected in such films. Some videos serve as an expression of what the artists and the people they represent feel or think.
What I basically wish to convey through the stated points is that music video has already been an integral part in today’s generation, and would certainly continue to do so, perhaps with even more resounding effects, in those to come. Given this, an analysis of which provides vast information on endless topics. An important topic at hand is gender studies.
To be able to provide a thorough presentation and gender analysis of the music video FREAK by LFO, this paper is divided into two main parts. Part one presents the narrative flow and descriptive images of the film. The second part provides an exhaustive analysis and interpretation of the key scenes and gender-focused images. Lastly, it is the core objective of this paper to determine and present the heart of the music video FREAK by LFO in light of gender issues, which is said to be “Breaking Away from Tradition.”


Part One: Narration of the Music Video
The setting of the music video is at a school campus. Through out the film the characters remained to be within the perimeters of the university which appears to be an all-girls Chinese school. In spite of the limited space in which the characters operate, the vastness of surroundings beyond the university perimeters is easily recognizable. There are numerous occasions wherein a shot of the sky was taken including the modern high standing sky scrapers.
All the characters in the video are female. Majority are the girl students who seem to be in their early adolescence, and a traditional Chinese lady teacher. The teacher is said to be traditional primarily because of her “conservative clothing” with closed collar, neatly braided hair, stockings, simple black shoes and without any make-up. There appears to be no protagonist in the music video. All the characters generally and significantly contribute to the main message of the film.
It is also important to note that the film is generally shown in gray color. Everything seems to be in a mundane and boring atmosphere. However, one should be careful not to miss the subtle streaks of colors such as red, blue and white specifically in the climax of the film.

INSERT OF FIRST CLIP

The first scene is at the school playground where the girls played as normal children would do. The playground is dominated by steels or bars; there are no green grasses but plain pavement. Everything looked normal however very mundane. This is said to also be the very first hint of order and control as one of the primary things that tradition aims to accomplish and maintain. Hence, this scene represents the old, usual, traditional system.
On the other hand, a look beyond the steel gates of the Chinese school would give you a view of vast sky and tall modern buildings. This is the first sign of modernity in the music video, a clear contrast between the traditional as represented by the steel bars versus modernity as represented by the sky scrapers. The vast sky looks inviting from inside the campus as if saying that there is a wider world beneath those steel bars.
Furthermore, words in Chinese characters were flashed which literally translates to “Weird Shaped Person.” I think this also translates to the title of the music video itself, FREAK. There were numerous occasions in which the characters in the film were flashed with distorted, creepy looking faces. However, in totality I personally believe that the title conveys something beyond the weird shaped people that were shown. The message goes deeper, an explanation of which will be given later.

INSERT OF SECOND CLIP

The second scene focuses on a girl’s rubber shoes. There were numerous occasions in the music video where shoes were focused, this is first of which. The rubber shoe is another sign of breaking away from tradition given that such kind of shoes is not normally worn in Asian schools. Hence, it expresses the character’s modernity which is perfectly contrasted by the shiny school floor that once again signifies order.
The girl is further shown cautiously dragging a chair inside a room, which happens to be the toilet.

INSERT OF THIRD CLIP

The third scene is inside the school toilet. This still image above shows the feet and legs of the teacher focusing on her black old fashioned shoes and stockings. Once again, this is believed to signify tradition.
The toilet is also quite old with some stains and graffiti such as bear drawings made by the school children. While the toilet itself represents tradition, the graffiti found on the wall is another expression of the desire to break away from the norm. It can be described as a certain level of rebellion that stirs up in the children.

INSERT OF FOURTH CLIP

A focus on the teacher’s face shows that she perfectly represents Asian tradition. Her hair is neatly braided. She doesn’t wear any make-up or accessories. Her blouse is tightly pressed with buttons closed up to the collar. However, her facial expression conveys that she is timid yet resigned to what is called the norm. This does not necessarily mean that she is happy or contented about it.
INSERT OF FIFTH CLIP

I personally think that it is critical to grasp the fifth still image in order to have clear understanding of the music video. This shows that the little girls uses the chair that she dragged to the toilet to lock her teacher.
As stated earlier, the Chinese girls carry a stirring desire to break away from tradition. On the other hand, the Chinese teacher represents such tradition or norms. Hence, this scene clearly depicts the shutting off of tradition. It is as if the younger generation no longer wants anything to do with the seemingly stiff and limiting ideals of yesterday as they yearn to redefine what ought to be their generation’s norms.

INSERT OF SIXTH CLIP

The image above shows the face of the little girl who locked her teacher in the toilet. Her facial expression does not leave any trace of fear but instead of confidence as if she perfectly knows what she is doing.
The scene continues focusing on her body accessories such as the bear drawn on her blouse and the skull chain that is hanging on her waist. These once again communicate rebellion against the norm, an expressed desire to be in control and to do things her way.

INSERT OF SEVENTH CLIP

The girl played her tape on the school’s old cassette. An image of the old outdoor speakers with the sky scrapers as backdrop once again emphasizes the contrast between tradition and modernity. The music played by the girl is quite freaky itself with lyrics that repeatedly says “This is going to make you freak.”
However, it is the music that provided the young girls an avenue to let go of the “steel bars within them” which figuratively pertains to the rules and regulations that bind them, and break lose of themselves. This is portrayed by their wild and freaky dance steps.

INSERT OF EIGHTH AND NINTH CLIPS

As the young girls break free in dancing, various images that once again signify the contradiction between tradition and modernity are flashed. The image below shows a flag, which may be interpreted as “conformity” to a given set of rules or standards. Another image of rubber shoes is presented however this time it is depicted as more out of control as the girl stumped her feet on the dusty ground.

INSERT OF TENTH AND ELEVENTH CLIPS

As the children continue to dance more and more wildly, two things are recognizable. First, streaks of color other than gray, black and white are more evident in the video. This appears mostly in the children’s clothes. Second, the children’s faces become more weird shaped or freaky. For me these perfectly present the contrasting effects of breaking away from tradition. On one hand, things seem brighter especially for people who share the same sentiments. There appears to be more life, more color to everything that used to be very mundane. On the other hand, things also become freakier especially from the eyes of people who are already resigned to tradition or what is called the norm. Thus, the distortion of the children’s faces as presented in the video.

INSERT OF TWELVETH CLIP

The music video particularly the movie clips above also shows a typical Asian horror film wherein the characters use their hair to create a feeling of creepiness. This can be seen in horror films such as the Ring. What this aims to create, I believe, is the emotion of uneasiness that something is wrong and not normal.
Furthermore, the music video also shows other Asian culture particularly collectivism. This is presented with a top view shot of girls in circle which basically portray the collectivist nature of Asians. Being an Asian myself, it is indeed true that we make consensus based decisions and being in a group gives us more sense of power and authority. Hence, I believe that the image presented below communicates that the children’s sense of courage to break out from the norm is founded on their group, being a part of a collectivist culture.
Furthermore, in Asian culture it also takes one bold step by an individual to stir up the crowd. As shown in the clip, this means that it took the girl’s courage, to step out and do what others wanted but didn’t have much courage to do, for them to also express what’s truly within them, that is breaking away from the norm.

INSERT OF THIRTEENTH AND FOURTEENTH CLIPS

The group image can also be interpreted in light of gender studies. Men are usually perceived to be more independent than women. Most of the time, women are emotional and they gather their strength from friends who often share the same sentiments as theirs. Given that the children are all girls, it can also be said that this fact requires their collective power.
The next scene shows the teacher as she fights her way out of the toilet cubicle. I call this scene as the “clash of old and new, of tradition and modernity” which obviously results to certain degree of disorder and discomfort. This is shown in the teacher’s body movements. Her neatly braided hair started to loosen. Her feet that are wearing cleanly polished shoes start to move with uneasiness as if in panic. The clip also shoes that the only accessory she wears is a watch which is also a clear representation of order.

INSERT OF FIFTEENTH CLIP

The music video continues with more shots of chaos. It focuses once again on the weird shaped faces of children and on their accessories such as necklaces and pins with swords or different animal chars.
Everything was wild and chaotic which eventually led to a quarrel between two girls. It was not really clear if it was a serious or fun fight. It started when they happened to step on each others foot, fight over a teddy bear and became more physical by pushing each other and pulling each other’s hair.

INSERT OF SIXTEENTH CLIP

These images show various representations once again. The rubber shoes as mentioned earlier symbolize the hold of modernity to these children. On the other hand, the teddy bear is believed to represent the traditional or the old system. These two symbols represent the two extremes at the same time wherein the conflict is evident by the active chaos where in the girls push each other and pull one another’s hair. A girl’s hair is also an important figure in Asian culture as most Asians wear their long, black and silky. This is somehow a reflection of femininity and a symbol of pride for Asian women. The girls on the clip expresses their frenzy against the norm by pulling each other’s hairs, as if communicating discontent on how things have been operated from the time past.
The chaotic scene continues as the teacher pushed her way out of the toilet cubicle and one of the girls fell to the ground.

INSERT OF SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CLIPS

It is also difficult to describe whether the girl was hurt or was playing around while she was lying on the ground. Other girls that surround her were cheering and even smiling. This makes me assume that she didn’t really hurt herself but continued her funky moves. This is also the first time that the camera focused on the girl’s body from head to foot. Her body movements can be interpreted as shivering perhaps trembling but on the other hand, it can also be interpreted as one that continues to go with the flow in this case the flow of the music. For me this shows the effect of breaking away from something. The tinge of fear, trembling and shivering is present. It always is. One cannot break away from the norm without having a feeling of uncertainty and discomfort. I think this is always a part of transition or change, most especially when you know that you are breaking away not just from what is the norm but pushing yourself against the current of people who share the traditional values and would definitely criticize you for breaking away from it. This is clearly seen on the facial expression of the teacher. Her face was so stiffened as if holding back her rage and frustration towards the children. However what is very evident here is her control over her emotions. She did not do anything to express what is truly with in her though one would easily recognize the stirring yet controlled emotions within her. She responded on a way that seems to be “programmed” or what is deemed acceptable by the norms and standards in which she lives by.

INSERT OF NINETEENTH CLIP

Immediately the teacher rushed to the office and turned off the radio. She did it with such force which can already be considered as an expression of her rage and frustration.
On the other hand, the girl got up as soon as she heard the music stopped. What adds up to the freakiness of everything is the final distortion made to on her face. She winked both eyes while the Chinese characters were once again flashed: “Weird Shaped Person: FREAK”.

INSERT OF SEVENTEENTH TWEENTHIETH CLIP

Part Two: Interpretation and Gender Description
It was mentioned earlier that the main theme of the music video FREAK is believed to be about “breaking away from tradition.” This part of the paper aims to analyze the video further with the sole objective of expounding on the said theme.
There are two main characters in the music video. These are the lady teacher and the group of young students, both of which are female and Chinese. I believe that the characters specifically their gender and race are a very good representation of what the video is all about. It is known to all that Chinese is a very traditional culture; More so, the female members of their society. Hence, I think that Chinese ladies were chosen as characters in this video because of their strong grasp in tradition. Furthermore, it is not only because of their personal attachment to tradition which we may say is more evident to the older members of the society. I believe it is also because of the higher expectation towards female members to live by and be passive about the norms of the society as were imposed upon them from time being. This scenario therefore makes it more surprising, or in the language of the video more “freaky”, to see such traditional culturally bounded young girls to break away from what is supposed to define them.
However, it must also be noted that there was no main protagonist in the music video. Both characters, the teacher and the group of students, play a significant role. Each equally contributes to effectively deliver the message or theme of the film. Besides these characters, there were no other minor players.
The relationship between the two characters, as in normal Asian school, is expected to be of high power distance. Teachers must be well respected by students and in numerous cases, even feared. However, this was not seen in the video. While the girl student who locked the teacher in the toilet cubicle was observed to be very careful as she did her tricks, it was also noted that she did such thing with confidence as if she knew full well what she was doing. Furthermore, the fact that these children did such thing is already an enough evidence to say that they do not honor their teacher as much as their culture expects them to.
On the other hand, it is still observed that the teacher behaved as normal Asians would. She was very stiff and had shown limited emotions to the public. Frustration and fierce anger was shown in her facial expression. However, such expression cannot be described beyond being stiff. His actions were simply limited. I must say that this is very common in Asian culture. It is deemed appropriate most especially for women to hold their emotions in public. Given this, we can say that the teacher represents what is called the tradition. Besides her physical actions, other things also attest to such statement. It was also observed that she was not wearing any accessories other than a seemingly old fashioned watch. The watch in itself can be interpreted as a symbol of being in order. Her hair was neatly braided, she wore no make-up, her buttons were closed all the way up to her collar, and she was wearing stockings and freshly polished old style black shoes. All of these support the claim that the teacher was a perfect representation of tradition in the music video.
The young girls, on the other hand, represent rebellion against the old system. It cannot be fully said that they represent modernity itself simply because they were not illustrated as completely modernized. However, the tension between the old and new was very well manifested by the girls. The first few stills of the film show that everything was pretty normal, as if the students still comply with the norms. They were wearing their school uniform, almost everybody neatly wears long black hair which is also common in Asia, and they were playing as normal children do. However, a close look would at the same time already provide hints of slight modernity or even rebellion. They were wearing modern and branded rubber shoes that are not usual in Asian schools, where children especially girls were usually asked to wear black leather shoes. There was a bear drawing or patch on a girl’s blouse. A skull keychain or pendant was hanging on the girl’s waist. Other accessories such as animals and sword pins were also seen on other girls’ clothes. All of these are self-expression. However, it should be noted that such things are not normally accepted in traditional cultures.
Given this difference between the two characters, a conflict or tension becomes evident. It can be said that both cannot co-exist. When such thing happens, it then results to discomfort or worst even chaos. This is shown in various scenarios on the video. One scenario would be the teacher on panic inside the toilet cubicle. She appeared to be highly frustrated and restless. At the same time, another chaotic scenario occurs at the playground where a playful interaction between two girls resulted to physical encounter as they fought over the teddy bear, started pushing each other, and pulling each other’s hair. This is once again considered as a strange sight primarily because young girls from a traditional culture are not expected to behave in such ways. While this is acceptable among young boys, young girls on the other hand are expected to act with such poise and grace. This however is not seen among the young female characters. Instead they acted or danced with so much liberty to the point of making themselves look as strange as they can be. This was even further emphasized by the distortion on their faces made through camera effects. Through this we can deduce that times are changing, and females are now seen to be tougher or at times even “boyish”. Pushing the analysis further, we may also say that this is a figurative scenario which actually pertains to the swelling yet forcefully but seemingly uncontrollable rebellion against the old culture. To simply put it, people particularly teenagers are now more than ever ready to explore things beyond the norm. Such heightened readiness is perceived because of the characters being female. If it were to be male characters, we may say that such is expected of as part of their masculinity. However, given that there were female players in the video, it therefore heightened the sense of urgency to break away from tradition.
I would say that the manner in which the video finished seemed to be open-ended. One cannot say if tradition prevailed because the children appeared to be satisfied with the flow of events. This is particularly seen when the girl who was focused on the last image winked her eyes and smiled. Furthermore, there was also a final distortion made on her face as the Chinese characters were once again flashed. On the other hand, the teacher was also able to push her way out of the toilet cubicle and turned off the music, which figuratively induced the children to freely express themselves. Given this, I think there really is between tradition and modernity that dominated in the end. In the video and even in reality we always see the tension between the two. There will always be a group of people who are unwilling to let go of what to them is the norms of society. On the other hand, there will always be another group of people who are dissatisfied of the norm, who wanted to break away from it, and in their own ways be freed. The presence of both and the transition from to the other surely create tension. It is this tension that results to discomfort and if not properly managed leads to chaos.
Pushing further on the gender issue of the film, such tension is truly more evident among women, much more emphasized on Asian culture. Times are changing. People are no longer the same as they were generations ago. Principles held before may be loosely held by today’s people. While all these pose challenges, it is undeniable that the degree of challenge is even more to women. I believe this is the main gender issue in the music video FREAK. Whether today’s women would successfully break away from the ever binding tradition or not is solely up to them, as individuals. For in the end, I believe, it still is a personal choice. The sole point therefore is the fact that there is now an emerging group of women who are more bolder, more aggressive, and more fearless to move beyond the boundaries of tradition and be who they believe they are made to be.

Personal Reflection:
Gender studies through analysis of music video had been an interesting activity. It is true that there are gender issues everyday and everywhere. I think music video reflects these issues more than most people; I included, and am aware of.
Furthermore, I think analysis of music video does not only reflect gender issues but more so expresses the views and beliefs of today’s generation. Figuratively speaking, I think it is a two way mirror. It is a reflection of what today’s generation is in terms of how they think, speak and act. At the same time it is a reflection of what they aspire to be, as some people aim to duplicate what is seen in these films.
Hence, such analysis is not only full of bountiful information but of revelation where in effective and accurate interpretation would lead to better discoveries and understanding of the world we live in.
The burden therefore lies to those whose eyes were open. The question I pose to myself then is what to do with this information? I choose to use it to help make my generation, not only for women like me but to everyone else, a better generation than the one previous to me; furthermore to help the next generation to build something even far well than ours. And I believe analyzing gender studies through music videos is a very good start. For it is always important to first identify, know and understand where we are, the very world we live in. It is only until we grasp a hold of what’s going on in our generation that we will be able to reach further and say where we want to be and last but definitely not the least, how we get there.