The Britney Spears song ‘Toxic’ was released on January 2004, and was directed by Joseph Kahn. In the video Britney is in search of a green liquid, working as a secret agent so she can poison her unfaithful boyfriend. There are also interspersed scenes of the singer naked with diamonds all over her body. The video begins with a tilt upwards while birds fly through the camera, followed by an aeroplane, referencing the works of director John Woo, from Hong Kong. This is significant ad he is known for his high obtain editing and is considered a major influence of action genre, which may explain why Britney has used him for a more exciting and interesting video. The singer then appears through a zoom dressed as a flight attendant answering the phone, where synaesthesia is demonstrated as she spins round just as she is about to sing the first line. This also shows signs of illustration as the lyrics at this point are “Baby can't you see, I'm calling” which is sang as she is on the phone which is common in most dance pop songs. Almost instantly there are close ups of Spears’ face as she spins round again, which is extremely common in music videos as record companies will demand that there are close ups so that the audience can easily identify them.
The various close ups of Britney’s face are used as a selling point in her video, especially as she takes up 90% of the screen time. Also, this might be because their aim is to get us to favour Britney, as she is the hero in the narrative, on a mission to kill her evil boyfriend, the villain. The frame then cuts to a long shot of the singer crouched down in a rather sexual position with nothing but diamonds covering her body. This was found to be similar to Kate Bush’s look in her video of the 1978 single ‘The man with the child in his eyes’. This may be because Kate Bush is seen as a huge pop icon, where her work was taken very seriously and was very successful, maybe the reason why Britney has used her as an inspiration and a way of exposing her slim figure to the public. She is clearly being looked at through a male gaze as she slowly moves into different positions while staring into the camera in a sexual way. There is also an extreme close up shortly after of her face while she pulls down her lip with her fingers, as if she is almost seducing her audience and giving this image of a sexy, daring woman. Laura Mulvey suggests that both males and females are made to voyeuristically look at women through a heterosexual male gaze. This allows the audience to watch music videos and films without being watched by the characters or women in the video and become voyeurs of the people on the screen. On the other hand it seems in Britney's video that she wants people to look at her in this way as this gives her control over the audience watching. Not only that, the gaze can also be directed towards people of the same gender for many different reasons, for example in comparison of body image or outfits/clothing, rather than in a sexual way.
The shot then switches back to Spears on the aeroplane as the camera tracks her walking down the aisle with a trolley as she swings her hips from side to side with the music (synaesthesia). This also demonstrates typical characteristics that Goodwin suggests appears all the time in certain genres, especially (dance pop/hip hop) where dancing is present all of the time, and is particularly evident in nearly all of Britney's videos, for example 'Womanizer' and 'Till the world ends'.
Britney then walks down the aisle and purposely spills a glass of champagne on a passenger's crotch, where she acts innocent but we know secretly that she isn't as there is a medium close up of her looking directly into the camera in a deceitful way. Throughout the video Britney seems to be in control of everything, and is giving this star image persona of a very dominant and powerful woman. This is demonstrated throughout the video especially as she wipes up the champagne where there is a tilt upwards to a shot of the man's face, where he looks fearful and agitated. There are also signs of amplification at this point also as she sings "I'm loving it", perhaps meaning being in control of him, and men in general.
Again there are elements of dance, as she dances down the aisle with the other flight attendants. Choreographed dancing is particularly well known in this genre of music as part of the artists performance, especially as Steve Archer suggests that this helps aid visualisation and the 'repeatability' factor. Her mainstream audience also enjoy this and would expect to see this in her videos. The frame then cuts to a close up of the singer beckoning another passenger to come closer, where she dances at a medium close up, so we are able to see her touch her chest, enabling us to focus on that area, which was made to be seen through a male gaze. Britney is repeatedly fragmented in her videos so we can focus on different parts of the body, because that's one of her selling points - her image.
Just as the chorus kicks in, a fast beat is accompanied by the singer at a low shot angle pushing the trolley down the aisle in time with the music and forcing the passenger to go down with her. She then forces the man into the toilets and seduces him, showing that she is definitely in control as the camera switches to a close up of his hands knocking over a bowl of soap bars, making him appear dazed/shocked. She then pulls off his mask revealing his real identity of a good looking businessman and steals a black pass from his pocket. This all fits in with the narrative of the video as she is a secret agent, who can figure out what passengers are hiding their real identities to get what she wants using her body and her seductive powers.
While all of this is happening the interspersed scenes of Britney wearing nothing but diamonds continue to come up in the video while she moves around and stares into the camera in a sexual way, which actually resulted in the music video being moved from daytime to late-night programming as it was considered too 'Raunchy'. An mtv spokesman also announced "giving particular sensitivity in the culture right now, we're erring on the side of caution for the immediate future".
Her whole sexy image I'd say has developed through her videos, especially compared to one of her first songs 'Hit me baby one more time' where she is dressed as an innocent school girl dancing around in a sports hall. However, I noticed even in that video there is evidence of a male gaze, meaning that even in her earlier years she was still being fragmented and looked at in a voyeuristic manner.
As the chorus ends and the 4th verse begins, a wipe to a medium close up/side view of Britney is then revealed wearing a tight black catsuit and sports red hair, which was said to be an inspiration of the character 'Sydney Birstow' from the television series 'Alias'. This is also significant as Sydney works as a spy for the CIA in her tv series, and is depicted as being very strong, physically and emotionally, which is what Britney seems to want to portray in her music video. She stands at a low angle shot as she strikes an erotic pose while the wind blows through her hair, also adding to her image as a powerful and fearless woman, especially as she is the hero in the video. This seems to appeal to her target audience as it is seen to be a desirable thing to be a woman that is strong and dominant, emphasizing the whole 'girl power' look. Also, it also appeals to men too as this persona is sometimes seen as an attractive thing as it shows signs of independence. Spears is then dropped onto the back of what seems to be a Ducati 999, which is emphasized with a short cut extreme close up of the bike's wheel, accompanied by a cut where the riders hand is focused revving the engine. This all fits in the with Proppian roles as the man driving the bike is clearly the helper in the narrative, as he is the one taking Britney (the hero) to her unfaithful boyfriends house. Also, the frames of the areas of the bike mimic those used in action movies, preferably when someone is on a mission, which seems to be Britney's aim.
The location seems to be set in a very futuristic Paris, which was compared to the 1982 film 'Blade Runner', which happens to be an action film. It was said that the film had a major influence on science fiction films, anime, videogames and television programmes because of it's dark style and futuristic designs. Britney may have used a similar setting as the film was extremely successful and throughout her video it seems very unrealistic and video game like, so this particular location suits the setting well. Again there are close ups of the singer's face but in a different outfit, this one being her 3rd, perhaps not only used as a selling point but to also demonstrate her ability to change her image and give herself various identities instead of just one. Her sci-fi cyberpunk hair in this scene also seem to go with the whole style and theme of the setting. The iconic scene of Marilyn Monroe in the 1955 film 'The seven year itch' is also replicated in the video as the singer passes the woman, resulting in her dress lifting up. As she rides through the city there is a clear relationship between lyrics and visuals as she sings "Spinning round and round, can you feel me now" as she pulls the drivers face towards hers, showing signs of amplification. The singer leaps off the bike and seems to land in a cat like position just as the chorus begins. The elements of synaesthesia just before the chorus seem to recur throughout the video. The aspects of action movies are also still present as Spears replicates the typical explosion scene where she walks away in slow motion as the building obliterates behind her, perhaps getting her inspiration from Sydney Birtstow in the film 'Alias' or just action films in general where this scene is extremely common, such as in Bond films. There is also a notion of looking as she enters the toxic industries at a medium long shot where she is reflected through several mirrors, as she gains access to a vault so she can steal the toxic green poison for her unfaithful boyfriend. This is significant as Goodwin suggests that women are seen as objects to be looked at and we are being invited to look at her. More dancing is present as she accidentally triggers a laser trap and finds her way across through dance moves and close ups of her face along with the fast cut frames, which all seem to coincide with the sound of the music to emphasize the speed and suspense of the scene.
This is followed by a close up of Britney yet again, but this time dressed in a black superheroine outfit and black hair. When analysing the video I noticed that considering the genre of the song is very mainstream, the representations of the characters aren't so stereotypical, especially as the hero of the narrative is usually male, whereas in this video the villain (Britney's boyfriend) is the young, good looking man. However, although they have casted the Proppian roles differently it is still easy to identify the hero of the narrative as this is common in mainstream genres, whereas complex and entropic narratives are usually addressed to more niche, discerning audiences. I think the strategies in this narrative work well although it is slightly entropic to a certain extent, the video clearly identifies each character and it is made very easy to clarify what Britney is doing, which shows that the video communicates effectively using a high level of redundancy. The camera tracks her upwards as she scales up the building and somersaults into her boyfriends apartment. Her powerful, heroic and ruling persona is then demonstrated as it cuts to a long shot and she stands and swings her hair back in slow motion in a super hero-like stance. As well as being a secret agent, Britney seems to take up all the characteristics of a super heroine as she grabs him by his trousers and throws him across the room where she lies on top of him. The video becomes sexual again as it cuts to an extreme close up of the singer kissing the boyfriend before she pours the poison into his mouth, as the lyrics say "intoxicate me now, with your loving now" demonstrating amplification. The video then ends by cutting to Spears as she jumps out of the window while the camera tracks her, landing back on the plane in her flight attendant outfit. She then winks at the camera in time with the last beat of the song, as the video closes with a shot of the aeroplane flying followed by the birds, just like the beginning.