falderal : a moving images blog
Duran Duran – Planet Earth ; 1981  ·  Posted by Tallulah

Directors: Perry Haines, Russell Mulcahy

Just to clear some things before going into the post, I am using original air dates and posting about music videos from information given to me by Katy of Ask Katy or information that I’ve gleaned from the Duran Duran Wiki.

Now that’s all cleared, onto the post!

I have been working on this post for 2 weeks now and I admit defeat. I am probably going to look back at this entry when I’m 40 years old and go, “What in the world?”

As for the video, I have mixed feelings about the “Planet Earth” video but in the end, I absolutely love it. Here is the thing. I love pretty things and people but then there is the other side of me that says, “You were a film studies major for Christ’s sake. YOU CAN’T JUST LOOK AT SURFACES.” But the thing is, as much as I like to learn, I also like to admire something that is pretty and not to think much about it. How I react to nice visuals changes from situation to situation and sometimes, I just want to like something for superficial reasons, and that is the case with “Planet Earth”.
On the one hand, I wish that the music video was more ~interesting~ (like their video for “The Chauffeur”), but truthfully, I love this video because I get to see the band members in their prime in regards to their looks. There are close ups of every member and I get to just feast on these pretty boys. And is there something wrong with that? There probably is and I’m sure much can be said about “the gaze” but all of that goes out the window after I see Nick Rhodes in a frilly shirt and a nice jacket. I share the same sentiments with Andy Warhol when he said, “Oh I really like their videos, they have the best videos. They didn’t have enough of Nick Rhodes on that peace record though; there’s a lot of Simon on it but Nick just comes in at the end.” — that’s how I feel about every single Duran Duran video. THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH NICK RHODES IN MY LIFE. Yes, it is the truth and I don’t care about content when there are pretty things to be seen. I think my guilt is assuaged because I find many of Duran’s videos to be about admiring nice things and that whatever I see in these videos are meant for my pleasure. I also found something on Ask Katy, which I found to be a bit funny. A fan asked why Roger Taylor is the topless one in the beginning of the video and he answered, “I can’t think of any reason why i [sic] was chosen for the opening shot other than I was the only one prepared to take my shirt off and bare all!” Yep, bare it all for us fans! Woohoo!

I think that’s really the worst though. The fact that I don’t tend to care much about my thought process and dismiss it alarms me a bit at times (as you can tell from this ramble and probably all my blog entries). I guess I can make myself feel better by saying, “I’m looking at manufactured pretty boys! I’m doing what I’m SUPPOSED to do.” I’m a brainless robot.

The video makes it so easy to consume the band members that critical thinking goes out the window when I watch the video. It starts with a topless R. Taylor and from there, it is a visual feast of the members, especially of Simon Le Bon. The lines that pop up next to the topless Le Bon draws the viewer’s eyes to Le Bon’s face so that all we can do is stare at him and sigh in contentment. I guess that this isn’t all that new with music videos, since older music videos that I’ve watched also featured the band members prominently.
I suppose that there isn’t much guilt in regards to consuming these pop stars because the music is so catchy and easy to take in. What I do find interesting is that in their earliest video, there isn’t much objectification going on in regards to women. Sure, there are those New Romantic dancers (male and female) and the woman who is next to Simon (ref. Picture 2), but she’s there for such a little while and most viewers are probably caring more about the band members than the woman. The woman may play the usual “decoration” role, but I can easily brush it off since the band members themselves are more interesting and decorative than the woman.

What I like seeing in moving pictures are references to the past, and I am thinking that the “Planet Earth” video took some visual cues from Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920). I like to see this as a nod towards the role that music videos will play in Duran Duran’s career, in that the band is taking a risk in investing something that is new, which in turn will open doors for them. Dr. Caligari‘s set design was different than what was normally seen in silent films at the time and Duran Duran’s increasingly elaborate videos were something new too. Not only that, Duran Duran’s videos became highly associated with them, just as German Expressionism, and particuarly Dr. Caligari, became a hallmark and icon for German cinema. Also, the Expressionist style of Dr. Caligari came from budget issues, so I wonder if Haines and Mulcahy chose this style also for budget reasons too… Hmm…

Andy Warhol quote source: Fiona Russell Powell

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