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Updated by Kendra Brea Cooper on Nov 11, 2014
Headline for #WhatIsPretty: 10 Key Things in Beyonce's "Pretty Hurts" Video that Help Tell the Story
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#WhatIsPretty: 10 Key Things in Beyonce's "Pretty Hurts" Video that Help Tell the Story

Beyonce's "Pretty Hurts" music video is nominated, and rightfully so, for best video with a social message and best cinematography at the MTV Video Music Awards. The message is clear in the lyrics, but the objects in the video hold meaning when they're tied together in the story she is trying to tell. This is because they are more than just their properties, they symbolize something created by our ideologies.

Mirrors

In the moments Beyonce's character pauses to look in a mirror, it is obviously more than a careless glance. The mirror takes hold of her mind. They are reminders. What you are actually seeing is not a complete self, it is more of a reflection of your feelings, thoughts, and views that are constructed by society. Especially for women, the mirror shapes life.

9

Silence

Silence

There are times in this video, where the girls are all in a room, and everyone is busy looking at themselves. They sit next to each other, stand next to each other, and no one says a word. These are the times in life to make our connections to others, but they're not being made under the pressure of being the most beautiful, and the one with the power and privilege that comes with it. This construct keeps us separated and silent.

2

Trophies

Trophies

Away from the stage and the other competitors, Beyonce (her character) sits alone with her trophies that carry a dull shine while they sit against the wall. She sits with them, as if they're her friends, her gang, her backup. Within them, they represent the sacrifices she has made to be beautiful, and they are the keepers of her happiness. In the end, they don't keep their promises.

3

Sashes and Bodies

Sashes and Bodies

There are many shots of the body in this video. People pinching the body, hitting the body, altering the body, and the sash wrapping the body. It is clear that the body is a thing that is used for control and power.

4

Water

Water

Water plays an interesting role in this music video. While she's underwater, there's a moment where she almost looks free, and then it turns to struggle. Water is the life saver and life taker. It plays both sides of what some would call good and evil.

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Stages

Stages

It is apparent that Beyonce has threaded some of herself into this fiction of a girl with beauty pageant dreams. The pressure of stage presence and beauty is something she faces on a daily basis. The stage is a place in the real world and in fantasy. Sometimes we feel like all eyes are on us while we're walking down the street or sitting on the bus, and we develop a character because of the world outside of us. In Beyonce's case, the whole world is watching.

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Measuring tape and Lineups

Measuring tape and Lineups

The girls are lined up next to each other on stage in a way that makes them easily compared. Behind the curtain, they are measured by themselves and by another person. Competition and measurement are constants in our society, and come at us in our jobs, education, creativity, and body image. Women's bodies are wrapped with numbers everyday. While we might not be lined up right next to our "competition", we may picture ourselves that way. It feels as if we are always sizing up.

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Workout Gear

Workout Gear

Beyonce's character works out in isolation, just like she sits with her trophies and crowns in isolation. The work out gear takes up a space that could be filled with people, love, and conversation. Instead, the equipment has an entire room dedicated to it. It takes up space in the physical and in her mind, while capturing her time and energy while she uses it.

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Fuzzy Television

Fuzzy Television

The television is on, and all we see is the fuzzy white screen. It's there anyway, as a sign. What we see is shaped in part by this object that sits in our living rooms, with the screen facing where we sit down. Even when it is not showing us anything, it's very presence influences our behaviour. The television is ideology in our home. It passes image after image, but here it does not. She has turned away.

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Words on her Outfit

Words on her Outfit

Beyonce's outfit is covered in words such as "empowerment" and "determined". Susan Bordo once wrote about how "power" is pushed into certain avenues that seem like they're liberating, but are actually only keeping women in line. Control over your weight might feel empowering, and it might be empowering in some respects, but it should be done for the right reasons.