CoffeeBeer >> Warts & All >> Structured Analysis Video Analysis


The videos for the Structured Analysis class, attended by me and my fellow programmers and featuring "TD" as protagonist, can be interpreted symbolically in several different ways, depending on the method of analysis used. Let us limit our analysis to three different methods:

  1. The Freudian Method, based on Freudian psychology;
  2. The Bergmanian Method, based on the symbolism in the early films of Ingmar Bergman;
  3. The Modern Method, based on modern schools of pop psychology (ie. body language and "I'm Great You Suck").

Observing TD himself in these videos, we primarily see a preoccupation with the buttons of his jacket. From the Freudian viewpoint, the sudden appearance of the jacket unbuttoned when last seen buttoned and vice-versa indicates a fear of castration. In later videos, however, the increasing rate of buttoning/unbuttoning, coupled with TD's troubled breathing, suggests the act of copulation itself. Is he overcoming his fear of castration or simply masking it?

There are two buttons on the jacket; however, only one button is ever seen buttoned. From the Bergmanian point of view, the buttons symbolize life and death. Only life is buttoned and unbuttoned; death is never faced and therefore stands simply as a void of nonlife. TD's gasping is an expression of the fear that his life's breath will be snuffed out, leaving him stranded in this nothingness of nonlife.

The jacket, when buttoned, appears to be too tight. From the modern viewpoint, this would symbolize a megalomaniac syndrome, the fact that TD is "too big for his britches" or, in this case, his jacket. His hand seems to be most comfortable resting on the buttons of his jacket, which suggests the common hand position of Napoleon, a notable megalomaniac. The constant buttoning and unbuttoning of TD's jacket indicates a struggle within himself to claim the power he believes is due him. His troubled breathing undoubtedly results from the fact that his jacket is too tight.

Steering away from the jacket, we are not yet finished with our analysis of TD's persona. His ambiguous hand signals appear unrelated to his words and suggest sign language of primitive cultures. A Freudian translation of these conflicting movements would be as sexual innuendo; the movement for "Data Flow" would mean "Lend me send it home baby"; likewise the sign for "Parallel Diagrams" would translate as "I like your mammaries".

In the Bergmanian context, TD declines to give meaningful hand signals because we are all going to die anyway. This obviously veers toward Existentialism. He injects sarcasm into his speech for the same reason; he knows that we cannot beat death.

Listening to his vocal inflections with a modern ear would suggest his desire to be famous and powerful. Attempting to sound like Jack Lemmon, we wonder if he isn't trying to win an Oscar for his performance in these videos. In this same light, the ambiguity of his hand signals implies that we, the audience, are deaf and dumb; therefore, he alone has the power of speech over us.

There is some interesting imaging going on in the physical setting of the videos. An elusive bowl of lemons seems to enter and exit the scene at will, and TD is observed in different positions on the couch. The Freudian vision of these movements is by far the most interesting. TD is seen perched uncomfortably on the arm of the couch in the early videos. As the existence of his lemons becomes more defined, he becomes more comfortable on the couch. The lemons gradually appear larger and more abundant. Suddenly TD appears, watching a video of himself juggling his lemons proudly in front of God and everyone. This particular video ends with him lounging lazily on the couch, obviously desiring a cigarette, with his lemons exposed in front of him. The lemons seem to have multiplied and he fondles them unselfconsciously.

In a Bergmanian context the lemons symbolize the sourness of life's fruits. TD's changing position on the couch parallels his fluctuating position in his family's life. Ultimately, the juggling of the fruit indicates a desire for death.

Modern analysis witnesses in TD a desire to catch his viewers by surprise. He pretends not to know the lemons exist. Suddenly he directs everyone's attention to "Me on TV Juggling". Once again the act of juggling has nothing to do with what TD is physically saying. His self-satisfied expression at the end of the video series is accentuated by his Jack Lemmon (or is it Jack Lemon?) dialect.

Behind TD on the table is a model of a ship. In the earliest video TD strolls over to the model and turns his hand into a puppet, walking his fingers over the deck of the ship. This is most obviously a Freudian desire to return to childhood, perhaps to the womb. Bergman would interpret the walking on the ship as a death wish. If this particular ship was out on the open seas it would fall apart. And do we even know if TD can swim? The modern interpretation is obvious: letting his "fingers do the walking" indicates that he desires to have all of his business done by telephone.

On a shelf to the side of the couch is an undefinable object. One is never allowed to view this object closely enough to identify what it is. In the Freudian sense this would suggest sexual frustration due to the unreachable orgasm, the "Big Wave". Bergman would define the object as death; its obscure position in the set simply magnifies its inevitability. Modern analysis would see the object as an ego-booster. Only TD knows what the object is; this enables him to constantly be one step ahead of his audience.

Stepping away from TD and into the skits in the videos, we still see plenty of evidence of TD's personality. Viewing the skits through Freudian eyes, we see sexual fears accentuated. "L" appears to be the femme fatale. She is pretty, always smiling, willingly showing "P" her balloons and inviting him to help her arrange them. P, on the other hand, is the anal-retentive type; his comment "You analysts are all alike" is simply a variation on "You anal cysts are all alike". Filling out the sexual stereotypes, "J" is the ball crusher, and we never see "M", who is undoubtedly the castrated male.

A Bergmanian observer would view the object of the skits as TD's desire to retreat from reality. L's bouncy executive filled with cocaine-induced enthusiasm and P's early-TV-sitcom "boss" define a fantasy world haunted only by Death in the form of "M".

Finally, the modern interpretation of the skits once again stresses a power struggle. The portrait of TD in the office behind the actors indicates his desire to be in power over his "puppets". As L and J demonstrate their control over P, and everyone in the skit is in control over the missing "M", TD must be in control over L and J. In this case TD wins the battle of life.

© 1985 JC Mitchell

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