I wrote this analysis in my Applied Literary Criticism class where we discussed different ways of analyzing text through the different types of literary criticisms. The objective of this assignment was to choose one of the commercials we previously viewed in class and write an analysis on it using one of the literary criticisms. I chose to write about Taylor Swift’s fragrance, “Wonderstruck,” by using deconstructive criticism.
Since childhood, the majority of society has been captivated by fairy tales and stories that begin with the phrase, “Once upon a time.” Even during adulthood, one still dreams of the “fairy tale ending” portrayed in fiction and on television. The magic, the enchantment, and the thrill depicted in fairy tale-like settings sets a tone that leads one believe that all dreams come true. What one also needs to remember is that not everything is as it seems. Even the brightest and most wondrous scenes can hide its deepest and darkest secrets. This is an example of deconstructive criticism. Deconstructive criticism is taking a concept or literary device of some sort and turning it into the complete opposite of what it portrays. One way to utilize this method is through television commercials. They appear to be selling a product, but is it truly the message of the ad? Taylor Swift’s ad for her new fragrance, “Wonderstruck,” is an example of a message that seems to be quite direct, but what is its hidden meaning? What is the commercial’s deep, dark secret? The initial message of Taylor Swift’s “Wonderstruck” television ad masks a hidden message found through deconstructive criticism.
The original intent of Taylor Swift’s commercial is to market her new fragrance “Wonderstruck.” What draws the audience in first is, naturally, the presence of the country star Taylor Swift. The ad begins with an opening phrase stated by the country celebrity with images of romantic architecture and the back of a woman wearing a long, white, and elegant dress. The rest of the commercial consists of Taylor Swift’s single “Enchanted” playing in the background, captivating use of lighting, glimpses of what seems to be an interested young man, nature, more romantic architecture, slides of text using appealing words such as, “magic,” “journey,” and “wonder,” and, obviously, Taylor Swift herself portraying a young woman who is awestruck by the magical world she has discovered (Taylor Swift WONDERSTRUCK Teaser). These enchanting images and sounds are meant to lead the audience to think that perhaps this new fragrance is worth a try.
The first thought that may appear in one’s mind after viewing this ad is that it seems similar to a fairy tale. According to author Charles E. Bressler, Russian Formalist Vladimir Propp’s analysis suggests that “all folk or fairy tales are based on thirty-one fixed elements, or what Propp calls narrative functions or narratemes that occur in a given sequence.” (103). These elements, when shortened, list five major events involved in common fairy tales. First the tale “lacks of something that exists” (Bressler, 103). In the ad, Taylor Swift enters what seems to be a magical world, which could only mean that something in her reality must be missing. Swift, who represents the hero, then ventures on a “quest to eliminate this lack” (Bressler, 103). The next event on the list involves a “magical encounter.” (Bressler, 103). The only encounter Taylor has in the ad is the young man who is shown briefly throughout the commercial, but the pair does not seem to meet with one another. The last line of Swift’s song “I was enchanted to meet you,” clearly states that she did meet the man, but the commercial does not portray that event (“Enchanted Lyrics – Taylor Swift”). Notice how the phrase is past tense as in Swift was enchanted to meet the young man in the past. The word “enchant” means to be captivated by or even hypnotized. It could lead one to conclude that the hero, Swift, is now out of her trance that kept her with the young man against her will.
There is another piece of evidence that may help prove that maybe Taylor’s romance is not the “wondrous journey” it seems to be. The line in the beginning, “Once you’ve been struck, you’ll never be the same again,” has a double meaning. She did not say “wonderstruck,” but simply struck. The definition of strike, according to the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means “to come into contact forcefully,” and “to attempt to undermine or harm something as if by a blow.” This could be subtly hinting at an abusive relationship that occurred between Swift and the young man in the commercial. At the end of the commercial, Taylor is walking away from the man, instead of towards him. In a supposed “romantic” and “magical” ad, one would imagine that they would be walking towards each other instead of away. After walking past the man, the commercial shows Taylor smiling which would lead one to think that she is happy to have escaped the abusive relationship.
Deconstructive criticism unmasks the concealed messages found in literature and media. In Taylor Swift’s commercial for her fragrance “Wonderstruck,” not only does this type of criticism reveal a possible abusive relationship, but it also shows the audience that in order to achieve what one truly desires, one must enter a magical land. Since no such lands exist, the commercial is essentially stating that reality does not fulfill every wish. This fairy tale-like setting attempts to captivate its audience, which is quite effective. What the viewers may not realize is how dark this ad can truly be.
Bressler, Charles E. “Modernity/Postmodernism Structuralism/Poststructuralism: Deconstruction.” Literary Criticism: an Introduction to Theory and Practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. 85-122. Print.
“Enchanted Lyrics – Taylor Swift.” Song Lyrics. ELyrics.net, 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2011. <http://www.elyrics.net/read/t/taylor-swift-lyrics/enchanted-lyrics.html>.
“Strike – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/strike>.
Taylor Swift WONDERSTRUCK Teaser. Perf. Taylor Swift. Youtube.com. 21 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CICulOcBQE>.