What Is Semiotics
What is semiotics? Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation, it investigates how meaning is both created and how it is communicated. Semiotics and linguistic studies were founded by Ferdinand de Saussure alongside Charles Sanders Peirce, de Saussure was a Swiss linguistic who came up with the sign, signifier and signified concept. And Peirce was an American philosopher who came up the concept which states that we only think in signs, where anything is considered to be a sign as long as we interpret it as having a meaning within itself (Chandler, 2002).
Semiotics deals which physical signs as well as abstract concepts such as denotation and connotation. Signs are divided into different parts the signifier and the signified, signifiers are the physical form of the sign and these include things such as words, sounds or images which are used to communicate. The signified is the concept to which the signifier refers to, signifiers can be broken down into three different types of signs icons, symbols and indexes (Chandler, 2002). Icons have a physical likeness to the signified, symbols are the opposite of icons meaning they do not look like the signified that is being represented, and these are learned culturally hence why cultures are different and possess different unique traits, their meanings are learned over time. Indexes define the physical connection that is shared by the signifier and the signified meaning that the signifier cannot exist without the physical presence of the signified. Denotation is the exact meaning of a word, the connotation is the representation of the cultural implications, or emotional meanings that are associated with a sign (Klarer, 2004). Music video overview The music video by Travis Scott, Stop trying to be God is on that includes many Biblical as well as post-apocalyptic visuals. The video starts out with a black sheep with glowing eyes singing among a herd of other sheep going down the road and then Travis Scott comes into frame walking alongside them, the video then shifts towards the sky revealing clouds and in the center of the sky there is a glowing tunnel light in the sky. Before it disappears from the frame what appears to be a dragon flies in the center of it but as it leaves the light it changes into a plane, while this is all occurring the time of day is drastically changing from day to night (STOP TRYING TO BE GOD, 2018).
Now Travis is shown to be in the midst of party goers dancing all around him, he then looks up towards his right and flames start coming down chasing of the people but Travis just stands there looking onward into the flame as it engulfs him he crouches and faces away from hit trying to protect his head from the blaze but he is burnt badly and so are the surroundings. A golden glowing Kylie Jenner is shown clutching the burnt body of Travis in her arms, the video then shifts back into the sky where the tunnel of light is situated and this time there appears to be Travis dressed as God with dancers’ on top of the clouds next to him. The video then zooms out revealing Travis wearing a sheep herders robe on a hill with a large following of people behind him, he then proceeds to rise his arms up in the arm and the people follow suit. It jumps to him being in the pool baptizing people after which they have been baptized they go on to dance in the pool, the scene changes to a post-apocalyptic city with Travis riding on the back of a fire breathing dragon. With the God figure still in the sky he then goes on to shoot laser beams at Travis Scott’s forehead causing him to start disintegrating.
The scene changes to a dessert like night scene with Blake singing in a suit, with what seems to be a worship hut area behind him with a cross and burning candles. It then goes to a scene with Kylie Jenner with her golden glow holding onto a baby lamb and woman standing behind her, just before the song ends the baby lamb sings (STOP TRYING TO BE GOD, 2018). Music video analysis, 0-30 seconds Within the first few seconds of the opening the music videos reveals a flock of sheep with Travis Scott walking among them this scene can be interpreted in a lot of different ways but the most significant one being that Travis Scott is the shepherd who is leading and herding the flock of sheep and this is an important religious symbol because in Christianity sheep were often sacrificed and this also ties back into the fact that people have always had the idea that most if not all star in the industry from music to film at part of a cult group known as the Illuminati and these sheep could be Travis Scott’s sacrifice in order to gain more fame and wealth. With the black sheep that appears in the frame it could viewed as that being Travis due to the fact that it also sings part of the chorus, can be viewed as Travis Scott being the “black sheep” among the folk within the industry (Morley, 2015). With sheep having to trust the shepherd and always following him for security and food to name a few it can be seen as the sheep are all of Travis’s fan and he is the shepherd who has to guide and protect them as he has attained this status to be able to influence this many people the title of the song explains that maybe he is battling with a God complex (PsycholoGenie, 2018). According to semiotics the sign, sheep can be seen as a connotation the visual representation of sheep signify the follows of Travis, however the black sheep is a denotation of a colour of sheep as well as a connotation of a person or animal who is different from others, these two are also symbolic (arbitrary) signs because they are culturally specific (Danes, 2004). Music video analysis, 30 seconds-1 minute During a video transition we get a brief look at the sky which is trying from day to night and not only that but the is a light tunnel which could symbolize heavens opening in the sky as this is a song with a heavy reference towards God.
There appears to be a figure which flies through the sky past the heavenly opening, and the camera transitions in upside down, which could ultimately mean this is the inverse of the place he was in at the start of the video, that this place is we all the sinners seem to be situated as they take part in partying and all things that are frowned upon. The change from the day to the night time could be symbolizing the shift from light to darkness or good to evil. When God first created the earth his first action was the creation of light and by so doing he cast away the darkness so in essence the night/darkness is a symbol of a world without God in it, with goodness begin shown as some form of light. Jesus is described as being the light of this world with regards to the music video if could be seen as Travis is making a transition from a good person to rather an evil or not good one. The appearance what looks heaven with the clouds symbolizes the coming of God maybe due to the fact the earth has collapsed to such an extent that he needs to intervene and do something about (Kampf, 2017). The dragon which flies in between the opening is the same black sheep which was in the first scene and this can be seen as Travis having morphed into what he is today, showcasing how much power he has acquired as dragons are seen be symbols of strength and power.
Maybe this is his way of telling us how much power he now has within the industry and that it can be compared to that of God. In terms of signs in semiotics, day would be seen as a denotation as well as a connotation and this goes both ways with the night aspect as well. The dragon would be seen as an icon due to the fact the silhouette shows exactly that a picture of a dragon (Sebeok, 2001).The scene then turns to an upside down view to reveal what looks like an apocalyptic world where people are partaking in activities such as dances and partying and this could be a symbol for sinners to show that the world has now been lost and people have gone off on the wrong path and Travis who is walking down the road can be seen wearing a scale like shirt this ties in with him having changed into a dragon and this could be seen as him furthering deeper into his God complex. The shirt in this case can seen as a symbol within semiotics as it does not represent the signified (Sebeok, 2001) Music video analysis, 1 minute – 1 minute 30 seconds Travis then looks off into the sky and sees flames, and in the bible flames are always seen as being a symbol of hell; meaning that every time a person comes across the word in the bible it is directly linked to hell and suffering. However there are different ways to interpret this scene as fire can have other meanings too within the bible fire can also be seen as something which is divine that it is something which can be a symbol of God’s presence. In the bible he showed himself too many people as fire whether he was there to guide them or protect them. But it can be said that it is also a form of God’s punishment, it is used as way to depict him when his anger reaches its utmost level and burns and pours out.
This is one of the ways in which he can deliver judgment as well as destruction. The flames of God are too a method of purification they can be used as a tool to test his subjects and eliminate sin and cleanse his people (Rhodes, 2014). While everyone else is running away Travis does not runaway, however he does end up being engulfed in the flames there are two ways to look at this scene one is that Travis is being baptized by this divine flame, that he is being cleansed of his sins. But I find that to be wrong because since he now has such an ego and figures himself to be God he is receiving punishment from God (BOYLE, 2018).In the next scene Travis can be seen in the hands of a golden Kylie Jenner and this seen is a symbol to Jesus and The Virgin Mary as well as a reference to the Pietà by Michelangelo.
This sculpture depicts Jesus Christ’s body in the lap of his mother Mary after he was crucified. The flames in this case are an index due to the fact that there needs to be a physical connection between the signifier and the signified which means that Travis is in the presence of God while being smitten and they also mean that within the industry it is easy to burnout. Kylie Jenner who is shown to be the glowing Virgin Mary is a symbol and index all at once and I say this because as a symbol her being the Virgin Mary is a cultural trait it is something which is taught to us in our religion and homes at times, as an index we know she is representing the Pietà because of her pose with Travis. Her glowing can too be seen as a symbol because it is a sign of holiness. The back drop and surroundings are symbols as well due to the fact that there is smoke everywhere and this tells us there has been a fire (Karnadi, 2018). Music video analysis, 1 minute 30 seconds -2 minutes 30 seconds At the beginning of this time frame Travis makes a reference to the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with the movie having faint references to the bible and God it fits into the context of the music video well. The picture of Travis in the sky depicting him to be God with a thick beard and robes with dancers around him it could be taken as him symbolizing God or it could be a symbol which points to the fact he wants people to know that he is actually not a God but he wants people to know that he is just a normal person. The dancers could be seen as his angels.
We then see Travis talking to God and God is trying to tell him to stop pretending to be God, Travis can be seen turning around and talking to the people wearing a sleeveless robe and this is a reference to the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments. On the mount the people imitate his every move, and can be viewed as a symbol of “Sermon on a Mountain” he goes on to baptize his fans and instead of baptizing them in a religion like Christianity it is a symbol that he baptizes his fans to be ready for the next show or the next concert. Those that have already been baptized had adopted the Travis hairstyle as well as the fact that they are dancing. This is Travis’s way of representing a “Rap God” (BOYLE, 2018), with his attire changed he is an icon because even if it is not the full decapitation of what it is meant to be he is symbolizing God. His dancers could be seen as being symbols because the signifiers do not show the signified. With the baptized it is both a denotation as well as a connation, the denotation is that he is actual baptizing the people, the connation is that the baptism is not actual what it is meant to be. (BOYLE, 2018) Music video analysis, 2 minutes 30 second -4 minutes 37 seconds That is when he start to riding around on top of the dragon as it spits out fire onto the city burning it down because he is overwhelmed with his power, this can be symbolized as an act of judgment. This is when God within the video shows up in sky and is looking down on Travis as a sign of this is his final warning and for him to stop what his doing because it will not end well. He then decides to shoot Travis with red laser beams from his eyes as he would not take his wrong seriously because this is it a symbol of his own destruction in the long run, he does not think that anyone would care if he was going to be gone (Nordquist, 2017). Travis being on top of the dragon is a connation that he figured since he allowed his power to run out of control that he was on all powerful and disregarded everything. Red is the colour of danger and is an icon so in this case the red beams mean the end of Travis and the burning turning into ash is a symbol which shows him trying into nothingness. After his dealings with Dog we then go to the grave were the tombstones and are symbols and icons of death, the Christian cross is a symbol of live after seeing the grave the camera turns and reveals Kylie Jenner our Virgin Mary holding a baby lamb and this could be a symbol for the rebirth of Travis. The lamb in the Christian culture is a symbol for renewal it is also a symbol for victory of life over death, so this means that even after being struck down by God he was still given a second chance to repent and atone for his mistakes and short comings and help him get over his God complex as he has been reborn a new (Nöth, 1995).
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