Claire’s Reader Response Analysis of “Radioactive,” by Imagine Dragons

The song “Radioactive” is a very popular song over the last year, and most people have seen the music video. People that I have spoken to about the music video had interesting reactions to it, so it seemed like a rich source for analysis by reader-response criticism. I’ll be focusing mainly on transactional reader-response and affective stylistics in my analysis of the music video.

Watch the first video (lyrics only) first, or at least read through the lyrics, to get a feel of the song and it’s message, and then watch the music video and go ahead and feel confused. I did too. A link to the lyrics is here.



Transactional reader-response, according to Tyson, focuses on how a reader and a text interact, and the significance or meaning of the text is the poem, which is found in the transaction that occurs between the two. In order for a meaningful transaction to occur, the text must be read in aesthetic mode, with attention to emotional subtleties, and not focused solely on the facts. Affective stylistics centers on the idea that a text is an event that occurs as it is read, and it analyzes the cognitive processes that occur to the reader as they read.

My analysis will incorporate these two perspectives, focusing on the cognitive processes and subsequent emotional transactions that I experienced while watching the music video, and then evaluate what the text accomplished overall by scrutinizing the “poem” I experienced and analyzing my response to that interpretation.

The music video starts off with a shot of a girl walking down a wood path. There is a crow cawing, and the leaves are blowing across the ground. The sky is gray, and there is no music. The natural drama of this scene excited me and made me a little nervous. It reminded me of the eerie, twilit pathway in Jane Eyre, right before she meets Rochester. There’s a feeling of imminent action. The shot is also shown from far away at ground level, which resists my idea of my normal position in my world, subverting my feeling of normalcy, solidity, and self. As the music begins to play, scenes of the girl with shocking blue eyes, carrying a covered case, are interspersed with shots of the band members in a jail, and eventually some scenes of a group of men betting on something. I felt disappointed at the direction the video was taking. The camera repeatedly paused for close-ups on the girl’s eyes; this combined with the theatrical scenes of the men felt a little overboard.  I had interpreted the song to be very meaningful, and (at this point) I wanted to take the video very seriously as well. But it seemed like the music video was taking itself too seriously – predictable and overly dramatic.

Then comes the unexpected.

The rest of the music video is about a puppet monster that brutally fights and kills other puppets in a ring surrounded by angry, betting men. The monster is undefeated, until the girl brings in her teddy bear to fight in the ring. The teddy bear uses its power-punch and laser-vision to destroy the monster and several cronies as well. The girl takes the key from the head honcho and frees the band from jail. Hooray! The head honcho is then presumably killed by the angry horde of puppets.

When I first saw the music video, I was honestly incredibly uncomfortable with it. The transition from what I thought was an artsy, classy, albeit predictably melodramatic music video to a startlingly violent puppet massacre really took me by surprise and put me on edge. My viewing of the rest of the movie was strongly colored by my disapproval of the sudden, uncontrolled direction change. I’ve never been a fan of puppets (the Muppets so frightened me as a child that I hated every one of them, sans lovable Kermit, of course) so I wasn’t exactly thrilled with that plot choice. Scenes such as the beheading of a puppet, a puppet in a noose, and a horde of puppets surrounding the bad guy as he screams in terror to presumably maul him to death, I found disturbing, out of context of the song, and confusing. However, I found myself (a little against my will) smiling at the (darkly) uplifting plot of the music video. Good (fluffy pink teddy bear) triumphs over evil (puppet monster that mutilates other puppets). It was unexpected, and maybe a little refreshing. It felt good to see the plot sort itself out, and I had to admit that it seemed to fit with the lyrics of the song, which reference a revolution and reform- a new age or awakening (“I raise my flags … it’s a revolution I suppose” and “I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones … welcome to the New Age”).

As I looked back to analyze my response, I began to appreciate more what the music video had accomplished. The way the video had made me feel when it subverted all of my norms expectations and spun around in a completely different and unexpectedly positive direction (uncomfortable, confused, disapproving, even a little scared) mirrored the subject of the song itself: a revolution. The video had shaken me up, as revolution usually does, but had given an uplifting, positive message of new life, reform, transformation, and renewal in the end.

Applied Theory Post- Reader Response Criticism- The Ren Remix

Buckle Up! It’s going to be a bumpy ride. (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban reference)

First I’d like to start this journey with a little bit of traveling music.


Focus on this line specifically:

“If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?”

I thought that it could apply to today’s lesson. A couple things you should know about this song.

1. I like it.

2. It was the first song that came on shuffle as I was leaving class today.

3. It struck me, and when I really listened to the lyrics I thought “I have to subject these nice people to this song”.

4. You should be playing this song continuously throughout this bridge.

5. Though luck kid, this is my bridge and I’m taking over punk!

Lets Go! (Mario Voice)

Reader Response Criticism is a favorite of high school students and undergrads alike because it is about the reader, you, and what the reader gets from the text. The author’s intended meaning comes after the reader’s connection with the text. But to quote Pocahontas, “You never step i the same river twice”. Not every reading is the same. A person can read a text and a month later reread the same text and get something completely different.

So I’m about to get a little “Inception-like” with this bridge.

Texts do have intended audiences, and guess what guys?! You are my intended audience, and seeing as you wonderful gardenias are my intended audience, I will shape this bridge to fit you.(But please don’t destroy my bridge like Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2) As my intended audience I will use terms and reference that will relate to today’s readings and Harry Potter.

Reader response criticism is very popular among youths because there is the common misconception that you can’t be wrong when using this type of theory. Tyson says you can dig too deep or not deep enough, which is true, and not true. Who is to say what you get from it? You! You get what you want to get from it, and multiple factors can go into this. Your background or current situations can affect how you translate the text. Let’s talk about  Harry Potter and use it to understand this type of criticism.

When I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was seven, I thought the four houses were four actual, physical houses. When I reread the book a few years later I got a lot more out of it. After rereading the entire series a few summers ago, I got so many more underlying themes and prejudices after I had been trained to look for them. Take the wizarding government; it’s very 1984, think about it. They know every spell you do and haul you right in for a trial if you are underage. They also like to keep their citizens oblivious and blind, like when the Dark Lord returns. They live in an imperfect society built on purity of blood and political standing. I would have never gotten that at seven.

There can even be a secret audience or perhaps a secret meaning the audience will get only after they have reached a certain stage or plane. Harry Potter might not actually have an intended audience because it is a completely different story when you are seven or twenty-seven, you get different things from it a different times, but what you get is what you get and that is what is important. You are the reader and it is all about you my flowers.

Okay guys, enough fun, let’s get serious. When you read Harry Potter, or even watched it (or some other book/movie series that is less awesome), did you connect with a house or character and become biased? I know I did. I hated Snape until he did and it was revealed he was truly amazing man. Even as I was reading the series, my opinion changed, and what I get out of it was different with every chapter and that was okay.

More Questions!

1. Who was your favorite character and why?

2. What house would you be in? Or other magical school?

Okay have a great weekend and don’t forget to do your homework, brush your teeth, and clean behind your ears.

Well that’s all folks  to quote Porky Pig.

Now enjoy this video of a perfect specimen.




Holly’s Bridge to the Blog: Reader-Response Theory


On the topic of Reader-response Theory, our class discussed the more technical aspects of the idea.  This comes from our human nature of wanting everything to be “ordered” and “right or wrong”.  But this theory puts forward the idea that having order or set meaning in literature cannot be done.

The Reader-response theory in general states that the reader, bringing with them their own experiences and state of mind, create the meaning of the text in no other way that another person can, besides that reader.  While some people may have a similar background and similar responses to the text, they will never truly get the same meanings or experiences out of the text.

The theory also says that the reader’s interpretation is also influenced by his or her surroundings.  For example, the reader might find a different meaning if he was in a group discussion in his English class, but would find another when he was reading the same piece of literature in the comforts of his own room.  These are external factors that the reader brings into his or her interpretation of the text.

Another way that interpretations can be different is when the reader’s interpretation can be influenced by his or her state of mind while they are reading.  This is evident when a heartbroken girl decides to buy a jug of chocolate ice cream and sit down and watch the 10,000th re-run of Titanic.

Jack and Rose

This person is obviously going to take a different meaning from this movie than someone who, say, is watching it for his or her Film Studies class, and is perplexed by the fact that the two main protagonists have only known each other for two days before sleeping with each other.  Is this a representation of true love? Well, according to the Reader Response Theory, it depends on the reader, or, in this case, the viewer.

We see these kinds of examples everywhere, the most prominent one in literature is probably the Twilight series by Stephanie Myer.  These series draw in multitudes of different responses and interpretations from the readers.  Who is right? Is anybody right or wrong? Is the fact that Edward watches Bella sleep without her knowing it creepy, or cute? Is it an example of teenage lust, or misunderstood love?


As we said, it all depends on the reader.

A typical reader of the Twilight Series would probably be a young girl or woman,  typically one who is single and looking for that “prince charming” to come into their life.  Now, don’t judge me for being, ahem, “judgemental”, but that is what comes to my mind.  This audience that these series have attracted and have been written for is a testament to what the content contains.  The typical readers are willing to overlook these major character flaws and setbacks in the novels in the name of “true love”.  But when someone else outside of the targeted audience reads these novels, they find an entirely different meaning in the books.

What I have taken from reading about the Reader-Response Theory, is that anything is open for interpretation, and that based on your own personal background, fears, joys, and motivators cause you to read and interpret a text that is totally different than the person sitting next to you.  And that is okay.

Reader-Response Applied Theory: His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman has been a subject of controversy since the first installment, the Golden Compass (US)/the Northern Lights (UK), was released. The trilogy becoming controversial originates from readers’ responses to the text that delves deeper into the questions of religion, good and evil deeper than most adult novels do.

Dogmatic Christian readers have been outspoken about the text as being anti-christian. Pullman is an outspoken British atheist, however their focus on its anti-christian nature makes them miss lots of the deeper themes and subtleties other readers find.

Lyra, as well as a compilation of the characters especially Lord Asriel, could be seen as the Antichrist as she basically undoes everything Pullman’s “God” has done. She is called by the Dust “Eve” in reference to Eve from the Garden of Eden who got humans kicked out of paradise. Lord Asriel as well, obviously, because of his dogmatic intention of killing “God”. These readers have reacted so strongly because against HDM because is penetrates into the fears of their psyche, that their faith/belief is not strong enough.

Personally, when I read HDM I didn’t see the whole anti-christian/anti-religious theme. Oh sure, I saw the Church and “God”. But did not see it at all the same way the previously discussed people did. I grew up in a primarily protestant home, my mother of eclectic religious interests yet still a self-identified Christian, while my father’s family were staunch Catholics (no divorce, fish is not a meat, if you are not a Catholic your soul is doomed. They did not approve of my lapping up The Da Vinci Code or HDM). Personally, I identify as agnostic given my own mistrust of organized religion and confusion about the existence of a higher being/power. Easy to see how my interpretation would be different than, oh, say my Catholic grandparents who would never read HDM. I saw the Church as the monster that organized religion can (some may say has) become, and the angel who calls himself “God” is a misconception of the Church’s thought of what is God. Because my thoughts go more toward higher existence, to me the Dust represented some level of a higher power, or divinity.

Here is a Reader-Response statement of what I got from the characterization of His Dark Materials:

I loved Will and Lyra, they were both characters I could personally identify with. Lyra is a pathological liar, usually when a character lies once I hate them but strangely it was part of Lyra’s appeal as a character. She’s a precocious little girl who runs wild and doesn’t let anyone or anything stop her. Her personality as a child was very similar as mine was – down to insisting on wearing dresses/skirts and not pants despite Will’s reasoning. Why? Because she’s a girl. Of course. Silly Will. Objectively, I shouldn’t like Lyra as much as I do; but my reading was far from objective. I responded emotionally (aesthetically) to both Will and Lyra as characters. The book wouldn’t mean much to me if I didn’t read it subjectively, if I didn’t react emotionally to the characters plight none of it would matter. The death of Roger, the betrayal of Lord Asriel, the separation of Lyra and her daemon/soul Pan would not be so important for my interpretation if they weren’t emotionally riveting. However I strongly disliked Lord Asriel because of he also lies, even though it is strangely one of the main points to which I like Lyra. I justify this reaction by seeing it as Lyra’s lies are not designed to be harmful whereas Lord Asriel recognizes their harm and does so anyways because he believes his thoughts are more important. To me this is a foil representing the thematic question throughout the trilogy questioning what is evil. Looking at Fisher, this likely because of a psychological defense triggered by the character’s effect on my psyche and was then fantasized and transformed into my interpretation – which I am acknowledging here because I realize the contradiction of my responses to these two characters.

I followed a list of steps taken directly from Tyson to guide me through making my statement:
1. What was my response to the text as a whole?
2. Identify various responses by aspects from text.
3. Determine why I had these responses.
Think about any themes prestructured in the text, psychological reader-response theory, or the influence of interpretive community, etc.

*note: this is not to be confused with the 2007 motion picture. The thematics were altered from religion to more of a “big brother” society vs. free will in an attempt to make it less controversial.