Visual Pleasure Theory: “Diamond on a Landmine” music video
In a medium that is known to feature overtly-sexualized women as objects most often, Billy Talent’s music video for their single “Diamond on a Landmine” is a distinct departure from tradition, revolving around shots of the band performing in the centre of a darkened room for an anonymous, masked audience. The song itself is the story of a man trying to win back a former lover while battling his conflicting feelings regarding her, hinting at a possibly abusive and unhealthy relationship.
If there is any one entity being made the object in the video it is, interestingly, the band. They stand out visually from the background – a black landscape with floating white masks offering the only contrast – not only by being the only well-lit aspect of the video, but also by breaking the prevalent colour scheme in the predominantly red clothes that they are wearing. Furthermore, their relation to the on-screen audience is suggestive of a one-sided relationship in which the band exists as a source of entertainment that is only useful in the context of the audience – the band members’ individual faces are very rarely shown in the foreground without multiple masks in the background, serving as a reminder that even the individual is just a constituent part of the whole, whose collective purpose is to be seen by the larger audience.
The aspect of voyeurism is the most subtle of the three constructs in the video; the nature of musical performance is that it is a semi-public undertaking which is, by that characteristic alone, distanced from being the sort of activity that voyeurism would commonly be related to. However, certain images from the video suggest that, in context, there is a voyeuristic element involved. Most importantly, the small, barren room in the which the band is performing is distinctly different than the large-stage setting that would be expected of such a performance for a large audience. The further facts that the band is facing inwards, toward each other, rather than forward, as would be more traditional, and that they do not acknowledge the masked figures crowding around them suggests that the performance is not meant to be a public one. It is entirely possible, likely, even, that it is a private rehearsal that is being intruded upon rather than a public display. Viewed in this manner, the audience, seen pressing in on all sides as well as reaching from the backdrop toward the band, carries with it a strong suggestion of a voyeurism.
Ironically, the concept of narcissism in the video, while again created by the interaction between the band and audience, directly counters the notions created by the voyeuristic aspect. While the latter suggests negativity where the extreme involvement of the audience is concerned, the former can be seen as selling a message of the positive nature of the same thing. The band, inspiring as it does such devotion in its followers, is the centre of attention and the object of obsession; one interpretation is that the band is in the desirable position of being successful and adored on a large scale and, in the case of the latter, to the extreme.
This video is not the most obvious choice as an artifact to analyze through the Visual Pleasure theory; there is no overt sexualization of a member of either sex apparent in it, and the message that it is ultimately putting forth is not one of sexual attraction. It is uncommon in that it is a meditation on the hegemonically-enforced celebrity culture rather than on sexuality and desire and is more concerned with public image, of a sort, than personal image. Its value is, arguably, in its use as a vehicle for Visual Pleasure analysis that is more concerned with the non-sexual connotations of the imagery it provides.