The Carl Online

Sex, Chicken and Ostensible Symbolism by Greg Hunter
December 15, 2008, 2:28 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Not having a TV in my apartment means, among other things, that usually the only music videos I see are ones I actively seek out.  Recently, though, I was involuntarily exposed to “Sex On Fire,” by Kings of Leon.  It’s a terrible clip for what’s barely a song, but it does feature my favorite music video trope: the ostensible symbol, an object and/or image that’s intended to appear as if it has a codified meaning but almost certainly does not.  Chicken is a metaphorically empty visual motif in “Sex On Fire,” both in bird and food form.  (Previous examples of the ostensible symbol include the flaming trees in Jewel’s “Standing Still” and the indoor rain in Eve 6’s “Inside Out” videos – if you’re stuck on how to feign profundity, turn to the elements.)

[Video available here:

The ostensible symbol is an indicator of laziness and pretension, granted, but videos that feature it empower viewers in a way art that’s made thoughtfully and deliberately cannot.  These objects and images signify only that they signify something, meaning we as viewers can actually decide what an ostensible symbol conveys rather than speculating on what the director intended.  We’re part of the creative process!

My top three guesses decisions on what chicken means in “Sex On Fire”:

1.  Having sex, like eating chicken, is better with napkins and family members.  (Having sex on fire is helpful in preventing salmonella.)
2.  The chicken is an answer to Freud’s male castration anxiety.  (Cut a chicken’s head off and that sucker will just keep on movin’ for a while, so don’t even worry about it.)
3.  Kings of Leon have their cocks in hand during this song.

What are your interpretations?

– Greg Hunter


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