Where the Hell is Matt? An Analysis of the Narrative

It’s a little difficult to get a clear definition of narrative according to Ryan, but for the purposes of her book she seems to support the theory that narrative is “a medium-independent phenomenon” (p. 15), free to exist across a multitude of channels as long as it adhears to the “narrative script” (p. 9).

Where the Hell is Matt? meets the criteria of having narrativity, according to Ryan, in the three ways. First, it creates a world and populates it with characters and objects (p. 8). The videos introduce a character, Matt, and he displays himself dancing in an exotic location where a lone person dancing may seem out of place.  Next, the world Matt inhabits undergoes changes of deliberate action (p. 8-9). Matt is shown dancing the strange dance in different locations and different settings throughout the world. Sometimes he is alone in the desert, and other times he is in the midst of others in urban settings. Finally, the video infers a plan or “causal relations” (p. 9) to Matt’s actions. Toward the middle of the video, Matt is joined by others in his dance, revealing the possible goal or plot of Matt’s video; to connect with different people from different places and perhaps show that we are not all that different from each other.

Ryan goes on to argue against the thought that “narrative is an exclusively verbal phenomenon” (p. 15).  Language is perhaps the best way to express the narrative form, but other mediums such as pictures, music and dance can communicate the narrative sequence if the audience recognizes and relates to the visual or audible signals they are receiving. Matt is dancing. People see Matt dancing. People join Matt dancing. The barriers of difference and unfamiliarity are diminished and a connection between Matt and his fellow dancers is made. The medium by which the story is delivered can enhance the effectiveness of the narrative, but is not essential when determining whether a narrative exists or not.

Where The Hell Is Matt? actually combines media to present its narrative to the audience. The videos are purely based on visuals and sound to tell their story, but are backed up by language to clarify their meaning. Viewers who just don’t get what the hell Matt is doing can navigate through his web site and read his blog to discover the motivations behind dancing badly all over the world. Although I think the videos on their own meet the criteria necessary to be considered a narrative, the entire web site taken as a whole satisfies the notion that only language can effectively communicate the causal relations or motivations that constitute a plot.

  1. #1 by Inge Scheve on October 13, 2010 - 2:02 pm

    Nice summary of Ryan’s rather complicated look at defining the narrative and narrativity! I agree that the videos tell a story on their own, and that the web site adds language to the equation. But in some ways, I think the language component constructs a barrier to the story for those who don’t speak English, which is why the videos are so ingenious – they tell a story not only across media but across cultures and languages as well.

    • #2 by Etta on May 18, 2017 - 4:21 am

      People still watch TV? Is there even a reason to switch from your plyitsataon to tv? Playstation offers the ability to watch movies on disk, rent movies, Netflix, play games, listen to music and much much more. So what would the reason be to have Dish, or Cable anymore?

  2. #3 by Drew Keller on October 13, 2010 - 2:31 pm

    Dancing badly all over the world. Now that would be a great name for a website. Good analysis of the site and the narrativity of his “story”.

  3. #4 by shane on October 13, 2010 - 8:02 pm

    Excellent point about how story telling can be more than just verbal – with little more than a few titles to tell us where he is (strange that he gives away the answer to his website “Where the Hell is Matt?”) a person can gather the basics that Matt likes to dance, has danced around the world and has become popular enough that people are joining in despite of language and cultural barriers.

  4. #5 by evanwestmedia on October 14, 2010 - 1:10 pm

    But Shane, how do you know that Matt really is at the place he puts on his website!? If you check out my blog I have a link that explains how the entire dancing series is just done with greenscreen and robots anyways!

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