Performing in character in her music videos is no new practice for artist Lana Del Rey. Whether she’s portraying a broken performer turned biker babe in “Ride” or simultaneously channeling Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy in “National Anthem,” she never fails to bring the characters she embodies to life, imbuing each one with a touch of her own persona.
While Lana draws many of her characters from more contemporary inspirations, in her new video for “High By The Beach,” she throws it back to childhood, brilliantly re-imagining and subverting the traditional children’s story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” We all know the tale: A beautiful, young girl wanders into an empty house in the forest. Upon entering, she finds three bowls of porridge—one too hot, one too cold, and one that is just right, which she consumes in its entirety. She then finds three chairs of varying sizes, breaking the chair she likes best. Finally, she finds three beds and falls asleep in her favorite one. Just then, the family of three bears that owns the house returns, discovering their home burglarized and their belongings tampered with. The story ends when they find Goldilocks still asleep in the bed. As they stand over her, watching her sleep and discussing her presence in their home, she awakes and, terrified, runs into the woods never to be seen again. While melding fables with the lyrics and stylings of self-described “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” is certainly a daunting task, genius and visionary Lana Del Rey achieves the marriage seamlessly.
From the video’s opening shots, Lana clues us in to the fact that the house she is alone in is indeed meant to symbolize the house of the three bears. Using a three-storied home as her setting, she subtly hints to the residents of the home that she occupies and the story’s other three characters: Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear.
She even introduces us to the bears, represented by a metaphorical helicopter that hovers outside her window, watching her move from floor to floor as the video progresses. A clear shout out to the voyeuristic character of the bears (who watch Goldilocks as she sleeps), the helicopter becomes Lana’s ever-watching antagonist.
Of course, using just the three-storied empty house and the symbolic bear family vis à vis the helicopter is not enough for expert storyteller Lana Del Rey. Fully embodying her character, she reenacts Goldilocks’ classic discovery of the beds. As she lies down on a mattress on the top floor of the house, rolling around and eventually rising in dissatisfaction, she perfectly reproduces the reaction Goldilocks must have had when the bed she found was just too soft. It’s an artistic feat that may very well have failed in the hands of a less experienced performer, but Lana’s portrayal is nothing short of stunning.
Lana quickly follows this by paying homage to the famous porridge scene. Descending to the house’s second floor, she discovers the morning coffee, now far too cold to be enjoyed. The coffee serves as a stand in for the mature woman’s porridge, and Lana, already old and wise to the effect of time and temperature on a mug of coffee, doesn’t even have to taste it to declare that the coffee is too cold. Unfortunately, as is so often the case in real life, there is no coffee available that is just right.