Cornflake Girl (US Version)

Saturday 27 August 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

From the album: Under the Pink (1994)
Directed by: Nancy Bennett and Tori Amos
Atlantic Records

This is the second video for “Cornflake Girl.” The first video was directed by Big TV! to support the release of the single in the UK but when Atlantic Records decided to release the song as a single in the US as well, they thought the European video was too abstract and Tori decided to have “more of a storyline for the Americans,” as she explained in the audio commentary of the video on Fade to Red. She also felt that she needed to have a video that focused more overtly on the core subject of the song: women betraying women and acting like playground bullies.

In a first time, she asked directors to send in treatments to select one of them but was disappointed. “I don’t think they understood what I was talking about, how girls dog each other and I really wanted to go after how women treat each other in some circumstances,” she explained at Wadsworth Theatre press conference in March 1994. “And all I got was girls being victimized by men and I’m going, ’Guys, you’re not involved in this one, it’s about girls, doing stuff to each other.’” At that point, she hired Nancy Bennett to co-direct the video with her and conceived the storyline with her and her stylist Karen Binns. About that first incursion in directing, Tori explained that she was actually more of a “storyline person with Karen” but that Nancy Bennett was really the one directing, visually and technically speaking. “I can’t lay claim to a lot of this but I do take credit for the lipstick weaponry and cooking the cowboy — all in all a low pressure day," she wrote in the Tori Stories booklet.

The video shows Tori driving a pick-up truck through the desert with four teenage girls in the back. There are obviously two groups here: ‘the cornflake girls:’ the hype and more shallow girls (one is wearing a hat and has a potty mouth, the other one blows bubbles in the air) and the ‘raisin girls’: the clever and more introverted girls. Soon enough, the fight begins and all this sort of playground cat fight becomes much like a very manly western movie, but with no other weapon than lipsticks the girls pull out from their pockets in guise of guns. “I’ve always dreamed of girls pulling lipsticks out of their pockets and watching them grow, that just kind of excites me,” Tori commented in the audio commentary. The video also plays a lot with other western and American imagery: the girls try to strangle each other with a lasso, an excerpt from an old black and white western appears instead of the road when Tori looks in the rearview, and of course there’s the very handsome and naive cowboy the girls meet on their way, that probably wants to help but ends up very quickly in a boiling pot cutting carrots to cook himself for the girls who dance around him.

The video is thus a very humorous take on the song that matches very closely its symbolical and ironical mood. The muesli metaphor of the lyrics (cornflakes vs. raisins) is well represented by the very American atmosphere and imagery of the video. Indeed, Tori explained in interviews that, to her, cornflake girls are like redneck girls from a conservative environment who are close-minded and self-righteous while raisin girls are multicultural and open-minded fellas. The redhead teenager is Tori’s alter-ego in the video, which is clearly shown when, near the end, in that sort of playground in the middle of the desert, Tori hangs head down and tries to reach the lonely girl with her hand. “The girl obviously that I’m trying to reach is a version of me that just sometimes lets herself down,” Tori commented on Fade to Red. Interestingly enough, the other raisin girl appears like Karen Binn’s alter ego, which makes sense since Tori and Karen had the idea of this video while they were ‘running their mouths,’ according to Tori. The actress who played the part, Bunty; was actually a friend of Karen and was the one who had the idea about the dance on the pick-up truck to represent the “power trip” of the cornflake girls fighting the raisin girls. She was thus credited as the choreographer. “I think when we were trying to plan the fight scene, Bunty had said, ‘Well, let’s do a ballet scene on a truck.’ And I kind of thought, ‘Well, you know, I haven’t really seen that much when I am, you know, in the Grand Tetons hanging around with the buffalo. So I think we should do it.’” Bunty was also the one to cast the three other girls with Karen.

In the end of the video, it’s like we’re back on playground (which was already announced by the opening shot on the swings) and Tori is sat on a wooden “swingy” and plays witfully the piano on her own body as a way to “fight her own demons” - because she always turned her personal issues into songs since she was a kid.

Whereas the song talks about women betraying each other, Tori said that she had much fun shooting this video because it was really a girl’s team and everyone involved got along very well. Of course, she already knew Karen and Lesley Chilkes - who took care of her make-up - with whom she already worked with for some time and were - and still are - two of her best friends.

This video is featured on Fade to Red, Tori’s video collection on DVD. It was also earlier released on the Complete Videos (1992-1998) video tape.