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?How Did Selena Gomez Help us to Understand Freud’s Theory

An Interpretation of Selena’s “Back to You” Music Video

Selena Gomez’s latest music video “Back to You” is one of her most aesthetically pleasing videos of all time. It is not just the catchy rhythm of the song or Selena’s vocals in it, in fact, the video has its own charm that hooks the viewers and makes them “go Back to it”. The video is composed of three different locations. Selena, the main character in the video is displayed in a crowded party, then in an empty room with a guy from the previous gathering, and in a green field with the same guy. Accordingly, Selena’s behaviors alter from one setting to another. It is noteworthy to mention that she is shy and quiet in the first scene, in an attempt to make a decision in the second location, and expressing her joy and freedom explicitly in the green field. From such behaviors and its association with each setting, one can suggest that the video is a representation of Freud’s division of the psyche; namely the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. The former illustration, indeed, is based firmly on the different settings in which the characters of the music video took place. The video embodies the id in the green field, the superego in the location of the party and the ego in the  room where the main character is alone with her love interest.

According to Freud, the personality of the individual is composed of three elements: the id, the ego, and the superego.  The Austrian neurologist argues that the id is the primary component of the personality for that is the only one present from birth. He suggests that the id is merely driven by the pleasure principle that seeks immediate satisfaction for all desires. It is, indeed, the source of our wants and needs. Surely, satisfying such needs is not always possible and sometimes not even realistic. The ego, on the other hand, is responsible for satisfying the id’s needs in an acceptable and realistic manner.  Reuben Fine, in his book Freud: A Critical Re-evaluation of his Theories explains that “in order to meet the demands of reality, part of the id splits off and forms the ego.”(157) In effect, the ego functions in both the conscious and the unconscious mind operating based on a reality principle that aims at realizing the id’s desires in socially suitable ways. The idealistic part of the personality is called the superego. It is the composite of “various commands, prohibitions, and ideals.” (Fine, 156) It is the only part of the personality that is entirely shaped by external figures like (parents, society….etc). Fine argues that “the power of authority becomes internalized and invested in the superego.” (200) making it the primary element in constructing it. All of the former elements of the personality are vividly illustrated in the music video, enhanced with a number of symbols that clarify the theory immensely.

Initially, the video demonstrates Selena in a party filled with people sharing drinks and exchanging conversations. Selena’s body language in this scene shows that the character is uncomfortable and forcing herself to fit in this social context. This scene represents the ideal instructions that are dictated by the superego. After this scene, an image of a green field (which stands for the id) pops up in the screen suddenly. As mentioned above, the id is the source of our instincts and desires. The fact that it is displayed randomly and out of context in this scene acts as a random call from the unconscious mind sent to the individual to fulfill a certain need.



In this case, Selena goes to the private room (the ego) in order to find a way to satisfy the id’s needs in a realistic way. In this vein, Freud asserts that the ego “has the task of bringing the influence of the external world to bear upon the id and its tendencies, and endeavors to substitute the reality- principle for the pleasure- principle which reigns supreme in the id.”( qtd in Brown 159) In effect, it is not an easy task to balance between the id’s wants and the ideal standards of the superego. Such a difficulty is portrayed in Selena’s escape out of the window. The small window is her way out from the superego’s restriction to the id’s liberation. Surely, getting out of the  window is more difficult than getting out of the door.

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While Selena and her lover hit the road to the next location, he asks her about their destination; as a reply, she starts listing various countries that definitely cannot be reached by car only. Similarly, the id’s desires are mostly out of reach and impossible to realize. As they arrive in the final setting (which is the id) Selena starts to express several emotions in no particular order. The former scene highlights the fact that the id contains our feelings and emotions. Unlike her behaviors in the party, Selena is expressing her self spontaneously. Indeed, those expressed feelings in the id were repressed in the first scene. In this respect, Athanasia Chalari assures that “the id, also termed the unconscious, consists primarily of feelings and sensations that are repressed.” He adds that it is composed of “all those wishes which are repressed by the demands of everyday life and reality.” (109)


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Furthermore, it is important to mention that the symbolic elements featured in the following scenes help a great deal in defining the nature and the components of the id. First, the clothes worn by Selena and her lover are completely different from what they wore at the party. Both of the characters are wearing outfits that are casual and comfortable, unlike their official clothes at the party. Moreover, the two paintings shown in this particular scene are painted by Francois Boucher to portray Louix XV’s favored mistress Madame de Pompadour. The first painting is entitled “Autumn” and the second one is called “Spring”; they are both set in transitional seasons showing the characters in an environment that seems to be a field or a garden. The inclusion of these paintings reassures the fact that the id is, indeed, unsteady and highly instinctual because the paintings are set in nature. thumbnail

In addition, the scene of the paintings is followed by a scene where apples are thrown on the ground then eaten by Selena’s lover. Actually, the apple symbolizes desire and temptation; which are the primary constituents of the id. On top of that, the words “freedom” and “liberty” are displayed randomly in this scene which reinforces the fact that the id calls for these concepts to a large degree.

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In the middle of this scene, Selena receives a letter from her lover. The latter throws her a paper that informs her that she is wanted from the police because of the theft she has committed. Of course, she rejects strongly and asserts that “she is not going to jail.” (Gomez 2018)  In effect, her lover remains an element from the external world despite his presence in her unconsciousness. Indeed, his presence in the id confirms that the id and the superego are integrated. In this respect, Fine argues that “the superego is closely allied with the id“(168). Interestingly, afterword this line, Selena is displayed in the private room (the ego) alone; the character in this position is regarded as the decision maker that has to decide whether to go back to the party or remain in the field. In this regard, Freud argues that “the ego tries to mediate between the world and the id to make the id comply with world’s demand” (53). Eventually, Selena decides to exit the id and go back to the party. It is clear that the character’s sense of guilt drove her to this decision. As suggested by Freud, guilt is “the result of the tension
between the ego and the superego
.” (qtd fine 20)

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Truly, the overlap of the three settings (the field, the private room, and the setting of the party) manifests the interference of the id, the ego, and the superego in our everyday life. On the other hand, the conflicts that occur at the end of the video demonstrate the daily struggles faced by the individual in order to satisfy the world’s needs as well as his own. More importantly, the fact that the Selena asks her lover to steal a car again after they get back to the party, assures that the struggles we face in order to balance between the id and the superego are continuingly challenging us and will trouble us as long as we live.


_Brown, Norman Oliver. Life Against Death, The Psychoanalytical Meaning Of History. Vintage Books, 1959.

_Chalari, Athanasia. The Sociology Of The Individual. Sage, 2016

_Fine, Reuben. Freud (RLE: Freud): A Critical Re-Evaluation Of His Theories. Volume 1. 2013.

_Freud, Sigmund. The Ego And The Id. Courier Dover Publications, 2018, p. 53.

_Gomez, Selena. Back To You. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY1eFxgRR-k. Accessed 25 Jan 2019.




Youssera Belkisse Sade Dine

Youssera Belkisse Sade Dine is a normal girl who has an abnormal obsession with overanalyzing symbols and decoding metaphors. In her free time, she likes to bake cookies, shoot conceptual photographs and listen to Lana del Rey. She also has a Master's degree in English literature and in love with visual art.

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‫3 تعليقات

  1. Even though I have read a lot to Freud but I really didn’t pay
    attention to the hidden metaphors when I first watched the video,
    this is a very insightful and visionary article, showing that Selena chose her music videos directors carefully and her work is quiet different from what we’re seeing nowadays.

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