In Praise of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ and Its Sublimely Ridiculous Video

Unless you were recently launched into outer space and are currently flying too close to the sun and/or moon, you are likely aware that we are experiencing a rare total eclipse of the sun this afternoon. This momentous occasion has temporarily made “Total Eclipse of the Heart” the most popular song in America, 34 years after it first became a top-40 smash.

People with a lot of time on their hands and/or an unhealthy obsession with ’80s artifacts may have used this occasion as an excuse to revisit the video for Bonnie Tyler’s melodramatic power ballad, which enjoyed regular rotation back in the day on MTV and Friday Night Videos. In case you’ve forgotten: This video is glorious in its ridiculousness. To emphasize just how ridiculously glorious, I have written this review of the key elements in the clip, which was directed by Russell Mulcahy, a man I will forever revere because, during the same era, he was responsible for putting a shirtless John Taylor from Duran Duran on a Sri Lankan elephant. Enjoy, and please don’t stare directly at this video for too long or you will go partially blind.

Opening sequence: The video begins by closing in on a window at what is either a megamansion or the ’80s version of Hogwarts. Inside that room are Bonnie Tyler and a bunch of stuff that was apparently stolen from Stevie Nicks’s dressing room: fans, a gauzy bandanna, and a ton of candles. A dove — or perhaps Stevie Nicks’s white cockatoo from the Bella Donna album cover — flies in through an open doorway and flaps its wings in place, oblivious to the fact that the song is telling it to turn around. A shadow moves across a full moon. Tyler looks plaintively out the window from underneath seven tons of eye shadow. This video is meaningful.

Enter the weird schoolboy. I told you this was ’80s Hogwarts! Except this kid is definitely not a Hufflepuff. He has scary, glowing blue eyes because Mulcahy and his team were like, “Let’s take the part where she sings about bright eyes extremely literally.

Bonnie Tyler is not afraid, though. Her expression says: my makeup is not only decorative, it is a protective suit of armor.

Okay, now things are getting crazy. A lot of things that don’t make sense but look sort of cool — which describes almost every music video from this period — happen over the next minute or so. Gauzy shawls burst open doors. Millie Bobby Brown shows up and starts throwing birds at the camera.

Male swimmers wearing goggles get doused by water. A bunch of dancing ninjas burst onto the scene because, sure, why not?

Some guys sitting around a fancy dinner table toast-crash their goblets into each other. Then the sword fighters and half-naked cartwheel-ers appear, which, in the ’80s, is how you knew a Gothic pop-ballad party was really getting serious.

Wait, hold on a second. The T-Birds from Grease just showed up.

And also: the cast of Friday Night Lights.

Bonnie Tyler is getting upset. Despite the out-of-control wind machines, her layered hair still looks amazing.

Then Bonnie starts to run for it. Really, wouldn’t you if you were in this video?

And that’s when she comes across the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Glowing Eye Edition. And then one of them suddenly departs! No, wait, he was just flying over to be closer to Bonnie.

At this point Bonnie is singing while being surrounded by the half-naked cartwheel-dancers and, in other shots, by the Pink Floyd “Another Brick in the Wall” Fire Retina Chorus. It’s all very confusing. But I guess things get confusing when you’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.

But the Angel from Angels in America is here to heal Bonnie Tyler. And also, everyone still watching this video.

Then comes the twist: It’s daytime and it turns out Bonnie Tyler is actually (I think) a new teacher at ’80s Hogwarts. Wait, what is this video about? Is it about this woman’s suppressed feelings of longing, lust, and fear toward her students? Because that’s kind of what I’m getting from this, since, aside from that one shot of the moon, none of this has anything to do with an eclipse.

And then the second twist: One of these seemingly normal students has the glowing eyes! And he, as well as his peers, advises Tyler to turn around!

Maybe that’s what this video is telling us: that if you don’t turn around and avoid staring directly at a total eclipse, you’ll wind up with a case of the ol’ radioactive eyeballs.

And just like that, the video for “Total Eclipse of the Heart” proved it wasn’t just a music video. It was actually a public service announcement.

In Praise of the Video for ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’