There is a new music video and I can’t stop watching it. After finishing finals, I hit up the Internet for a summertime tune that would serve my need to dance aimlessly around my room in my underwear - if ya catch my drift. Instead I collided into this enigma.
Now I usually have mad love for hip hop, r&b and rap. I appreciate inhabiting the same era as 50, Kanye and Eminem. While I see how rap lyrics and videos may be extremely misogynistic, I also believe that the music is mainly too over-the-top and satirical to be properly offensive.
When I was eight years old, I saw the topless girls wearing horse reigns in the P.I.M.P video and it was like science fiction to me. Those girls weren’t what I directly identified with or aspired to be. If anything, I felt like I was watching it from the sidelines together with 50 cent, speculating the absurdity of hustling.
Moreover, when the lyrics are openly aggressive towards women - like in Eminem's song "Superman", then this tends to reflect negatively on the rapper. You don’t listen to "Superman" and think, "wow, how cool, I want to be like her" or "damn, wish I was as angry and unhappy as Eminem".
I think what is much more worrying are the "tasteful" hip hop videos being produced by musicians like Pharrell and now Robin Thicke, who is the UK's current number one. In high school, the boys I wanted to impress were always in most awe of the videos which seem to show at least a dozen supermodels parading around, being hypnotised by Pharrell. It's scary because a bunch of brainwashed dolls aren't representative of any grand theft auto pimping fantasy, but of what is meant to be sexy and attractive in the real world.
Here is how I felt watching the “blurred lines” music video. First I thought the girls were hot. I thought the nude coloured thong was cool. Shit I wanted to go out and buy a nude coloured thong! I even thought the barnyard animals were kind of quirky. Then I began to realise the really obviously sexist things going down in that video. However, instead of being repulsed by the video, I felt repulsed by myself. Because I still wanted to prance around in the nude thong while being admired by Pharrell. Watching the music video was the equivalent of sneaking into the club at 15, being hit on by some unbelievably skeazy middle aged man and feeling both sickeningly accomplished and self-loathing at the same time.
The music video is generally an orgy of female objectification, but I will quickly list the most fucked up things:
1. Robin Thicke’s sunglasses
Not only is Robin Thicke fully dressed while the girls are all in their birthday suits, but he is also wearing his shades in at least half the shots. This makes him look like a cross between Simon Cowell and a farce dictator. He can check out the girls but they can’t even make eye contact with him. Clearly attempting to speak out to all ageing sugar daddies out there, Thicke seems like the perma-fake-tanned salesman in some cheesy advertisement.
2. T.I. combing Emily Ratajkowski’s hair
The infantalisation in the video makes this act equivalent to scratching a dogs ears or stroking a kitty. She is practically purring and getting really excited. Coz she’s "an animaal“ lol geddit?! Next you expect someone to open her mouth and check her teeth are in order before making the purchase.
3. The blonde girl lights Robin Thicke's cigarette. And then he blows the smoke in her face. What the fuck??? Like this actually happens. And she coughs. How cheeky of Thicke #whatalad.
4. The balloons that spell out „Robin Thicke has a Big Dick“
This is just so banal. When 50 Cent sings, "I got the magic stick“ at least there is still some attempt at symbolism. In the P.I.M.P video, 50 Cent then extends the metaphor by producing a glowing cane. Robin Thicke cannot be bothered with such sophisticated obscurities. Instead we are treated to some blown up balloons propped up against a vomit coloured background.
I have watched a lot of hip hop videos but I have never been as disturbed as I was by this one. I think the problem is the ambiguity and subtleness in the presentation. The video is kind of like a Terry Richardson shoot. You watch it and think "how ironic and fun!!“ The haystack, the red bicycle that the ladies are forced to peddle like hamsters in a wheel and the puppy, which that blonde girl unsuccessfully attempts to mount– those things aren't crass - they are just so quirky!
Lets get one thing absolutely straight – this video is not “art”, it’s a cheap n easy trick for Thicke and Pharrell to make them a lot of money. Thicke claims that if his video is sexist then “so is everything else inside the Louvre”. Perhaps in his next video we shall be treated to a bespeckled Thicke trying to hump the headless Victoire de Samothrace, while Pharrell injects a giant toy needle into her ass. And all this in the name of Hellenistic aesthetic appreciation, obviously.
Robin Thicke’s wife Paula Patton defended the video saying “I think its such a shame that nudity and the human body is seen as offensive, yet violence is totally cool to show to children all the time.” She adds, “The human body is beautiful.. violence is super ugly.” Well ya girl but why is your husband all suited up then?
No, violence is not okay to advocate to kids. Which is precisely why lyrics like “he don’t smack your ass and pull your hair for you” and “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” are not something I want my baby cousins to listen to when they tune into this weeks top40. These lyrics, that threaten to tear a girls hair out and rape her from behind, contrast with the eerie shots of T.I with the hairbrush and Thicke with the big needle to create an atmosphere of total sedated perversity. Sugarcoating sexual violence like that and then expecting people to respect it as “beautiful” is obscene, ridiculous and unacceptable.
The saddest thing is that Thicke and Pharrell probably genuinely think that this video is empowering for women. And the women in the video probably feel like they are being cool and rebellious by doing it. However, the only real irony is when Thicke sings, "cant be domesticated“, because the whole video is about domestication. It is not about girls exposing their bodies for their own amusement but for Thicke's. The other guy might not be "their maker“ – but Thicke is. The girls are just life-size props equivalent to the big toy needle, the bicycle and the barnyard animals.
This is the problem. Because superficially, the video feels like fun. And when you are a teenager and start wanting to have fun on your own, away from parental supervision, you run straight into the sleazy smirking guys dangling cigarettes in your face, mouthing "I know you want it“. In this video Robin Thicke is the ultimate scumbag. He radiates toxic smugness like nuclear waste. He doesn’t make the fun but ruins it with his self-satisfaction, his lame-ass sunglasses and his rubbish dancing.
(And if you still don't see what's so fucking ridiculous about that, then watch this parody where the gender roles are reversed - Ed)