Disco and NSFW video

I like the new Robin Thicke song.  I heard it on the radio several times and though, wow out of all these disco songs, finally someone wrote one that’s catchy, non-cheesy and sounds like 2013, not 1979*.

Then I saw the video- (NSFW!)

And I’ll be honest, I was like, cool.  This guy’s got some character, there’s some silly dancing and some half naked women dancing around.  It looks like everyone is having a good time.

My wife happened to be walking in the door so I asked her what she thought.  She liked the video and she brought up a good point- it’s not sexy.

Which to me is a key point in the debate that’s going on about this song:

The video, which was banned from YouTube at the end of March, continues to live on in its full naked glory on Vevo—coincidentally, a partner of YouTube—where salacious viewers can view three models, Emily Ratajkowski, Jessi M’Bengue, and Elle Evans, wearing nothing but shoes and nude-hued thongs, as they cavort and dance and flirt with Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I., who are all fully clothed. The group play with weird, nonsensical props—a needle, a lamb—and in between the screen intermittently flashes hashtags (i.e., #Thicke).

So far, so … sexy? Depends on who you ask.

The nudity might be fine if the song was called, “Let’s All Have Some Fun,” but it’s called “Blurred Lines,” and the subject itself is enough to make some female music fans uncomfortable. The song is about how a girl really wants crazy wild sex but doesn’t say it—positing that age-old problem where men think no means yes into a catchy, hummable song.

It’s not sexy.  I know Americans are conditioned to think nude= sexy, but it’s not.  Everyone in the video is pretty clearly clowning around.  It’s not a Britney Spears or Rihanna video.  The director had this to say:

I wanted to deal with the misogynist, funny lyrics in a way where the girls were going to overpower the men. Look at Emily Ratajkowski’s performance; it’s very, very funny and subtly ridiculing. That’s what is fresh to me. It also forces the men to feel playful and not at all like predators. I directed the girls to look into the camera, this is very intentional and they do it most of the time; they are in the power position. I don’t think the video is sexist. The lyrics are ridiculous, the guys are silly as fuck. That said, I respect women who are watching out for negative images in pop culture and who find the nudity offensive, but I find [the video] meta and playful.

It’s the old, we’ll turn the tables on these sleazy men.  And that appears to be what’s going on this video.  Emily’s body language is clearly mocking these dudes.

Callie Beusman at Jezebel agrees it can be seen that way, but asks

But is there such thing as “ironic objectification,” or does it exist in the same realm as hipster racism: a joke that’s not really a joke because longstanding systems of sexism and oppression are still in place? If the director has to tell us that it’s a joke, is it effective? If thousands of people — including the star of the video — can interpret it as merely degrading and/or titillating, another sexist NSFW video amongst a sea of sexist NSFW videos, can it really be subversive?

The problem with being subversive is that not that many people will get the joke.  That’s just how it is.  You just have to be careful you’d don’t go all the way into Chris Rock territory and have racist people telling your jokes like you’re serious.  Will this video be seen by some as a good joke?  Yes.  Will it be spank material for some dudes who haven’t figured out where the rest of the spank material on the internet is?  Yes.

I’m trying not to mansplain with this post, but I’m not really sure why it being spank material is a problem though either.  I mean, there’s a point at which this gets silly- this video (VERY NSFW) – Pussy by The Dream basically just says- “Here I showed you some porn, now buy my record.”  But if people think naked ladies will make for a more entertaining video, what’s the big deal?

I like looking at naked people.  I like looking at clothed people.  People are fucking interesting.   I can even look at a video of naked women (not this one) and think, wow, I would like to have sex with that woman, and then the next day go to work and treat every woman like a human being.  Is there an appropriate time and place for objectifying?

I kind of think there is.  Unfortunately, plenty of men agree, with the time and place being all the time.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

*I happened to hear this song on Throwback Thursday.  Normally by throwback they mean 2001.  I thought, wow, they’re really reaching, what is this Kool and the Gang?

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