Media influences the lives of many as its access is usually easy, its distribution is wide and its consumption is, for the most part, free. Therefore, the content portrayed on media platforms is used to acquire information thus appropriateness of the content is key. This blog will address the role played by music videos to promote sexual objectification of women’s bodies. The music video that will be referred to as a prime example is “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. The music video was available to view for audiences in March 2013.
There are three models in this music video and three singers. The video has two versions; the “censored” and the “uncut” version. In the uncut version the three models are seen wearing only a thong and in one scene the balloons at the back spelled out “Robin Thicke has a big dick,” whereas in the censored version the models are wearing white shirts and shorts and the balloons are nonexistent.
The video has a black, blonde and brunette model, so as to not seem “racist” and to promote “diversity” but what it really does is homogenize these women into showing that all “varieties of women” are “good girls” with whom the singers can flirt and play around with. That is, the choice of women casted in the video paints all women with a single brush The playing with the hair, the syringe prop being inserted into the model’s butt, signifies that all women “want it” and in doing so, the video portrays women as hypersexual beings who just need to be “tamed”. It creates the notion of a “universal woman” who is submissive to her needs that can only be fulfilled by a man.
The video normalizes “rape culture” by the provoking lyrics “I know you want it,” as if trying to confuse the girl and creating a threatening sexual environment, (the balloons that spelled out “Robin Thicke has a big dick” and by playing with the girl’s hair), as something all women desire. The hypersexual and “conventionally attractive” models intentionally prompt the audience to consider sex as something that all women want. More importantly, this video portrays an unrealistic reaction to facing a threat of sexual force in real life and in doing so it again glorifies rape culture. For male audiences, it implies that the threat of rape is something that women want or is “sexy”.
The models in this video are “sexually objectified”. The camera does not zoom into the models butts or breasts, but grabs the audience’s attention when the screen has just the models dancing and shaking their breasts. These scenes are clearly captured from a heterosexual male’s point of view. Here we see women’s bodies being sexually objectified through “a discourse of playfulness, freedom and choice” (Gill, 2008). The women in the video, all playing with their sexual power and receiving the men’s attention, make the women in the audience feel that they must understand the objectification of their body as natural, pleasurable and self-chosen. It makes women watching the video feel that in order to be “sexy” they must internalize the external male-judging gaze.
Despite the objectification of women, the men in the video are given more on screen time than women. At the end, in one of the scenes, the models are all behind the men as if they were just there for the pleasure of these men or to make the background interesting. This shows the superiority and dominance of men over women. Furthermore, the video may have humorous elements, (the clown like behavior and gestures) but the comic aspect mixed with “rape culture” and the sexual subjectification of these women, makes it even worse. The humorous aspect of the video could have dangerous consequences as it blurs the line between rape and “just fooling around”.
By watching this video, most heterosexual men would naturally expect women to respond in the same way (biting their lips and getting turned on and encouraging the behavior) to their sexual gestures such as playing with their hair, “checking them out” and calling them “nasty”, “good girl” or using props on them. But in reality the response is not always the same. Through sexual subjectification of women, and reenacting the same sexual gestures that are seen on screen in reality, they may try to persuade women to give them a similar response; when they don’t, that could be how and when things get out of hand. This is also one of the examples of rape culture; making rape seem “normal” or not really rape.
One could see why this music video might have been the number one song in the summer and played (on a given week) over four thousand times (Ball, 2013). Women are seen as “promotional vehicles” and their sexuality is used to draw attention and sell their music videos, which this music video was successful in doing (Jhally, 2007). And in doing so, successful in accomplishing its mission of reaching the top charts through sexual objectification of women but failing to realize the different, controversial and harmful message it is sending across to spectators around the nation. It is important to question the cost of such videos being widely distributed and screened; the presumptions it plants in the minds of young boys and the effect of these on women in the society.
Ball, J. A. (2013). “Radical Teacher” A socialist, feminist and anti-racist journal on the theory and practice of teaching. No. 97 (Fall). DOI: 10.5195/rt.2013.44. Retrieved from http://radicalteacher.library.pitt.edu
Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke (Censored Version) (2013). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CWOdb4T2hs
Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke (Uncut Version) (2013). Retrieved from http://www.vevo.com/watch/robin-thicke/blurred-lines-(unrated-version)/USUV71300526
Gill, Rosalind (2008). “Sexism Reloaded, or It’s Time to Get Angry Again!” Feminist Media Studies. Vol. 11:1, 2011, p. 61 – 71. Retrieved from http://simplelink.library.utoronto.ca/url.cfm/377365