Remix by NKOTB: empowering or stereotyping?
The New Kids on the Block are back with this summer's ear worm (a song you cannot get out of your head) called "Remix"
If you can understand the lyrics clearly (that is a big "if" for less than perfect ears; using context cues, phrases like "new you" easily become "do you" to not only myself but a Gen X gal pal of mine), the song seems to be a positive anthem affirming the success of a woman who changes her life and goes from the girl no one notices to the one that every man wants.
Here are lyrics minus a few repeats on the chorus (http://www.metrolyrics.com/remix-i-like-the-lyrics-new-kids-on-the-block.html)
"She was that girl in the cornerThick-rimmed glassesEverybody laughedEvery time she passed usEver the outcastHad no flavaBut who got the last laughHey
Always came lastNo one ever kissed herMissing for daysBut nobody missed herShe went from wallpaperTo heartbreakerYou shoulda seen herOoooo
Baby I like the new you
Oooh oohI like the Remix baby
I like the Remix Remix
Do what you doin’ I like the way you do itDo what you doin’ I like the way you do it, do it
Now her body’s so crazyGot mad attentionEverybody wants herI forgot to mentionMy baby’s so intelligentDown with itIndependentGot it all
Hey hey hey hey hey hey
See no one ever knewShe was a transformerWent straight from a 2To an I just wanna own ya
I can’t help myselfCan’t help myselfI need itNeed it
Baby I like the new you
I like the Remix baby
I like the new youForget about the old schoolI love the sexy thing you turned intoSo gimme the v2Some of that love fuelI like the beat that your body moves toMoves to
Do what you doin’ I like the way you do it girl
I’m speechless – come on"
On many levels, this song does sound positive. Donny does mention the girl is intelligent and how she has it "all," leading to many positive remarks about the song on its youtube video (http://youtu.be/PN1EFs9XQoc).
But then there is the entire verse dedicated to what really seems to count about her, "I like the new you.Forget about the old schoolI love the sexy thing you turned intoSo gimme the v2Some of that love fuelI like the beat that your body moves toMoves to"
In other words, what really counts is that she's sexy now. Her transformation was all about her looks and her behaviors that made her suddenly sexy. She was not sexy before; no man cared about her physically until she made changes to herself.
Subtext: you have to be sexy to be valuable. And if you do not start out being every man's fantasy for the bedroom, you need to change yourself to become that. You have to "remix" yourself, re-package yourself into whatever the current fantasy standard for your looks happen to be.
New Kids on the Block are not praising this woman for her professional accomplishments, for being bright, or for making a positive contribution to her world. They are praising her for changing herself into a sexually desirable creature, into the body and behaviors that make "everyone want her."
But what is wrong with a woman thinking that she is fine JUST THE WAY SHE IS? Why is "sexy" the benchmark by which we are evaluated? Why not for her inner qualities or her education? Why is the woman who studies hard and becomes a respected professional in her chosen career the woman that no body wants in favor of the woman who risks her life trying to be that "sexy thing" who is really only wanted for her ability to gratify the whims of men? Sorry, guys, but you really do not need a living human to get that sort of gratification; your own hands work just as well for that.
I love the tune for this song. I really like the dancing performance by NKOTB. And in full disclosure, I downloaded this song to my ipod. But as a lady science fiction author, a woman of great education and even greater intellect, I am bothered by the subtext. I am that girl that has never really been wanted by men; I never met their standards of beauty. Not when I was younger and my chest was too flat to get attention. Not now as I recover from four years on prescription migraine medicine that nearly killed me by reducing me to 82 lbs; within a month of changing migraine therapies, my weight surged to 135; an increase of more than half of my previous, anorexic weight. By the standard of beauty we are given, my size 16 clothes make me "fat" when in truth, all the weight means is that I finally have properly functioning internal organs (except for my heart which is still atropied from four years of nearly starving to death).
So I am no sexy creature. I am still ignored. I have nothing men can exploit. All I have is my education, my intelligence, and my talent. All I have is an amazing inner person.
Perhaps it is time that we as women insist on better. We are so much more than our reproductive organs. We do not have to kill ourselves or risk our health trying to look like hollywood fantasies. Instead, we can accept ourselves and focus our attention on being as beautiful as people as we can.
Beauty and the flesh are fleeting. They do not last. No one at 80 is a sixteen year old boy's sexual fantasy. But if we foster our real selves, we grow beyond that. To quote Yoda, "Luminous beings are we, Luke, not this crude matter." We are our inner selves.
Let's say no to this shallow image of what makes a woman worthwhile and show the world that women are not servants to the whims and fantasies of men. We are beautiful and worthwhile -- just the way we are.
Laurel A. Rockefeller, author
The Peers of Beinan series
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