Full disclosure: I’m an entertainment writer and I fully recognize that maybe I’ve watched one too many Miley Cyrus videos lately, but there seems to be an overwhelming theme when it comes to female representation in music videos. Britney Spears’ “Work Bitch” video is the newest, and perhaps in some ways, the most dramatic example.
We all know sex sells, and it’s not news that female exploitation in music videos is alive and well. Is it OK to raise our hands and say, “Enough already?” Britney Spears underscores this point better than we ever could with her latest “Work Bitch” video. She’s worked hard for her comeback, she looks awesome, it’s a catchy song and the video is overall pretty cool. But (and this is a big but) she and her desert dames are dancing around in their underwear and she’s whipping the other women, calling them a b**** and telling them to get to work. Is it a stretch to suggest that this depiction is degrading and that blowing up female manikins doesn’t do much to advance the women’s movement?
What can we say about Paris Hilton? Pay attention parents — this is what happens when you overindulge your kids. She’s young and cute and funny but by every indication clueless. Here, we have the privilege of a sneak peek at her song/video with Lil Wayne, where he talks about how a drunk and writhing Hilton just wants to s*ck and f***. Come on, ladies. We can do a little better than this, can’t we? Can female performers put their clothes back on, come from a place of authority (or at least equality) rather than submission and feature half-naked men rolling around? Is that asking too much?
We love us some Justin Timberlake. If he knocked on our door right now, we’d bake him a batch of cookies and pet his head while he ate them. In his “Tunnel Vision” video he stands fully clothed while completely nude women dance in a dark room. In Timberlake’s “Mirrors” video, he is still fully clothed, but this song is the story of an elderly couple’s love life and thus there are no scantily clad females. Interestingly, “Tunnel Vision” with the nude women has 7.5 million views and “Mirrors” has 110 million views. “Mirrors” has only been out three more months than “Tunnel Vision” so that sort of shoots the “nudity and exploitation for entertainment value” argument out of the water.
Robin Thicke‘s song “Blurred Lines” just broke Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs record for being No. 1 for 16 weeks. Thicke released the video in both an unrated version, which features fully clothed Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell and topless women, and a rated version. Like Timberlake’s videos with contrasting content, the unrated version of “Blurred Lines” has 22 million views and the rated version has more than 186 million views. Thicke stirred up plenty of controversy for both versions with the content being dubbed rapey and creepy. Perhaps that stems from the obvious fact that the men in the video are clothed from head to toe and the women are treated like nude/semi-nude props. Just sayin’.