Wednesday, 31 July 2013

There are no blurred lines, Mr Thicke. No still means No....

Now that new parodies are popping up every day, I can't ignore the notorious video for Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines any longer. If you've been living under a rock and haven't seen it yet, check it out. You can also watch the unrated version, which is pretty much the same except that the women are topless. It also uses balloons to completely spell out such witticisms as "Robin Thicke has a big dick".

The first time I heard the track, I couldn't help bopping along, as it's undeniably catchy. The constant repetition of  "you know you want it, but you're a good girl," made me roll my eyes, but at least it's kind of true to life. It's incredible how many guys will think that some sort of prudish self-denial is the reason you're SHOWING NO INTEREST IN THEM WHATSOEVER. (And then if you manage to convince them you really do know your own mind and you honestly don't fancy them, they assume you're a lesbian. Talk about ego.)

Along with Robin Thicke, the video features Pharrell Williams and rapper T.I. (aka Clifford Joseph Harris Jr.) basically standing around while vacant-eyed, pouting models prance before them in very few clothes. As the video has attracted the wrath of feminists, Robin Thicke has spoken out to defend it, saying “We pretty much wanted to take all the taboos of what you’re not supposed to do bestiality, you know, injecting a girl in her bum with a five-foot syringeI just wanted to break every rule of things you’re not supposed to do and make people realise how silly some of these rules are.”

Yes, those silly rules! Defying them makes you a super-duper groundbreaker. (Actually, I'm not sure where he got the idea that there is bestiality in the video. One of the girls is holding a lamb at one point, and there is a large stuffed dog which one of them sits on. I guess Robin thinks that when children ride on carousel horses, they are also somehow having sex with them?)

Just a note, Robin: only a total amateur would actually point to his eye 
when singing the line "maybe I'm going blind."

He warmed to his theme, explaining “We tried to do everything that was taboo... everything that is completely derogatory towards women. Because all three of us are happily married with children, we were like, “We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this.”

Hey, I've never shot anyone in the head! That means I'd be the perfect person to do it as a joke! 

It's always hard to gauge someone's tone in print, and I've certainly seen some interviews in which a sardonic pop star makes a joke and the wide eyed 12-year-old magazine editor writes a big headline believing they were being serious. So I think we can safely assume it was a "joke" when Robin said, "People say, “Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?” I’m like, “Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.”
Courtesy of

And what of the lyrics? The "I know you want it" line is what's got them into trouble with the anti-rape brigade (which is hopefully everyone in the world); it's possible that the song has created such a furore not because it's the worst offender in the "misogynistic lyrics" game, but because it struck a chord with every woman who has ever been chatted up in a nightclub. Or yelled at from a white van. Or groped in the street. You get the picture. (And if you don't, check out And as Grooves on the Radio points out, "Threatening to tear someone’s ass in two is a lot less sexy than Clifford thinks it is." 

There is also a reference to smokeable drugs (accompanied with typically clumsy symbolism by... a gas mask: "Baby can you breathe? I got this from Jamaica, It always works for me...") which reminds me of my favourite chat up line, "Does this rag smell like chloroform to you?"

The shoot was directed by a woman: Diane Martel, who suggested going for a “Terry Richardson kind of video.” (Yes, THAT Terry Richardson.) Robin Thicke has also made a big deal of how he asked his wife's "permission" to make a tiresomely sexist video and she was fine with it, so why aren't we? He even claims that he hadn't wanted to release the unrated version until his wife and her friends convinced him to. (Oh, stop hiding behind your wife and just own your work like a man!) 

The approval of these ladies is meant to give the video immunity from feminist critique, but women have been willingly undermining themselves for years. The models who take part in video shoots like this, for instance. (Seriously, how do the cast and crew feel on these jobs? Do they go home feeling proud that they have made a positive contribution to society?)

And then there's Katie Price. Let's just forget the idea that if
 a woman chooses to do it, it must be all right.

Thicke's most recent defence is that the song is "actually a feminist movement within itself." With the lyrics "Now he was close, Tried to domesticate you, But you're an animal..... Just let me liberate you... That man is not your maker," you could argue that he's all about women's emancipation. But it sounds to me like the hypothetical girl could just be leaving one controlling relationship for another, this time with some doofus in a bar who can "save" her because he thinks he knows what she needs better than she does. I could be wrong, though... 
It's true that there are far more offensive videos and lyrics out there, but the fact that so many people cry "harmless" when it comes to imagery like this shows how far we have to go:

                                One of these pictures is much more surprising than the other. 

Among the many parodies* available, The Mod Carousel is one which uses  "gender reversal" to show how ridiculous men look when they act in the same hyper-sexualised way we're used to seeing women.

(*I think Melinda Hughes' "douche" video is my favourite of the bunch. If we can't change them, we might as well laugh at them.)

In an interview with GQ (which is worth scrolling through for the articulate comments) Thicke keeps talking about how the video is "funny" and even "Benny Hill", which makes it sound like he's watching something different to the rest of us (although it does have some hilarious moments). The reality is four and a half minutes of tired old clichés; strangely joyless considering how much "fun" those models were supposed to be having.

Despite his alternative theory that they were deliberately being offensive, Thicke insists "We’re not ogling and degrading them, we’re laughing and being silly with them.” Which is interesting, because I would have thought that "being silly" would consist of a group of people who are all wearing roughly the same amount of clothing, have equal opportunities to speak, and are maybe running around having a water fight or something. Not men leading a woman around by her hair, miming slapping her arse, calling her a bitch, and only letting her speak to say "Miaow."  The "we're just being playful" thing smacks of the usual "Where's your sense of humour?" excuse.

Thicke points out "That's what great art does it's supposed to stir conversation, it's supposed to make us talk about what's important." 

Dude, you gave up your right to refer to the video as "art" when you agreed to splatter the screen with hashtags in order to drum up publicity for yourself. When you make a video featuring scantily clad women and social networking tips, let's not pretend you're doing anything but appealing to the lowest common denominator, ok? It's just embarrassing. 

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