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In “The Boys Club”: An Analysis of Music Videos

July 9, 2009

I watch a lot of music videos.  I’m too cheap to buy music, so when I want to listen to something that I don’t have, I just go on youtube.  However, I’ve started to notice a disturbing pattern in all of these videos.  I only watch popular videos, so the target audience is generally the same.  I am finding that they glorify thinness or negatively portray those in the “overweight” category. Women appear most often to feel the effects of action, but they are rarely the perpetrators of events in music videos.  They idly sit around, helpless to change their situations, and wait for a man to come and change their lives. 

In Britney Spears’ “Radar”, she strolls around an expansive mansion and waits for dueling polo players to win her affections.  She is obviously wealthy on her own, but she does nothing.  She waits for them to come to her, and her policy appears to function on a “first come, first served” basis.  Sure, the first guy gave her a fancy necklace, but he simply wasn’t there when the second, hotter guy arrived.

In Toby Keith’s “God Love Her”, his teen self romances a preacher’s daughter and encourages her rebellion.  She is inspired by his presence in her life and they go on a motorcycle trip together, but he was the catalyst.  Would she have done these things on her own?  Was her sense of self and independence strong enough that she would have done it anyway, or was sexy, sexy teen Toby Keith the catalyst she needed to actually do something with herself?

In Eminem’s “Shake that Ass” (oh, how this song disgusts me.  What disgusts me even more is that I love the bassline.), all the women have closed eyes.  The song is obviously misogynistic and degrading, to put it lightly, but it also puts women in a position to serve men.  They have no desires of their own, except to serve their clients, since pleasing men is their job.  When they leave a club, it’s with a man, to do what he wants, when he wants.

Women have no sense of personal direction and need to be told what to do by men.
Music videos also create a sense of “The Boys’ Club.”  Everyone wants to be in this club, because that’s where the fun/power/love is, and only an incredibly sexy and (potentially) strong woman is accepted.  In “Radar”, Britney Spears is the only woman, because the men are dueling only for her.  In Lady Gaga’s “Love Game”, she is alone in a swarm of men, dancing and sought after by all of them.

In 303’s (I don’t know how to spell their band name.  There are 2 of them, this is silly.) “Don’t Trust Me”, the two of them have three women in the background, basically to play with.  They are scrawny with enormous boobs and walk around in very little clothing, waiting for the to guys to decide when it’s time to play.

I’ll use Britney Spears’s “Womanizer” as another example: the man goes to work, lunch, etc with the boys, and she arrives to mess things up and reveal him as the creep that he is.  However, she isn’t a part of the elite group.  Yes, she’s the only woman in these situations and is idolized by The Boys’ Club, but she shows up in subservient occupations: secretary, waitress, and chauffeur.  By being surrounded by an entourage of men, these women are designated as desirable, beautiful, and confident.  Because they only want her, after all.
Size and beauty are an interesting part of this equation.

Beautiful, thin people are always in music videos.  Why would we want to see anything else?  Oh yes, of course, we only see these things when something negative is occurring.  In Toby Keith’s video, he is singing the song, but a younger, muscled actor portrays his teen self.  A younger actor with Toby Keith’s current build would never have been cast for the part.  Love stories only happen with gorgeous, perfect young people.  In Tool’s “Vicarious”, the only woman in the video is thin and strapped in a black bondage suit.  As the song delves into the disgusting corruption of modern ambivalence towards violence, the woman slowly unstraps the bonds to reveal a large body.  More fat equates to stupidity, cruelty, and ignorance?  As much as I love Tool, I was really disappointed with them for this video.

Also, remember when Britney’s “Break the Ice” came out?  She was receiving counseling and wasn’t a size -0, so they made an animated video.  She likely didn’t appear in the video because she was getting treatment, but I’m sure part of her didn’t want to be filmed because of her size, and that idea is terribly sad.

These ideas are not limited to American music videos.  In Lori’s “Je vais vite”, the singer is, once again, part of The Boys’ Club.  She surrounds herself with attractive young men, which enhances the focus on her has the main sex symbol.

In Yelle’s “Ce Jeu”, she is the center of male attention because no other women are present in the video.  They dance and play together, but she actually quite static until they’re all together at the end.

Naturally, there are videos that disprove what I’ve discussed.  The foreign videos that I’ve chosen are both French, which creates a serious bias, but I’m simply not familiar enough with international popular culture to include videos from other countries.  This is merely to generate discussion.  This topic could, with enough research and detail, go on for pages, but I’m limiting it to this length to keep it readable.  What other patterns do you notice?  Do these patterns change by genre?  Each genre has a specific target audience that comes from a certain socio-economic background.  How does this change the message?

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