Saturday, June 29, 2013

Blurring the Lines Even Further

Blurred Lines lyrics:
OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you're an animal, baby it's in your nature
Just let me liberate you
Hey, hey, hey
You don't need no papers
Hey, hey, hey
That man is not your maker 
Yeah, had a bitch, but she ain't bad as you
So hit me up when you passing through
I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two
Swag on, even when you dress casual
I mean it's almost unbearable
Then, honey you're not there when I'm
With my foresight bitch you pay me by
Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you
He don't smack that ass and pull your hair like that
So I just watch and wait for you to salute
But you didn't pick
Not many women can refuse this pimpin'
I'm a nice guy, but don't get it if you get with me
See, here's the thing. I don't think that Blurred Lines is trying to be offensive to or dismissive of women. I've heard some people say that they think the song is flat-out uncomfortable with its repeats of "I know you want me", but there's also endless repetitions of her grabbing him and hugging him and generally signaling that she probably wants him, so that's justified enough. The song is just about mixed signals from a girl who wants casual rough sex.

(By the bye, only T.I. could have gotten away with that second verse and still sounded easygoing and likable.)

But the song contradicts itself in fundamental ways that show how we don't believe that it's even possible for a woman to be free with her sexuality.

First off, those lines about "Just let me liberate you/Hey, hey, hey/You don't need no papers/Hey, hey, hey/That man is not your maker". Why does this woman need the male singer to liberate her? A man tried to domesticate her and failed. She's already refusing to change. Does a man have to agree to accept this woman as she is in order for her to be truly liberated?

(SPOILER: yes.)

This is a song about casual sex - "he tried to domesticate you, but baby you're an animal, it's in your nature". So it doesn't matter what the man is like in a relationship; all that matters is the sex. And yet we have the juxtaposition of "Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you/He don't smack that ass and pull your hair like that" and "I'm a nice guy".

Blurred Lines fails as a woman-positive and sex-positive song because it doesn't believe in its own message. It doesn't believe that a woman can truly just enjoy sex for the sake of it. The singer has to clarify that he's a nice guy to make himself desirable material: not desirable as a sexual partner, since we've established that she doesn't want sweet sex. But the song still believes it's important to clarify the singer in the context of a relationship in order to present him as truly desirable to a woman.

The video is more of the same (we'll just talk about the clean version, not the explicit one - which is essentially the same except more naked; when you can see the woman's breasts the objectification is more obvious, but that video also features one of the women obviously purposefully ignoring the command "shake your rump, get down, get up" for humorous effect. So... draw, I guess).

The men treat the women like props - moving around them as the women make pouty faces at the camera and don't react. The women have no control over the events of the video, they simply parade through the scene in order for the men to react to them and then carry on. And I do mean that literally; they just walk across the screen, in and out, repeatedly. The women literally don't even react to anything the men do - they don't even look at the men, even when the guys are touching them or blowing smoke in their faces.

To wit: the men are personalities; the women are bodies.

Fortunately for Robin Thicke, he picked two of the most charismatic men in music to work with. Pharrell looks like he's just walked onto the wrong set by accident and it's hilarious; T.I. is suave without being slick. (Robin Thicke is trying to get on their level, but he's really uneven - those closeup seduction shots of him just do not work, even as an exaggeration.) Their affability and goofy approach to the over-the-top sexuality of the song keeps it from being a total trainwreck. But I can't feel completely good about Blurred Lines, which is a shame, because I'd like to.


  1. I'm a chronic, only listen to the radio to wake up kind of person.

    This video makes me feel like I've been living in a box. I had to figure out who Robin Thicke is through process of elimination. I've seen Pharrell once and know that T.I is a rapper so... Lol!

    But yeah, this video is a good example of why I don't watch music videos anymore. I did appreciate the shameless hashtags though.

    1. LOL well if it makes you feel any better, I think Robin Thicke is an unknown. I didn't know who he was either (although I'm not exactly a devoted follower of the Top 40, so who knows).

      The shameless hashtag was the best.