The Vagenda

Thicke by Name, Thicke by Nature: How the Gross Video for Blurred Lines is Worse Than Anything in the Louvre


There is a new music video and I can’t stop watching it. After finishing finals, I hit up the Internet for a summertime tune that would serve my need to dance aimlessly around my room in my underwear – if ya catch my drift. Instead I collided into this enigma.
Now I usually have mad love for hip hop, r&b and rap. I appreciate inhabiting the same era as 50, Kanye and Eminem. While I see how rap lyrics and videos may be extremely misogynistic, I also believe that the music is mainly too over-the-top and satirical to be properly offensive.
When I was eight years old, I saw the topless girls wearing horse reigns in the P.I.M.P video and it was like science fiction to me. Those girls weren’t what I directly identified with or aspired to be. If anything, I felt like I was watching it from the sidelines together with 50 cent, speculating the absurdity of hustling.
Moreover, when the lyrics are openly aggressive towards women – like in Eminem’s song “Superman”, then this tends to reflect negatively on the rapper. You don’t listen to “Superman” and think, “wow, how cool, I want to be like her” or “damn, wish I was as angry and unhappy as Eminem”.
I think what is much more worrying are the “tasteful” hip hop videos being produced by musicians like Pharrell and now Robin Thicke, who is the UK’s current number one. In high school, the boys I wanted to impress were always in most awe of the videos which seem to show at least a dozen supermodels parading around, being hypnotised by Pharrell. It’s scary because a bunch of brainwashed dolls aren’t representative of any grand theft auto pimping fantasy, but of what is meant to be sexy and attractive in the real world.
Here is how I felt watching the “blurred lines” music video. First I thought the girls were hot. I thought the nude coloured thong was cool. Shit I wanted to go out and buy a nude coloured thong! I even thought the barnyard animals were kind of quirky. Then I began to realise the really obviously sexist things going down in that video. However, instead of being repulsed by the video, I felt repulsed by myself. Because I still wanted to prance around in the nude thong while being admired by Pharrell. Watching the music video was the equivalent of sneaking into the club at 15, being hit on by some unbelievably skeazy middle aged man and feeling both sickeningly accomplished and self-loathing at the same time.
The music video is generally an orgy of female objectification, but I will quickly list the most fucked up things:
1. Robin Thicke’s sunglasses
Not only is Robin Thicke fully dressed while the girls are all in their birthday suits, but he is also wearing his shades in at least half the shots. This makes him look like a cross between Simon Cowell and a farce dictator. He can check out the girls but they can’t even make eye contact with him. Clearly attempting to speak out to all ageing sugar daddies out there, Thicke seems like the perma-fake-tanned salesman in some cheesy advertisement.
2. T.I. combing Emily Ratajkowski’s hair
The infantalisation in the video makes this act equivalent to scratching a dogs ears or stroking a kitty. She is practically purring and getting really excited. Coz she’s “an animaal“ lol geddit?! Next you expect someone to open her mouth and check her teeth are in order before making the purchase.
3. The blonde girl lights Robin Thicke’s cigarette. And then he blows the smoke in her face. What the fuck??? Like this actually happens. And she coughs. How cheeky of Thicke #whatalad.
4. The balloons that spell out „Robin Thicke has a Big Dick“
This is just so banal. When 50 Cent sings, “I got the magic stick“ at least there is still some attempt at symbolism. In the P.I.M.P video, 50 Cent then extends the metaphor by producing a glowing cane. Robin Thicke cannot be bothered with such sophisticated obscurities. Instead we are treated to some blown up balloons propped up against a vomit coloured background.
I have watched a lot of hip hop videos but I have never been as disturbed as I was by this one. I think the problem is the ambiguity and subtleness in the presentation. The video is kind of like a Terry Richardson shoot. You watch it and think “how ironic and fun!!“ The haystack, the red bicycle that the ladies are forced to peddle like hamsters in a wheel and the puppy, which that blonde girl unsuccessfully attempts to mount– those things aren’t crass – they are just so quirky!
Lets get one thing absolutely straight – this video is not “art”, it’s a cheap n easy trick for Thicke and Pharrell to make them a lot of money. Thicke claims that if his video is sexist then “so is everything else inside the Louvre”. Perhaps in his next video we shall be treated to a bespeckled Thicke trying to hump the headless Victoire de Samothrace, while Pharrell injects a giant toy needle into her ass. And all this in the name of Hellenistic aesthetic appreciation, obviously.
Robin Thicke’s wife Paula Patton defended the video saying “I think its such a shame that nudity and the human body is seen as offensive, yet violence is totally cool to show to children all the time.” She adds, “The human body is beautiful.. violence is super ugly.” Well ya girl but why is your husband all suited up then?
No, violence is not okay to advocate to kids. Which is precisely why lyrics like “he don’t smack your ass and pull your hair for you” and “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” are not something I want my baby cousins to listen to when they tune into this weeks top40. These lyrics, that threaten to tear a girls hair out and rape her from behind, contrast with the eerie shots of T.I with the hairbrush and Thicke with the big needle to create an atmosphere of total sedated perversity. Sugarcoating sexual violence like that and then expecting people to respect it as “beautiful” is obscene, ridiculous and unacceptable.
The saddest thing is that Thicke and Pharrell probably genuinely think that this video is empowering for women. And the women in the video probably feel like they are being cool and rebellious by doing it. However, the only real irony is when Thicke sings, “cant be domesticated“, because the whole video is about domestication. It is not about girls exposing their bodies for their own amusement but for Thicke’s. The other guy might not be “their maker“ – but Thicke is. The girls are just life-size props equivalent to the big toy needle, the bicycle and the barnyard animals.
This is the problem. Because superficially, the video feels like fun. And when you are a teenager and start wanting to have fun on your own, away from parental supervision, you run straight into the sleazy smirking guys dangling cigarettes in your face, mouthing “I know you want it“. In this video Robin Thicke is the ultimate scumbag. He radiates toxic smugness like nuclear waste. He doesn’t make the fun but ruins it with his self-satisfaction, his lame-ass sunglasses and his rubbish dancing.
(And if you still don’t see what’s so fucking ridiculous about that, then watch this parody where the gender roles are reversed – Ed)

24 thoughts on “Thicke by Name, Thicke by Nature: How the Gross Video for Blurred Lines is Worse Than Anything in the Louvre

  1. This is a fantastic post. Must admit I hadn’t seen the video before, but had enjoyed listening to the song on the radio as it’s so damn catchy. I’m disappointed by the lazy misogyny of the video, though. All the women just look so…vacant. They don’t even look like they’re having fun, or feeling sexy while the men prance around like bigshots, and for me that’s what the problem with it is. That, and the fact that it exists in a milieu that is already choc full of this sort of imagery.

    So Paula defended it on the basis that there is nothing wrong with nudity, as if the nudity is the problem! This completely fails to address the actual issues here and is basically like retorting “if you don’t like it, you must be a prude!” I’m bisexual and certainly enjoy looking at naked people now and then. Nudity is not my problem with this video.

    It’s as if every artist who follows this tired old formula somehow thinks they are doing something risque and edgy, while the truth is that these sort of videos are ten a penny. If they really wanted to do something ground-breaking, they would be making videos in the vein of the second one and reversing the roles.

  2. These are the most vacant eyes I’ve ever seen, those women don’t look like they’re having any fun whatsoever. Heard an interview with Thicke on radio 1 where he was all like ‘yeah I was drunk, the girls were kind of drunk, we paid them a lot of moeny so…’ It’s like he’s the 15 year old trying to be cool to impress the big boys.

  3. And the money changing hands at the end is foul, it just adds to the imagery that the women are livestock being bought and sold. In the cleaned up version on YouTube, the women are wearing those plastic shorts and tops the whole time – to me they genuinely look more comfortable like that than in the topless video. I wonder if in a few years there will be a story about these women being coerced (similar to that famous topless shoot Kate Moss did).

  4. I hadn’t seen the video before, but I find this article an interesting perspective.

    I’ve always felt pretty uncomfortable with the typical videos that the author thinks are okay (and I found the justification of them in the article interesting), but I didn’t think that this was anywhere near as problematic. Agreed, the female-nude, male-clothed thing is creepy, but that’s typical to lots of other videos, right? And personally, the first thing I noticed about these women is how they *didn’t* seem dead-eyed and bored, and did look to be having fun. Compare to P.I.M.P and similar, where it’s not even clear that the women are aware of the camera, and they tend to just be draped over men/items of furniture. These women look at the camera, and walk around unattended. I find it far more plausible that the female characters in this video are hanging out with the men by choice than in other, similar videos.

  5. The song is called blurred lines, describing how a ‘good girl’ who seems to be saying no clearly just wants to have rough sex..there are seriously alarming overtones to the song, even without dealing with the hopelessly demeaning video.

  6. Yes! No denying the tune is catchy as hell, but the lyrics are incredibly problematic regardless of how tacky (or artsy if that’s your opinion) the video is.

  7. I’m so glad you wrote this article! I wish more people could see the objectification. I read an article where Thicke described the making of the video – he said something like,

    ‘Yeh, I thought it would be funny for there to be nudity and bestiality and stuff, people take that kind of thing so seriously, we showed the humorous side’…

    I wanted to scream! Thicke obviously finds the degradation of making a woman pretend to hump a dead animal comedic.

  8. Amazing post, good to spread the word about this kind of brainwashing, it’s subtle and really targets the subconscious. I try to tell as many people as possible about it, male and female. Often it’s our own gender who propagates the objectification; hypnotised and subdued by the messages they have been bombarded with while growing up in a mainstream culture that is still strongly patriarchal.

  9. Thank you for writing this. I’ve also found myself oddly fascinated by this video and have been feeling badly about it. I have very little problem with nudity in art and loved the videos for ‘Want it Back’ and ‘Do it with a Rockstar’ by Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. They had narrative and drive, and the nudity had purpose. This video has no substance in that sense, and yet it is compelling to watch. Perhaps for the contrast to those other videos? I don’t know, but this is a great article.

  10. “yeah he tired to domesticate you and i want to and domesticate you, pull your hair for you, fuck your ass for you and tear your ass in two, i had a bitch like you but bitch ain’t as bad as you…”

    “um, you’re disgusting and i’ve called the police. now, don’t talk like that to anyone ever again”

  11. ooooooooh, i love me some AFP =D a brilliant woman.
    also, there are videos by women, mocking the thick-mans’s video and song i hope you enjoy as much as i did.

  12. Want to stop talking about change and start making it happen? I found this petition a few days ago…

    PLEASE sign it to show that women and men across the UK will not stand for the continued endorsement and broadcast of misogynistic songs such as ‘Blurred Lines.’ It is directed at the BBC who have massively endorsed it on not just the radio but on its own shows (check out petition). EVERY SIGNATURE COUNTS, let’s channel this outrage into something clearly political and combat what the creators of it must be saying = ‘all publicity is good publicity.’