Opinion | Half-naked men featured in “Blurred Lines” parody gives attention feminism
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 01:09
Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” may have been the song of the summer. Despite its lyrics being described as sexist by music critics, the tune is Thicke’s biggest hit to date, landing him at the top of the U.S. Billboard R & B/Hip Hop charts for 12 weeks straight. According to Interscope Records, it even broke the existing record for radio audience, reaching more than 242.6 million listeners in the last week of July. Admittedly, the song was catchy to an obnoxious degree but many people were actually much happier when attention turned instead to a parody of Thicke’s chart-topper.
Students from the University of Auckland created “Defined Lines,” a feminist response to Thicke’s single, a song that has been accused of blurring the lines between consensual sex and rape.
The video, which has received over 1.6 million views since being posted on Aug. 30, features three fully-dressed women accompanied by three scantily clad men as they sing about sexism in today’s society. The video was widely popular before it was removed from YouTube, having been flagged by users for containing “inappropriate content.” YouTube briefly banned the video from their site saying it violated their terms and conditions by displaying sexually-explicit content, which left me to wonder if anyone on staff is even familiar with Thicke’s original version?
Released in March, Thicke’s initial music video featured models Jessi M’Bengue, Emily Ratajkowski and Elle Evans topless and was also removed from YouTube for violating its terms of service but has since been restored and flagged as “inappropriate.”
Parody creators Zoe Ellwood, Olivia Lubbock and Adelaide Dunn, otherwise known as the Law Revue Girls, said their motive behind the parody was to address the culture of objectifying women in music videos. Lyrics from “Defined Lines” include, “Need a universal role reversal, in real life not a dress rehearsal, gotta resist all the gender roles, trying to put misogyny on parole” and their video incorporates visuals such as men dancing in their underwear, which their briefs are later stuffed with dollar bills. The Law Revue Girls incorporated scenes with their male counterparts that encouraged the breakdown of traditional gender roles. For instance at one point one of the men is seen on all fours wearing an apron and sporting a sandwich on his back.
Lubbock stated it was meant to be a comedic sketch, but people didn’t like the message behind it. Although the parody video has now been restored to YouTube after its creators appealed its removal, there seems to be a larger issue that needs to be addressed here.
The fact that this video was removed in the first place strikes me as a massive double-standard.
I believe the underlying cause of the parody being flagged so much was people aren’t used to seeing women and men depicted in nontraditional gender roles. We’re not used to seeing men being objectified in the media, so many viewers could construe the message of this video and ultimately classify it as being strange or offensive.
I was discouraged when I realized the elements of this video I personally thought to be so avant-garde and striking were the very elements that more than likely got this video taken down. I immediately recognized the Law Revue Girls’ stance on the degradation of women in media and it occurred to me how rare this issue is explored on a wide public platform like YouTube. The negative response to the parody only reiterates the need for more videos like it; the feminist perspective is hard to come by in the media, so when it finally does make itself known, people quickly take notice.
Personally I am glad the parody was briefly removed from YouTube, because it shed light on an issue bigger than what was addressed in the video itself. If we reflect on how the public responded to this project, we can see just how much room for improvement is left. I’m not saying that I want to live in a world where men are objectified as much as women in the media. I’m simply saying that, until a video like this can be made without making people uncomfortable, we should strive to create a more neutral ground where feminist perspectives are better received.