Mod Carousel: Parody #Thicke’s Blurred Lines

While perusing the awesomeness that is Jezebel, I came across this parody by Mod Carousel of Thicke’s Blurred Lines. As I posted another parody video last week, I thought I’d follow-up with this one.

The justification for the parody are quite interesting:

It’s our opinion that most attempts to show female objectification in the media by swapping the genders serve more to ridicule the male body than to highlight the extent to which women get objectified and does everyone a disservice. We made this video specifically to show a spectrum of sexuality as well as present both women and men in a positive light, one where objectifying men is more than alright and where women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussions. [Mod Carousel]

Awesome elements:

  • Caela Bailey’s vocals are pretty damn good.
  • Challenging gender roles through parody.
  • Some pretty good dancing/grinding by both sexes.
  • The toy police car
  • I can actually listen to the track (which I quite like) without feeling as guilty.

However, this got me digging further into why I find the original so worrysome. While much of this is old ground, I thought I’d put some of my thoughts down. Firstly, the justifications by Thicke on the original video are borderline scary. He says:

We tried to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and 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.”

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.” So we just wanted to turn it over on its head and make people go, “Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.”

I find disturbing for two reasons:

Essentially, Thicke is justifying the derogation of women because he is happily married with children. Lets look further into this:

  • He is perpetuating dominant narrative of male privilege – and justifies his privilege by being married and has kids (seriously wtf?!). This justification continues the degradation of women and reaffirms assumption that marriage as a superior position but also integrates all sorts of narratives concerning hierarchy and patriarchy both within marriage and also between those non-married.  I really do not think that being married and having children is any form of justification for the continued objectification of women.
  • As Liz Terry has commented, continuing this narrative has significant implications for pop culture and the younger people involved in it.

Thicke acknowledges the degradation of women and wanted to turn [the degradation?/respect? – I honestly can’t tell] over on its head and make people go, “Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.”

  • Thicke continues to legitimise the objectification of women.
  • That women’s bodies are beautiful allows men to follow these bodies around and turn them into objects of appreciation.
  • The language used in this statement suggests that dualisms between men/women are being perpetuated in pop culture. Val Plumwood, in her book, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, argues that

‘What is at issue here is not the distinctions between women/men, and human/nature, but their dualistic construction. The concept of human has a masculine bias…because the male/female and human/nature dualisms are closely intertwined…The dualistic distortion of culture and the historic inferiority of women….in the west have been based … on a network of assumptions involving  range of closely related dualistic contrasts’ [Plumwood, p. 33]

Plumwood outlines these assumptions as 1) identifying women/female with physicality and nature (women = nature assumption; 2) this association is inferior (inferiority of nature assumption); 3) women and nature are conceived in terms of ‘a set of dualistic contrasts opposing the sphere of nature to that of reason or the human’ (dualistic assumption). [Plumwood, p. 33]

This is evident in Thicke’s justification for the basis of the track, and also integrated within the music video itself: Women = bodies, and these bodies should be showed off for the appreciation of men. Furthermore, it continues to propagate assumptions and narratives that are based upon key dualisms that are integral to major forms of oppression in western culture. For example, the dualisms of human/nature, mind/body and civilised/primitive. These naturalise gender oppressions and are often preserved in our conceptual framework as ‘residues, layers of sediment deposited by past oppressions. Culture thus accumulates a store of such conceptual weapons, which can be mined, refined and redeployed for new uses.’ [Plumwood, p. 43]

Similarly, Karen Warren, in her book, Ecofeminist Philosophy : a Western Perspective on What it is and Why it Matters, argues that conceptual frameworks ‘have functioned historically to maintain, perpetuate, and “justify” the domination of women, other subordinated humans, and nonhuman nature.’ [Warren, p. 46]

While a conceptual framework doesn’t necessarily function to perpetuate the domination of women; it is a set of beliefs, values, assumptions and attitudes that shape and reflect ones views of oneself and ones world. It ‘functions as a socially constructed lens through which one perceives reality.’ [Warren, p. 46]

Thus, an oppressive conceptual framework is simply one that functions to maintain, explain and justify the relationship of domination and subordination. In this case, when the framework is patriarchal, it functions of justify women’s subordination by men. Warren outlines five different features of such a Framework as value-hierarchical thinking, oppositional value dualisms, power conceived as power-over, perpetuating the practice of privilege and sanctioning the logic of domination. [Warren, p. 46-47]. Many of these elements, which are excellently summarised in Warren’s writing are evident in this music video and the justifications by Thicke.

  • This devaluation of women to the point that they are ‘bodies’ which are ‘beautiful’ continues to reaffirm that women are subordinate and distinct from men. And I believe that this will have massive implications concerning the continued debate concerning rape, consent and autonomy. It reflects the debates concerning abortion in the USA, and in the UK as well, and the everyday sexism that is endemic in the UK.

I think that Lisa Huyne nicely encapsulates the dominant narrative of the song, which I believe integrates a number of the themes that I have discussed above.

Basically, the majority of the song (creepily named ‘Blurred Lines’) has the R&B singer murmuring ‘I know you want it’ over and over into a girl’s ear. Call me a cynic, but that phrase does not exactly encompass the notion of consent in sexual activity … Seriously, this song is disgusting—though admittedly very catchy. [Lisa Huyne]

I think this will be the last post on blurred lines, but probably not the last post about feminism, eco/feminism and their use within everyday life.

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2 thoughts on “Mod Carousel: Parody #Thicke’s Blurred Lines

  1. Well said! And seriously…a comment like this is so troubling:

    “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.”

    As if degrading women is…a fun game? A novelty experience that every man should be able to experience in his lifetime at least once? I’ve been studying sexism for a number of years now (I’m also working on my PhD!), and this is the first time I’ve heard a justification for the ongoing objectification of women in this way.

    And, then, as you said, it’s irritating that somehow being “happily” married with children gives him a pass? Ugh! Gross!

    • Thank you! I would like to think that he’s being tongue in cheek; but either way it’s not right and to turn degradation into a game continues to devalue and subordinate women.

      Good luck on your PhD – I find blogging a really good vehicle to apply some of the theories in more accessible soundbites.

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