Within the past couple of months there has dawned a new front in the counter-culture war – music videos. Now, music videos have been around since MTV’s birth in 1981, but they were largely innocent, dance routines with weak subplots. Granted, it’s hard to make a particularly offensive movie in under four minutes, but in the past couple of months, several extremely offensive music videos have found ways to break the traditional MTV mold and shock even the most culturally desensitized. There are no ratings or warnings on these videos. They are floating free on the ocean of internet music sites with only a few blogs slapping on the weak label of NSFW (Not Safe For Work).
Three music videos in particular standout from the crowd. The most popular is the video for the song “Telephone” by Lady Gaga and Beyonce, two of the most famous female pop stars around today. The 9-minute video (the song is only about 4 minutes) features nudity, extremely offensive language, violence, and disturbing themes. On a movie rating scale, the song is a PG pop song about girls not wanting to answer their phones while they’re dancing. The music video is a hard R-rated short film with lesbian make-out scenes and overtones of misandrism.
The next culprit is rap/ hip-hop artist Erykah Badu and the video for the song “Window Seat.” In a nutshell, the female African-American rapper strips down in the streets of Dallas in Dealey Plaza, the same area where JFK was assassinated. Besides the obvious nudity, the video makes perturbing references to the actual assassination. What was the public reaction? One Washington Post blogger called it a “big, bold artistic statement.”
And the most recent viral earthquake came a few days ago with the release of M.I.A.’s video for her new song “Born Free.” The female British singer, who is the daughter of a former revolutionary from Jaffna who trained in Lebanon with Palestinian militants associated with Fatah, is popular with many teenagers and her music was featured in the soundtrack to “Slum Dog Millionaire.” Music fans that go searching for her newest work will be shocked at what they find. The video for “Born Free” runs over 8-minutes and chronicles soldiers, wearing U.S. flags on their sleeves, busting into settlements and rounding up red-headed children and then taking them off to the desert to kill them. This obvious, political parody of American forces overseas features sex, nudity, strong language and extreme violence that would make an R-rated film blush.
We all know that “sex sells,” but this latest trend is capitalizing on a new mantra – “controversy sells.” Most of these videos have been banned from MTV and YouTube, but they are still available all over the web for any curious observer. Parents know the difficulties in keeping inappropriate movies out of their home, but music videos presents an even more serious problem. There are no industry ratings or warnings and young adults who hear a favorite song on the radio will often go online to look up the music video. Sadly, videos of these flavors tarnish the innocence of music videos as a medium and ultimately, our children. Of these three videos, it is interesting to note that they are performed by female artists. Is this the new breed of feminism that we support?