Monday, April 5, 2010

Erykah Badu Strips to Make a Statement Which is Largely Unheard

In her recent video Window Seat, Erykah Badu shed her clothes on a busy street in Texas, and sparked debate across the blogosphere. The dominant reaction has been outward criticism of her public nudity and her mock assassination near the location John F. Kennedy was killed.

I first watched the video to try to figure out why she had chosen to strip naked for this song. I watched Badu’s discussion of the video posted at the WSJ, and felt at the end that a major problem was that Badu had a great message about conformity, but I wasn’t sure that nudity served a real purpose or that the exact topic was of sufficient gravity to justify the imagery of JFK’s assassination. However, I also noticed that not many people seemed willing to listen to her explanation because they decided they were offended after their initial viewing of the video.

My impression is that people were mostly upset with the nudity because they did not believe it was essential to communicate her artistic message. However, I think this controversy creates a great opportunity to open the discussion of the way women are portrayed in music videos. Women are often filmed semi-nude and portrayed in ways that are truly exploitative. I wonder why this video, which did not (in my opinion) overly sexualize her naked body, has sparked such outrage while there are numerous music videos, advertisements, and shows that portray women in a demeaning way and are only a blip in the public consciousness. Why is nudity/semi-nudity in these cases not met with equal outrage?

Basically, I found the nudity inoffensive but sadly did not feel it successfully strengthened her message. If this video discussed the implications of the way women are represented in pop culture, I would have felt the assassination imagery was more warranted. But either way, Badu is an interesting artist, and I'm glad she's willing to take risks and express herself in different, sometimes controversial, ways.

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