Close Listen: Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” Glorifies Rape Culture, Is also Catchy

Oh, Robin Thicke.

Oh, “Blurred Lines.”

“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke (who, I will admit, is super sexy) is everywhere these days.  The song, upon first and somewhat-distracted listening, is another generic pop song about sex or dancing or something…  It’s really catchy and it’s got some sonic soul.  The aesthetics of the song itself are groovy and cool.  If I hadn’t listened closely, I would probably like this song.

However, taking the time to listen to the lyrics provided me with the sadly not-so-shocking truth: “Blurred Lines” glorifies rape culture, portrays women as objects without agency, knowledge, or power, and suggests a problematic passage of women from one man to another.

Take a listen for yourself.

Wait… Before you do that, we need to talk about the video too.

THE VIDEO

The unrated version is below – very NSFW.  The video features three disaffected models wearing flesh-colored thongs…  As in, ONLY THONGS.  The boobies are out.  The models are sort of dancing.  It’s really rather weird.  Imagine what it was like to film that video.

Oh, so I just walk from side to side not really doing anything while these guys sing?  Okay.  Oh, and I’m naked.  Oh, I get a thong.  Great…

Awkward…

They let her wear clothes (sort of) but turned her into a road, on which they could drive their toys.

These very pretty, young women are strutting around while fully dressed men – all in suits –  perform a smarmy song around them.  It’s uncomfortable and everyone looks uncomfortable.  The women are making an effort to cover themselves some of the time, other times enjoying the bouncing… I guess.

At one point, one of the girls is holding a goat.  They’re wearing 90s shoes, plastic, and other weird stuff.  The men are all being horrible.

Ugh… Here it is.

BLURRED LINES – UNRATED – ROBIN THICKE, PHARRELL WILLIAMS, T.I.

THE LYRICS

The problem continues.

While the song is largely, well, stupid.  It’s a poorly written song about wanting to bang a hot chick.  We’ve all heard a lot of songs about this and many of them are offensive, reinforce stereotypes, and the objectification of women.  Even female artists participate in this a fair amount of the time.  Women often sing about how hot and desirable they are…  Men sing about their dicks.

The thing is, it’s a real problem to talk about women’s behavior meaning they want or need sex.  Consent is what’s sexy.  A girl dancing in a sexy way doesn’t mean she wants or needs to suck some dudes wiener. 

Women are allowed to be sexy, sensual, hot, attractive, pretty, and alluring without sex.  Nothing but consent is consent.  That’s just how it is.  Seeing a woman from across a room and having a feeling that she might “want it” doesn’t mean she really does.

Writing a song that repeats “I know you want it” six times per chorus sends a bad message.  It teaches young men and women that  seeming like they want sex is enough to consent actual sex.  But that’s not okay.  Sex should be something all participants agree to USING WORDS.  Not using eye movements or nods.  Telling men that they can tell when a woman wants sex by the way she dances isn’t helping anyone.  That’s teaching men that they know better.  They know something women don’t know.  Women need men telling them when sex should and will happen.

Except… WRONG.

The Chorus
And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
You’re a good girl
Can’t let it get past me
You’re far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
But you’re a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
Go ahead, get at me

 

You’re Not Funny, You’re Offensive

There are many people who are easily offended. Their comedy sensibilities are seriously lacking, and instead of seeing the funny element of a joke, they concentrate on the stereotype being presented, and thus categorize the joke as “offensive.” This is not entirely accurate. However, all joking aside (I couldn’t resist the pun), there are some “jokes” that aren’t jokes–they’re just offensive statements.

I’m all about what someone I know once called “equal opportunity offenders.” Think Mel Brooks, Chris Rock, Kat Williams, Dave Chappelle. The greats tend to fall into this category. Equal Opportunity Offenders make jokes about every stereotype in the book; they can laugh at other people and at themselves. They don’t make these jokes to alienate, discriminate, devalue, or otherwise hate on individuals or groups of people. They make fun of everybody for the things we don’t necessarily choose, and some of the things we do: our race, our geographic location, our nationality, our religion, our sexual preferences, our genders, etc. But they do this as a method of moving the conversation toward larger issues, and the humor comes from the stereotype. We don’t laugh because we actually think all such-and-such people do/are this, but because its a stereotype of what that group is or does. Sometimes it’s true, but it’s not meant to be the kind of statement that narrows the possibilities of individuals.

However, there is another category of ‘comedian’–if one would deign to call them such–that doesn’t fall into these bounds. Let me explain with a short anecdote.

I was riding in a car with a large group of people when a country song I was unfamiliar with came on the radio. I found it a little distasteful (it was about “titties and beer”), but not offensive. I could chuckle at it. Yet, one line deeply disturbed me, and as everyone around me laughed it up, I sat stone faced: “Thank God I ain’t queer.” What?! That’s not funny. That’s not saying, ‘Hey, Gay men are like this and Women are like this, yuck yuck ha ha.’ That’s just a mean-spirited cut against anyone who categorizes themselves as queer. It’s a stupid and ignorant statement, not a funny one.

Another example: using language that is racist, unless you’re reclaiming it, is not funny. Ever. Black people can say the N-word in a comedic setting because it’s theirs to reclaim and refashion in meaning. Sorry, white people, it’s not yours in any manner except the racist one. So don’t use it in your comedy. Calling someone a nasty name based on their race or ethnicity often results in a few nervous chuckles, but it’s not funny; it’s racist. Same thing goes for any other nasty words directed towards women, gay people, and other minority groups. It’s not funny when you call someone a bitch or a fish wife or a fairy or a fag. It’s just not.

Being nasty toward people for things they don’t choose isn’t funny. It’s mean, nasty, and often falls into the category of one of the -isms (racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, etc.). Instead, why not focus on the little idiosyncrasies that make people funny in general. And if you’re gonna pick on one group, be prepared to pick on them all, including your own.