Thursday, April 1, 2010

Soap Box


Was this so shocking that it was worth being headline news? I’m talking about Erykah Badu’s new video. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, you can Google it or you tube it (although it may now be blocked).

There seem to be two controversial parts to the video. The first, which I find more interesting, Ms. Badu is walking down the street to her new single Window Seat and is shedding her clothes, garment by garment until she ends up naked. It is supposed to represent the shedding of fears, societal norms, baggage.

I found this quote from Badu online:

"'Window Seat' is about liberating yourself from layers and layers of skin or demons that are a hindrance to your growth or freedom, or evolution. I wanted to do something that said just that, so I started to think about shedding, nudity, taking things off in a very artful way.”

She takes off very “normal” clothes; a raincoat, hoodie, t shirt, basic black underwear and when she ends up naked (for about 5 seconds) she seems to have a beautiful if not average body of a woman who is a mother of three children. I think she is very natural and I find nothing disturbing or indecent about it. She is wearing little makeup and doesn’t look like a diva – just a regular Jane – even her crazy hair is hidden away under a wrap. She is relatable. She is definitely not portraying an image of an idealized sexualized black video vixen woman but of an introspective woman lost deep in thought. In this crazy sexualized fashionista world, I think she has consistently given women and girls and alternative model of what it means to be a woman.

A lot of the criticism seems to be centered on the fact that the video was filmed “guerilla” style in one take and without a permit or warning subjecting women and children to the horrors of the naked female body. She may have been a little insensitive to the community and broken a few laws, but isn’t that what artists do? Push you to feeling uncomfortable – push you to think about things in a different way – challenging the status quo? Plus, if she is telling the truth, her intentions were to get an important idea across and not to cause harm. She is also partaking in the technology that is readily available to all of us - anyone can film anything anywhere wihout explicit permission. I find that the amateur quality of the video adds to it soulful down to earth feel of the video.

The second issue seems to be one of place of video. At the end of the video she falls down as if she were shot at the same spot that President Kennedy was assassinated. Blue letters appear to come out of her head that say groupthink. Basically we are lead to believe that groupthink will tell us that she is bad for walking around naked and being a free thinker and that is what gets her killed. Many have expressed that they are offended by this image and that it is disrespectful to a fallen American president. I think the connection to President Kennedy is poignant – didn’t he die for his beliefs?

Whatever you believe or how you interpret it, Ms. Badu has certainly drawn some attention to herself and her new album. I am sure we can all agree that in this Facebook, twitter, texting world – that is exactly what you need to promote yourself. You can take the road travelled by cynics and believe that is was all for publicity or the road travelled by the artists that she is just pushing the envelope. The truth is probably somewhere in between. I personally like the video and will continue to be a fan of Erykah Badu.


1 comment:

one girl creative said...

Here, here. When I read about this the other day I was shocked. Why is the naked body such a sin in America? What are we to be ashamed of? I still don't understand this ignorant logic, but yet violence is all around us and it's OK to show on national TV for all of our children to see?

Something is seriously amiss...