As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Apparently so is the road to terrible music videos. English singer-songwriter Lily Allen seems to have decided to make a statement on the Miley Cyrus-ification of pop culture by making her latest video an in-your-face attack on the sexual exploitation of women in the music industry. Her new single, “Hard Out Here,” includes girl-power lyrics like, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain” and “If I told you about my sex life you’d call me a slut, when boys be talking about their bitches no one’s making a fuss.”
So far so good, right? Well, it’s all downhill from there.
While Allen’s lyrics are making the case that women and men shouldn’t be held to different standards and we shouldn’t have to exploit ourselves to get ahead, the video conveniently includes plenty of footage of scantily clad backup dancers gyrating in ways that would make some hardcore gangsta rappers blush. (Let’s just say bananas and other objects are involved.)
Did I mention that none of the backup dancers are male?
Did I also mention that nearly all of them are black?
Allen and her defenders will likely say that those of us who are critical of her video simply don’t get satire. They will argue that Allen was trying to expose how silly this type of oversexualized behavior really looks. But if Allen’s video were merely harmless satire, then why didn’t she strip down alongside the black women who looked practically naked next to her? Furthermore, why didn’t she bend over as if she were engaged in a sex act, the way they did, if the video was all in harmless, good fun and represented satire at its best?
At the end of the day, Allen is yet another misguided, well-meaning “artist” who seems to think that admiring a few black people and admiring and appropriating certain aspects of black culture should give her cover for demeaning said culture. I call this the Quentin Tarantino defense, which can be translated as, “I love black people so much and think you’re all so cool that you really can’t take it personally when I demean you. It’s done in tribute!”
Well, you can keep your tribute. We’d rather keep our integrity.
If Allen really wanted to make a statement about sexism, sexual exploitation and racial exploitation in the music industry, then a real satire might have included a bunch of scantily clad white males writhing around as alcohol is poured over them. Instead of satire, Allen merely perpetuated the status quo. That doesn’t make her interesting, artistic or edgy, but just as desperate for attention as those she seeks to mock.
Keli Goff is The Root's special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.
Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.