Fuck you Keri Hilson. Why have you once again blown my mind with your gender norm bending, boner inducing music videos? And how come this subtle (and some times not so subtle) form of undermining our patriarchal system while simultaneously feeding these basest sexual desires that have formed this system under only comes from Black female singers*?
It’s because the established archetype of the black female singer was created by Aretha Franklin then Whitney Houston. The Diva. The diva isn’t the female version of the hustler, but rather the original archetype with which Beyonce, Hilson, Ciara, and Rihanna have to work with are already somewhat defying the typical agency given to the male. The problem being that it is still utilizing sex, the one area in which a woman is given agency.
That’s at least what I thought until Lady Gaga helped Beyonce force her message, which states that it isn’t the established archetype that they are following but rather the established archetype that our male eyes force upon them. No matter how famous they become or through what means, we still regard this success as pure sexuality – we say that no matter what got them to the top, they stay there because they are hot. If they aren’t hot, then we change what’s hot. If they actively attempt to not be hot, then that’s hot. This is done through references to other “unbleached” female artists who have been considered attractive only after they were famous.
This then turns into an argument against capitalism (something Lady Gaga is very familiar with) as we end up equating success to monetary success, and as soon as monetary gains are accomplished our patriarchal mindset steps in and assumes that money came from sex. Our society demands that all women become whores. Even if they don’t, we tell them they are if they succeed in the game we’ve laid out for them via capitalism.
*I want to also talk about Ego for a while. This is also brilliant beyond it’s obvious acceptance of female sexual agency – it utilizes Kanye’s and Beyonce’s well documented relationships to Jay-Z to show that B can talk about other men (her man’s best dude) and their sexual organs and it’s ok. Or at least you have to accept it if you are going to accept it were the gender’s reversed. Especially coming directly after she ripped so hard on Kanye’s image in Diva (making fun of the shutter shades and then ending it with a direct reference to his Bigger Faster Stronger video except instead of burning her clothes [making her more of a sexual object] she burns a bunch of mannequins [a symbol of male expectation of the female body]). I think Beyonce is writing a journey of discovery over a multiple video set: If I Were a Boy and Single Ladies with their confusingly bad sexual politics, then Diva with it’s good but obvious message, then the badass: Ego and now the brilliant Video Phone. I’m impressed. I don’t think it’s coincidence that she transitions to color in her last (aka thesis statement) video.
I also want to note that I started writing this two days ago and though Lara helped reinvigorate me to finish this, I had started these thoughts before she reminded me.
Addition: I rewatched Diva again. That shit is brilliant, and foreshadows Video phone and Ego so well. First, the whole phone is making a mockery of Kanye, with the drape-shades as opposed to shutter-shades and the slow walking away from a car that blows up (This time keeping on the clothes). This sets up her to work with him in Ego. Then, you have to also take into account her use of mannequins as the evil white body image that is placed as a figurehead for desire from women. And Beyonce fucks mannequins’ shit up instead of burning her clothes to show herself more naked – instead opting to say that she’s a badass in her fully clothed bootylicious body. (I just attempted to spell check bootylicious). She does this part while the beginning of Videophone plays – giving us a taste of what’s to come. Also, I don’t know how I didn’t include Bad Romance in this analysis. Lady Gaga embodies the desire to be loved and yet the desire to rebel against the male dominated vision of what it takes to become famous in this video and it’s fantastic.