Did you spend an entire afternoon watching music videos on YouTube, procrastinating your work away into oblivion? I know I did!
In this instance, however, part of my work was to spend my time faithfully searching YouTube for videos that served as examples of what I like to call the “Rites of Initiation for Male Music Artists”, so chosen because of the halfway decent acronym that results from it (RIMMA).
What do I mean?
I will give three very good examples of this phenomenon, not because they are the only ones that fit this mold, and not because they all happen to fit the same demographic (young, white, male). It is because these three artists have displayed an evolution in their music that maintains a well-defined trend in the presentation of their music.
Let’s start with Jesse McCartney, for no other reason than showing this video from his early music career with the boy band Dream Street. Once you get past the 90’s fashion disasters and haircuts, the song is actually not that bad, in a teenybopper sort of way. I will note that, while the young girls in the video are the center of attention in the video, it is starkly contrasting to Jesse McCartney’s music video for his single “Shake”.
This one is not too difficult to figure out. The male gaze has shifted to a dominant perspective, where the women in the video are plainly being used as sexual objects around a central male figure.
No? Not convinced?
Alrighty then, let’s move onto the next victim of RIMMA – Justin Timberlake!
The post-‘N SYNC era presents yet another glaring example of sexual objectification, as JT produces music videos to his songs “Rock Your Body” and “SexyBack”. The women in these videos gain specific attention because they inhabit roles as objects that the male viewer can observe or own in some capacity. Not to mention, the sexually violent nature of the video for “SexyBack” (which was probably for effect, but still is there) places the male in charge of defining the time and place for sexual activity, therefore receiving control and dominance.Last but not least, I present to you all the youngest of our musical triad — Justin Bieber. I feel that this change is the most sudden, considering that there are only two years separating the music videos for “Baby” and “Boyfriend”. Bieber begins the latter video juxtaposing a recording of the music video that contains many elements of his past work — floppy hair, dark lighting in the background, etc. The video then cuts to the actual thing, and what takes shape is a supposedly different video that takes place in the daytime on a roof.
My problem with his change in music video representation is that the young woman who becomes the center of Bieber’s attention only becomes so because he looks at her and finds her attractive. In as little as ten seconds, for no other reason than her appearance, Justin wants to be her boyfriend — a role that encompasses quite a bit more committment than “keeping [her] on my arm”.
Not only that, but I was most definitely not a fan of the way that he basically manhandled the young woman leading up to their seeming “relationship” in the video. Perhaps it is permissible to touch a woman in that way if the relationship has been established between the two of them, but the idea of a person that I have never met grabbing me is not exactly an enticing or compelling enough reason to warrant a relationship.
A similar thought may be considered for his music video for “Beauty and a Beat”. There is no main female interest (unless you count Nicki Minaj when she raps), but as you watch the video, some things are very clear. There are a lot of young women in the video, wearing very little clothing and dancing (often) all over Bieber. Most importantly, however, the song is all about needing a “beauty”. All of the girls emobody socially expected norms of body type and physical features, taking the role of the “beauty” from any other body types.
During RIMMA, there is a persistent tendency to give women the burden of a significant role shift — from strictly objects of romantic interests, to objects of incredible sexual objectification and male dominance. It is the women that are suffering from the efforts of these artists to become intiated into the adult music industry. The focal point is now the physical, superficial appeal of women, which establishes an unhealthy sense of worth and expectation upon women exposed to this type of media. Why these efforts are considered “adult” as opposed to shallow and ignorant is beyond me.