American singer-songwriter Robin Thicke, along with rappers Pharrell Williams and T.I., have together released a subversive parody music video in which they present an absurd alternate reality where women are the subject of male objectification and sexual entitlement.
The song, titled Blurred Lines, is a direct parody of a video made by a group of University of Auckland law students, which controversially depicts men being paraded with no clothes while they are visually demeaned and have vibrators inserted into their mouths.
That video has been criticized for reinforcing negative gender stereotypes and promoting a destructive consent culture in which males find it difficult to have sex and good girls are discouraged from unleashing their inner desire to bend over for men in suits. The video was considered to be so offensive in some circles that it was briefly banned by YouTube after numerous complaints.
But Thicke’s Blurred Lines music video, released today, now stands as a biting satirical retort to the Auckland law students, and forces them to confront a hypothetical world in which gender roles are reversed, and women are an object of sexual gratification.
Thicke’s video features himself, T.I., and Pharrell – all fully clothed – being flanked by numerous attractive, near-naked women who Thicke asserts “want me,” despite their facial expressions and body language at times suggesting otherwise. At various points in the video, the topless women are seen submitting to the three men on all fours, and providing meaningful assistance as a ramp for Pharrell’s toy car.
The video acts a cleverly-engineered mirror image of the original.
Blurred Lines is already winning widespread praise around the internet, with critics applauding Thicke for using his platform to challenge social norms and encourage people to think subversively about dominant cultural attitudes, such as distaste for vaguely misogynistic undertones and a belief that Robin Thicke is a creepy jerk.
Thicke says that while the video may appear “shocking” or “strange” to some, its intentions are only to provoke discussion.
“I think sometimes we have to challenge the status quo, stand up and say ‘well, you know, what if things were reversed?’” he said. “And as I listen to people talk, in the places I go, a lot of people are saying, they’re saying ‘Wow, Robin, don’t you worry that you’re subtly legitimizing soft forms of rape?’ So I just wanted to challenge those commonly held attitudes that maybe people have never really given thought to before.”
“You know, at what point does subversive objection to the status quo become the status quo itself?” he added. “Kind of interesting, when you think of it that way.
“I think women often get a lot of opportunity to laugh at men or to be all shitty with them for grabbing their ass at the club. To them, you know, behaving like that, it’s just normal, and men just have to put up with that sort of thing, and biologically, you know, that’s just the way of the world.
“But what if we lived in a world where women were considered other from men, or sold as a means of sexual gratification? Or, imagine if we held competitions to determine who was the best kind of woman, and then awarded it to the dumbest, most uncritical women we could find who giggle a lot and know how to best adorn themselves? What then? I think women would think twice about making these sorts of videos if they had that kind of perspective.”
Blurred Lines is already finding its way into academic curricula, with Gender Studies departments across the world adopting Thicke’s video as a brave new take on the viral social media phenomenon created by the Auckland University video.
The release of the song comes a week after a Philadelphia black man was arrested for making a YouTube cover of 2000 Eminem song Kim, in which he explicitly raps about murdering his wife. Police determined that the cover amounted to an aggravated and specific threat against Eminem’s former partner.