Nicki Minaj, MTV and Pornified Pop
Editor's note: This article contains offensive language and content.
The 2014 MTV Music Awards air Sunday night, and Nicki Minajâs new video âAnacondaâ is finally out. Itâs a good week for porn, er, pop.
Last yearâs MTV Awards featured the Miley Cyrus âtwerkingâ extravaganza. âAnacondaâ is, according one enthusiastic description, about âbutts.â Itâs tempting to say that weâve reached the ultimate confluence of pornography and pop, but someone will find always find a way to go lower.
Porn is everywhere, and has been, really, since the 1980âs, beginning with the technological advancement of cable televisionâs Video On Demand. CableTV tycoons Comcast and Viacom made millions distributing porn networks, until the internet began to make them irrelevant.
The accessibility and normalization of porn has increased the demand and expectation of racy material, causing female singers to push the boundaries of self-exposure every year. Britney Spears in a Catholic school girl outfit? Christina Aguilera fighting another girl in a boxing ring whilst half-naked? Often, âsexyâ music videos from pop stars parallel common themes in pornographic films.
And with the mainstreaming of porn has come the mainstreaming of stripping. Rihanna, BeyoncĂ©, and Iggy Azalea are just three of the many who opting to wearing close to nothing and quite literally posing as strippers. The strip club has literally and figuratively become central to pop in the pornified age of music videos.
Of course, to a lot of liberals, this is all to the good, as evidenced by media reaction to âAnaconda.â
âAt lastâANACONDA IS HERE,â Jezebelâs Rebecca Rose announced on Aug. 20. Her colleague, Kara Brown, offered similar rejoicing over the release of Minajâs âmost gif-able music video ever:â âLast night at midnight, the world was finally blessed.â Blessed, according to Brown, with: âButts. And looking at them. And slapping them. And licking them. And bouncing them. And popping them. And jiggling them. And toning them. And gently tapping them like human bongos.â
Searching for a deeper meaning, Brown announced, âThis is an ode to her âfat ass big bitches in the club.ââ And, âYou may disagree with her choice of language, but I dunno guys, I just can't be mad at that.â
Language, she means, like, âMy anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hunâ and âHe can tell I ain't missing no meals/Come through and fuck em in my automobileâ so âFuck you if you skinny bitches WHAT?â
Entertainment Weeklyâs Jenna Mullins felt âoverwhelmed,â but went on to list, âall the booty moments that made us take a step back and really think about what's important in life, booty-wise.â
The Huffington Postâs Liat Kornowski gushed about, âall the butts you could ever want in a music videoâ while The New York Daily Newsâ Zayda Rivera hyped that, âNicki Minaj has taken bootylicious to a whole new level.â MTVâs Rob Markman also noted the âbooty-fulâ video with âdelicious eye-candyâ â but emphasized, âMs. Minajâs latest clip is just as much about living a healthy lifestyle as it about her backside.â So itâs really a think-piece?
Of course, Minaj is celebrated today because Madonna caused a stir back in the 80âs with her risquĂ© costumes and controversial songs, and in the 90s with more of the same, plus a book of erotic nude photos. For that, sheâs lionized in some quarters as heroine.
In an article titled, âHow Madonna Liberated America,â author Sara Marcus writes, âHer visionary assault on American prudery, her revelatory spreading of sexual liberation to Middle America, changed this country for the better. And thatâs not old news; weâre still living it.â Madonna, Marcus wrote, is always a step ahead, daring us âto catch up with her.â
Yes, one suspects Madonna looks back on her cone shaped bra as quaintly modest. And as much as her continued antics have felt like desperate attempts to stay relevant, she rarely misses a trick (pun intended.) The awards show kiss with Brittany Spears in 2003 perfectly captured our era of gay chic and added a few years to her career.
Madonna certainly blazed a trail, and itâs impossible to look at todayâs hyper-sexed pop industry without seeing her influence.
BeyoncĂ© is perhaps the worldâs biggest pop star, and sheâs celebrated for using her status as a platform for appeals to feminism. But business is business, and girl power stops at the studio door.
BeyoncĂ© unequivocally presents herself as a sex object in songs like âNaughty Girl,â and âDance For You.â Her songs about being sexually pleasing to men have become more common than her songs about female independence, specifically in her latest track, âPartition.â
âPartitionâ exploits BeyoncĂ©âs sexuality beyond any of her other music videos. The lyrics begin with a reference to performing oral sex in the back of a limo. The video depicts it for viewers everywhere (63 million+ to be precise) as she plays the role of an attention deprived wife, imagining how she could persuade her husband to notice her. Cue scenes of BeyoncĂ© writhing around on a stage in a bejeweled thong. The videoâs plot line takes us to a club where Attention Seeking Wife performs on stage as an erotic dancer. She swings around on a pole, writhes some more on chair, and then grinds against more poles. BeyoncĂ©âs real life husband, Jay Z, plays the role of husband in the video and leisurely smokes a cigar watching his half naked wife dances stripper style. The chorus moans, âTake all of me, I just want to be that girl you like, the kind of girl you like.â
So much for female empowerment.
Not alone on the pole, BeyoncĂ© is joined by Rihanna, whoâs 2013 music video, âPour It Upâ is literally about strippers:, âStrip clubs and dollar bills, still got my moneyâŠstrippers goinâ up and down them poles.â
Rihanna arrives on screen of âPour It Upâ in a diamond âbraâ that barely covers her, a thong, and platform heels, of course. She proceeds to sit on a throne and after many a-crotch-shot, manages to âtwerkâ upside down on the chair with her legs in the air (quite a trick).
Other scenes depict women in skimpy lingerie violently shaking their posteriors, including Rihanna herself who does so, on the floor, on the chair, and on a pole. The twerking opportunities are endless, ladies!
Again, to the libertine left, this is just super. One reviewer of the video praised Rihanna for raising âthe profile of pole dancing.â She continues in her article, ââŠ a lot of people are more interested in pole dancing now âŠ itâs athletic, itâs artistic, itâs really beautiful, itâs not about stripping or shaking your booty.â Mmm hmm.
For her part, Rihanna seems refreshingly self-aware: âIâm not a ho, Iâm just ho-ish.â
It would be interesting to know how Iggy Azalea views herself. The Australian rapper is not unfamiliar with stripper-scene either. The music video âWorkâ portrays her giving a lap dance to a man in a bar. Her other video âChange Your Lifeâ is based off of the 1990âs flick âShow Girls.â
In a behind the scenes video for âChange Your Life,â Azalea describes the location of the music video as a âtopless bar,â where her character works as a stripper before becoming a show girl. The environment is made complete with an array of see-through mesh body suits and lingerie â one scene even shows Azalea in nipple pasties. One video commenter asked, âWas Iggy a stripper before?â
The symmetry between pop and stripping isnât accidental. In cities like Miami and Atlanta, it is not uncommon for Strip clubs and hip-hop producers to work together to create club hits. Record label executives bring their records to strip clubs in order to determine the songâs potential â if the strippers are dancing to it, then itâs a success and will be played for the thousands who enjoy the night life. Often, these strip club hits will trickle into mainstream sources like the radio. In 2003, rapper Lil Jon promoted âGet Lowâ in a strip club, stating, âthe butts donât lie.â
The increase of Culture Queens posing as strippers correlates to modern societyâs normalization of pornography. The blending of adult entertainment on premium cable packages has undoubtedly normalized and increased pornographic viewership. (In 2010, Time Warner Cable experienced a âtechnical glitch,â resulting a porngraphic station being featured on Kids On Demand. The children asked their mother why Tom nâ Jerry featured naked women that morning.) Porn is now accessible through smart phones and tablets.
According to an American study, the porn industry is expected to reach $2.8 billion per year by 2015 and 9 out of 10 boys have been exposed to porn before the age of 18. Websites like Womenâs Health are constantly spewing articles that encourage porn use, claiming porn promotes healthy relationships.
Sadly, all the moaning drowns out the voices of men and women speaking out about the destruction porn has visited on their lives. Critics are called prudes and âsex-haters,â and told to go back to the 1950s.
But not everyone is insensible to damage of a pornified culture. A Telegraph.uk writer reviewed BeyoncĂ©âs âPartitionâ video, stating: âShe is reinforcing the idea that, in order to be desirable, women have to adopt fantasies promulgated by men.â BeyoncĂ©âs song and video illustrates the conception of the porn industry: women acting out the sexual fantasies of men in order to be what they âlikeâ (for money.)
Morality aside, can that be good for our daughters?