Monday, June 26, 2006

on wanting

The last two videos I've worked on have involved a gaggle of women in very revealing clothing grinding around in ecstasy as they listen to the subject band.

I'm reminded of a lecture I listened to in film school about the theory of the male gaze. This particular shoot's content was interesting to frame in the context of that theory, just by the nature of its content. The short form of the project's treatment is this: the band performs in the stage space of a nasty red-light-district peep-show booth (the sort where you sit in a chair to watch the show and you pay by the minute to lift the opaque screen from the window between you and them). A sequence of hottie girls pay for the chance to peep at the band as they play and work themselves into a sweaty frenzy over the performance.

Essentially, the entire treatment of the video is about women watching men. But, you see, the driving force behind the idea is that we are watching the women as they have their private moment of bliss - their images are captured in a way that implies that they're bringing themselves to orgasm over the band's performance. And they're revealing all sorts of skin where the band is not - they're fully clothed as they play. So it's not about watching the band at all, really.

Then, of course, there's the content of the lyrics themselves - specific to a point beyond suggestiveness. ("What do I have to do to get inside of you? I love the way you move when I'm inside of you.")

Given my somewhat unique perspective on femaleness, participating in these two shoots back to back - and visiting a couple of Playboy shoots in the past week, too, one of which apparently involved women getting blasted in the face with bottle after bottle of champagne in super-slow motion - really brings this seminal feminist theory into relief.

Let me preface my thoughts here by saying that I do not define myself as a feminist. I'm a peopleist. I roll my eyes at the shortsightedness of women who insist that men's lives are unmarked by their gender - male or female, we all strain at the expectations forced on us by merit of the respective reproductive systems we were assigned. But there's something that chafes me about watching these women bumping around in their underoos, faked expressions of ecstasy on their made-up faces, rubbing french-manicured hands on their mystic-tanned skin.

I'm not anti-porn. In fact, I'm pretty darn pro-porn - with the very specific qualification that everybody looks like they are legitimately enjoying themselves. The other stuff turns me right off - listening to people go through the motions of desire without actual desire ever coming into the picture gives me the same creeped-out feeling as watching the audio-animatronic housewife in EPCOT center talk about her stove.

So I'm standing next to some of the crew guys, watching girl after girl climb into the booth chair and give it the ol' college try, listening to clinically delivered instructions on where exactly the girl is to move her hands and hearing bets placed on whose ta-tas are going to accidentally burst forth from their moorings during the goings-on. And at the same time as I'm titillated by the show, I feel a sadness well up. 'Cause these are people. People who were born very pretty, which is almost as bad as being born very ugly - 'cause they're at the mercy of those abnormally succulent bodies, as obviously and materially as a burn victim, just in a different way. And the very nature of their job requires them to strip themselves of their personalities and their personal preferences and their modesty and their actual wants and needs.

Like those Playmate interviews I used to laugh at: "I like guys with confidence. I like animals. I like to shop." It's never, "I'm Muslim. I like guys who make seven figures and can scrub laundry on their eight-pack. I scored a 1600 on the SAT and am getting my PhD in Organic Chemistry at Columbia."

Take the girl away, and you're left with a great set of punching balloons and the empty calories of feigned accessibility.



Aaron Weber said...

The video starts like it's going to turn that boys-watching-girls convention around, but of course we're watching the girls watch the boys...

Excellent post. Not sure what to say in response though.

Lord Misanthropy said...

Wow 'Nette... that is some pretty intense stuff. Like Aaron I am not sure how to respond, but I liked this post a lot.

Bookdwarf said...

I hear your song 'Nette. And I have to disagree with Aaron. The video is not turning the conventions around at all. We're still watching women act sexy. Nothings changed. I'm a part time feminist I think---I don't like labels. But something about the music world and women has always irked me.

vv said...

OK, I'll say it: I *am* a feminist. And it's not 'cause I don't shave my pits, neither. A good, straightforward essay:

The ChRis said...

I dunno, the playmate I met (christine something) is actually in the middle of getting her veterinary license thingie and currently working as a vet tech when she's not shooting. So ah...ha!

but the best ones are lesbians..yeah.