Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Getting naked

Posted by lea at 4:32 PM
So everyone's talking about the video clip for the new Erykah Badu single Window Seat. In it, she walks down Elm Street in Dallas where JFK was shot, shedding one article of clothing after another until she's finally naked. The clip begins and ends with references to JFK, from a grainy film image of Badu rolling up in a 1960s Lincoln at the start, to falling down naked at the end, at the sound of a gunshot. It's sparked off huge controversy in America about whether her clip is disrespectful to the memory of JFK, which is still very emotionally charged.

In a society where nudity is so prevalent, especially in the music industry with people like Lady Gaga and Britney Spears exposing themselves in their music videos, and where every so-called music artist tries to outdo each other in controversy, why has Erykah Badu's clip made such a splash?

Where Spears strips down to titillate and Gaga strips down for... well, who knows why she does the things she does, Badu actually uses nudity to make a point about personal vulnerability. Her body is not glorified or digitally altered (except to pixilate the rudie bits) or made up and made over. She's not a spring chicken either. She's a mother of three with a real woman's body who, terrified (although you can't tell in the clip), stripped down in public for a single shot to make a point. About the shooting, she tweeted:
[S]hot guerilla style, no crew, one take, no closed set, no warning, two minutes, in downtown Dallas, then ran like hell... I was afraid. But I was ready.

After the 'assassination' of her character in the clip, words like blue blood drip from her head: GROUPTHINK. This term was coined by William H Whyte in 1952 who wrote in Fortune magazine:
Groupthink being a coinage—and, admittedly, a loaded one—a working definition is in order. We are not talking about mere instinctive conformity—it is, after all, a perennial failing of mankind. What we are talking about is a rationalized conformity—an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well.

That is to say, that individual thought, creativity and uniqueness are lost in the attempt to reach a public consensus or state of 'peace'. The Window Seat film clip, says Badu, connects to the idea of groupthink in that:

[It] compared the assassination to the character assassination one would go through after showing his or her self completely. That's exactly the action I wanted to display.

Although I'm not a fan of public nudity and I HATE its graphic and gratuitous use in film clips and movies, I have to say that I really dig this film clip. I love the grainy filming and the guts it took for her to do it. Nothing could have demonstrated the courage of being vulnerable in the face of groupthink more than this woman stripping down in the middle of the street. The fact that she tied it to the assassination of JFK makes the message that much more loaded and impactful.

Check it out for yourself


Caesar on April 1, 2010 at 2:04 PM said...


That's funny, 'coz I've been cooking up a blog post about nudity as well, although not related to this video.

Would check it out, except YouTube's removed it for copyright infringement. Oh well, I'm sure thousands of others will pop up to replace it.

lea on April 1, 2010 at 2:12 PM said...

What a shame they've pulled the clip down. I've posted a link instead - hopefully you can check it out!

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