Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Evolution of the Video Girl

While driving to get something to eat, an oldie came on the radio, Da Butt from Spike Lee's movie, School Daze.  Usually I would be in my truck jamming to this song but because of ice on the road I decided that it would be safer to jam in my head and concentrate on avoiding ice patches.  When I got back home, I Youtubed Da Butt and had a jam session.

During my jam session, I couldn't help but notice how the girls were dressed in the video.  Even though the song is encouraging women to shake their large rear ends, these "video girls" were wearing over sized t-shirts with biker shorts.  Extremely different from what we see today in music videos.

I was so intrigued by this that I have decided to explore the evolution of the Video Girl:

Lets start with Soul Train.  I know these women were not considered "video girls" but the show did popularize women dancing on TV.

Dresses, pant suits, and bell bottoms: it was not uncommon to see women wearing these items on TV.  Women of Soul Train were hip, trendy, and most importantly, classy.  They managed to look beautiful and respectful perfectly.  Who knew you could dance with clothes on? 

Now lets fast forward to the 80s.  With the 80's, we got MTV.  Unlike American Bandstand and Soul Train, women were used in a different way.   These women were no longer seen as talented dancers but more as a prop.  Their purpose was to tell a story or to express sexuality.  But even in the early 80s "video girls" were still wearing clothes.
LL Cool J "I Need Love"
A Ha "Take On Me"

These were videos you could watch with your folks.  No cringe worthy moments.  They made their point and yes, they had clothes on.  One might say the above videos were telling a love story and that is why the women are dressed conservatively.  Well, let's take a look at videos that were exclusively about jamming.

Salt n Pepa "Push It"

EU "Da Butt"
This brings me back to the "Da Butt" video.  All the women look like they were called out of a college class and asked to be in the video.  They are not overly made up or in expensive clothing, yet they made a very memorable video.  Now let's examine Salt n Pepa's "Push It video.  We got two women rapping about partying wearing body suits with large jackets.  Even with a lack of skin, they are giving us sexy with a side of funky.  

While the above artists proved that you can make an epic video without baring it all, we still saw a shift in the music video.

Van Halen "Hot for Teacher"

2 Live Crew "Me So Horny"

When we examine the above videos we see a stark difference between these and "Da Butt".  Instead of just singing about the butt, artists like Van Halen and 2 Live Crew had no problem showing women's back side. Using women as a sexual prop has now become the norm and shows no signs of stopping.  Women are no longer seen in pant suits but short skirts and skin tight dresses.  In just two decades, there has been a major change in the definition of "video girl".  

I don't know what caused this dramatic change but I think I know the "why".  When up and coming artists saw more risque artists getting higher sells with raunchy lyrics and even raunchier videos, they realized to stay relevant they had to follow suit.  In the late 80s and early 90s, the music business was about making millions.  Unlike artists like Stevie Wonder and Issac Hayes who live to make music, the newer artists lived to make money.  And to make money meant selling sex.  And selling sex meant you had to have sexy videos.  And sexy videos meant you had to show scantily dressed women. Getting the point?  The "video girl" was now a part of a marketing scheme to sell a product.  

While these men were getting more respect, women were being demeaned at a level that had never been seen before.  BET even had a program called Uncut that showed videos too adult for prime time.  These videos showed nearly (if not completely) naked women dancing provocatively or acting out sexual acts.  Even with videos shown on 106 & Park, women can be seen doing overly suggestive dance moves.  Women are no longer chosen for their trained dance talents but for the curve of their hips.  

Sage the Gemini "Red Nose"
Women are showcased doing the new "twerk"

Artists like Snoop Dogg, Diddy, Rick Ross, Nelly (do not get me started on Nelly), R. Kelly, and T.I. have no shame in showing women half naked.  The hottest song this past summer, "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, went as far as showing women topless.  "Blurred Lines" is nominated for three Grammys and I'm pretty sure Robin has made a couple million of dollars off of it.  Forget the fact that women were running around topless in the video and let's not even discuss the fact that the song is about the blurred lines between consensual sex and rape.  

Will they change? Why should they?  Artists don't have a reason to change how they portray women in their videos. If anything they are rewarded for it.

Video girls have come a long way.  Unfortunately, they have not gone in the right direction. They have went from being talented showcase dancers to mere sex objects.  It is of great importance that we teach our younger women what it means to be a respected performer.  We must take back the image of the the video girl.  We must instill in them to not let men use their bodies for their own selfish gain.  I'm not saying we have to teach them to wear skirts down to their ankles.  I'm not even saying that we demonize the men of the music industry.  We can't expect men artists to do better on their own initiative but we have to stand up and say no.  The more we say no to being demeaned the sooner they will have to find new concepts for their videos.  


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