Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

What the Hell, Avril Lavigne?

Avril LavigneWhen Avril Lavigne first exploded onto the scene in 2002 with Complicated and put a pseudo-punk twist on pop-rock music, I was in mad love with her. Really liked the way she dressed (yes, I liked her ties), the way she sang (even if her live performances were off-key), and the way she didn’t seem to give a shit. It was also pretty cool knowing that she was Canadian.

But, of course, like with most singers in the spotlight, Avril Ramona Lavigne evolved over the years since she became more successful. She churned out hit after hit including the often-mocked Sk8er Boi, the ‘more mature’ I’m With You, and the teeny-bopper anthem, Hot.

Throughout her career, I can’t help but notice how she see-saws between promoting a stereotypical teenage girl and a strong kick-ass-take-names womyn of the world (yes, woman with a y – look it up).

Even though I’m no longer a big Avril Lavigne fan, I can respect her. She has a strong personality despite being 5’2″ tall. Dynamites come in small packages.

Heard that she’ll be releasing her 4th studio album, Goodbye Lullaby, on March 8, 2011. One of the singles on that album is called What the Hell.

Watch the Avril Lavigne What the Hell Music Video Here!

Although I think Avril Lavigne’s music is generally happy-go-lucky and feisty, a problem I have with her songs is that despite getting older, her songs remain very teenage-esque. Some people love her for that, and I can understand it, but I prefer artists who are able to break out of the teenage stereotype and still keep their aging fan base.

Now for a Play-by-Play of What the Hell

At the beginning of What the Hell, we see Avril waking up in bed with some random dude. She’s wearing nothing except a bra and panties. The guy wakes up and looks like he wants to cuddle, but she instead gets up and puts on a dress shirt. All the while, she’s singing about how the guy think she’s messing with his head because she made out with his friend. But “love hurts whether it’s right or wrong”. And she’s “having too much fun”.

The feminist behaviour here is her being authentic to her own wants. And it’s interesting to see how throughout the video, she keeps mentioning his feelings and how he keeps begging her to stay with him. But clearly she doesn’t give a glock! She’ll do what makes her happy. Bitch? Maybe. Bad? Sometimes.

The loser gets out of bed and tries to get fresh with Avril. She isn’t having it! She pushes him into a closet and locks him in there! WTF? Is he Charlie Sheen’s prostitute? (Sorry, I heard that joke somewhere and thought it was too good not to share.)

In the next scene, she steals a taxi cab and drives it erratically to get away from the guy (who somehow got out of the closet and is now pedaling on a bike to try to keep up). She’s carefree with her pop-princess pink-hair highlight, and breaks the rear-view mirror when she tries to adjust it.

In the chorus, Avril Lavigne says how all her life she’s been good, but now she’s thinking what the heck? Might as well fool around and enjoy myself. Who cares about getting serious with any guy?

As she gingerly exits her car, she lets it roll…and it crashes into a parked car.

But it’s the next scene that’s ridiculous with a capital R! She hits a basketball court with men who make her look like a midget. They throw the ball to her, and she shoots an easy lay-up.

Then, in a schizophrenic second, we’re whisked off to a vintage-clothing store where she tries on clothes. The guy (who’s now officially a stalker) finds her at the store and ends up having to pay for clothes she wears out of the store without warning.

And…another scene change! This time we’re in a sketchy hallway. Someone should speak to the landlord because the lights shine only blue.

Enter Mr. Stalker. Throw the poor dog a bone! All he wants is a smoocheroo. So she pretends to get all hot and heavy with him. But then she all of a sudden runs up on stage and starts performing. Our slow-witted Mr. Stalker who clearly can’t take no for an answer and who still thinks he has a shot smiles sleepily as he watches her perform.

Thinking that she’s a total badass, Avril flips the bird not once, but twice. Maybe in 1920 that would’ve been shocking, but now it’s as common a hand gesture as the thumbs up. To be a total badass, you need to do something fucking awesome…like get a “Mom” tattoo…hahahaha!

The final scene is Avril in bed again with Follower, and she winks to the camera because she knows that she’s the one who wears the pants in that ill-fated relationship.

It’s fun to sing the song even though I’m embarrassed to admit it. But because it isn’t much of a departure from Avril’s previous work, this isn’t a tune that I’ll be spinning often.

What do you think of What the Hell? Do you see it as empowering women to be free and do what they want? Or are you sick and tired of it being the same old, same old?

 

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Katy Perry on Sesame Street: A Dish Best Served ‘Hot n Cold’

Katy PerryAs far as I know, Katy Perry has never said that she’s a feminist. And if she has said so, then she’d be a major hypocrite with music videos like California Gurls where she’s hypersexualized and infantilized with Snoop Dogg filling his usual role as outlandish pimp.

She literally squirts whipped cream from cans attached to her, well, cans! And the make-believe world she’s frolicking around in is pretty much Candy Land.

Despite this, I can’t help but love Katy Perry. She’s not the best singer, she certainly isn’t the best dresser, and she wears a heck of a lot of war paint, but she’s got spunk in spades.

Far too many women take themselves seriously, so it’s nice to see someone having fun. Plus she gives Cheese Whiz a run for its money with get-ups like a carousel dress, an egg costume, and a really cheap-looking blue wig. She’s definitely not afraid to be cheesy!

So when I heard she was slammed for her appearance on Sesame Street, I had to watch her performance of Hot n Cold for myself to see if people were just being prudes or if she looked like she was working the street.

Bring on the cheese!

Elmo’s not wearing any clothes.

Okay, so her dress is cut really low and her hemline is short. But it’s not that outrageous. (Maybe I’ve become desensitized after having read rubbishy magazines.)

Take a look at any Barbie doll at the toy store. You’ll see something similar, and you don’t hear many parents squawking nearly as much. Barbie is just as sexualized as Katy Perry on Sesame Street, so why aren’t these same people also complaining about Barbie, a toy that’s generally accepted by the mainstream?

Also check out what The Little Mermaid is wearing. That’s even more revealing, yet parents don’t bat an eye and go out to rent or buy it so their kids can be entertained. The cartoon character doesn’t get bashed, yet Katy Perry (a real woman) gets called out.

I respect parents’ wishes to not want to expose their toddler to cleavage so soon. (After all, they do have many awkward teenage years to go through to figure that out, right?) But to be so outraged about this outfit and have it pulled from the children’s television show is a little harsh. It wasn’t like she was wearing Swarovski pasties and a mesh g-string with Tickle Me Elmo.

It’s also interesting that people are badmouthing just Katy Perry for her attire. Sure, she had the final say as to if she would wear something, but if you’re going to lash out at her, what about the lack of judgment of the producer, the stylist, the film crew, and all the other people who edit the look and feel of each show? Someone could’ve brought up their concern, too. But they thought it was okay.

What did you think when you saw the music video? Were you offended or did you think it was child’s play?

Trespassers William – “Lie in the Sound”

Music gets me through everything. This is my latest obsession, and yeah, it’s an old song that speaks to me.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid: Teaching Girls to Float Instead of Swim

GlockomaDisney’s The Little Mermaid is a movie that many girls enjoy watching because of the sing-along songs, colourful characters, and generous sprinkling of humour throughout.

It’s definitely one of my favourite Disney movies even today. That being said, it’s not without faults, especially when you place it on the slide under the feminist microscope and look beneath the surface.

The Little Mermaid shares a common plot with other animated films geared toward girls: an attractive and good-natured female protagonist (Ariel) falls hopelessly in love with the man of her dreams and will do anything to snatch the suckah and live the happily-ever-after life. (This is the whole Noah’s Ark Syndrome that I discussed in an earlier post.)

At face value, it’s a sugary-sweet tale of how true love exists and how it overcomes everything – even a giant Ursula with all the powers of King Triton (Ariel’s father)! But beauty is skin deep – let’s get to the interesting ugly side, shall we?

Under the Sea

GlockomaYes, movies are for entertainment purposes, but I’m a strong believer that everything contains political messages and that it’s all a matter of whether you look for them or not. So let’s keep our eyes peeled like a banana because even subtle things can have a profound impact.

First, please watch this short YouTube clip that includes the song Poor Unfortunate Souls from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I’ll discuss some alarming points of interest after.

Now for my observations!

GlockomaExhibit A: “The solution to your problem is simple. The only way to get what you want is to become a human yourself.” (Ursula, 1:09)

Analysis: What Ariel wants is the Prince who apparently is “quite a catch”. And according to the the sea witch, she can only attract his attention by compromising herself – trading in her mermaid tail for a pair of legs. Why she doesn’t ask Ursula to use her powers to transform the guy into a merperson and live with her in the sea is still a question mark for me. Seems like there is the automatic assumption that she must change for him.

GlockomaExhibit B: “And I fortunately know a little magic. It’s a talent that I always have possessed. And dear lady, please don’t laugh, I use it on behalf of the miserable, the lonely, and depressed – pathetic.” (Ursula, 1:55)

Analysis: As she says “miserable, the lonely, and depressed”, she summons a figure of a scrawny male and a chubby female from her bubbling cauldron. This visual teaches children horrible lessons on body image. Basically it says that if you are over or under the average weight, you are a ‘poor unfortunate soul’ that needs help and only a miracle can fix you.

Glockoma

GlockomaExhibit C: “Poor unfortunate souls in pain…in need. This one longing to be thinner. That one wants to get the girl. And do I help them? Yes indeed.” (Ursula, 2:10)

Analysis: While the lyrics definitely show more emphasis on ‘fixing’ the physical attractiveness of the female more so than the male, the visual balances things off. When Ursula snaps her fingers, the female becomes slender and the guy becomes Mr. Beefcake 2009.

Apparently all that’s involved in finding a girlfriend/boyfriend is your looks. This part tells us to forget conversations or sharing similar interests – the only way to hook up is all superficial. If only things were so easy – interesting how we’re so willing to believe that all our problems can be solved merely by changing our appearance. (Plastic surgery, as popularized in the media, definitely paints this message in red, but that’s an opinion I have that I’ll save for another post.)

GlockomaExhibit D: “Before the sun sets on the 3rd day, you’ve got to get dear old Princey to fall in love with you – that is, he’s got to kiss you…not just any kiss – the kiss of true love! If he does kiss you before the sun sets on the 3rd day, you’ll remain human permanently. But if he doesn’t, you’ll turn back into a mermaid, and you belong to me.” (Ursula, 3:05)

Analysis: Ursula implies that being a human is what Ariel should strive to be because it’s better than being a mermaid. If we unpack this thought and stretch it a little like Gumby, it’s almost like saying how women are expected to conform to the male normative because its of a higher, respected status.

Also, Ursula makes the assumption that true love is shown through public displays of affection rather than other actions. There’s nothing wrong with kissing (it’s fun!) but why is this the only legitimate way for the Prince to prove his love of Ariel to the sea witch? Physical love doesn’t equal true love all the time.

GlockomaExhibit E: “If I become human, I’ll never be with my father or sisters again.” (Ariel, 3:40) “That’s right, but you’ll have your man. Life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it?” (Ursula, 3:45)

Analysis: What does this tell us? Getting the man you want involves huge sacrifices that can cut you off from other important and healthy relationships.

GlockomaExhibit F: “You’ll have your looks – your pretty face! And don’t underestimate the importance of the body language…The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber. They think a girl who gossips is a bore. Yet on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word. And after all, dear, what is idle babble for? Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation. True gentlemen avoid it when they can. But they dote and swoon and fawn on a lady who’s withdrawn – it’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man.” (Ursula, 4:26)

GlockomaAnalysis: Whoa, right? The payment Ursula demands is Ariel’s voice, and she blatantly says that men aren’t interested in what women have to say, so they may as well be mute.

The message presented here is that guys are far more likely to fall in love with a woman’s looks than her intellect and that if you want a man, ladies, you have to stifle self-expression and expect to be treated as a sex object.

And those were all from just that one short clip!

But of course, Disney isn’t stupid – they also have some parts that appeal to feminists. For instance, in Part of Your World, Ariel sings about female empowerment, wanting to learn more about the things around her, and feeding the ambition to strive for better things in life.

The next time you watch a Disney movie (or any movie, really), watch for these types of messages, and you might just be surprised what seemingly-innocent films are teaching kids!

(I probably won’t get a chance to write another blog entry before July 1st, so I’ll take this time now to wish my fellow Canadians a Happy Canada Day! And for my American readers, hope you have a great 4th of July! All others, enjoy your day, and thanks for visiting. Please come back again soon!)

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