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Forced To Rock! (And Make A Blog Post)

January 21, 2011

I like Arsis. I’ve listened to “Celebration of Guilt” way too many times. When I saw them around this time last year, I had a great time.

Their Forced To Rock video wasn’t really notable except for the fact that the song is kind of silly and there’s a pink guitar. However, there were some things I did note: The gender breakdown seemed a little retrograde.

I do acknowledge that this video is meant as a promotional vehicle for the band Arsis, which has no female members. Thus, it’s somewhat logical to have the menfolk playing instruments. They’re in a band. They’re playing instruments (or at least miming the act). That’s par for the course as far as metal videos go.

The woman in the video is not a member of the band, and thus she’s not playing an instrument. I get it. However, I feel like they ripped the ideas straight from a catalog hawking tired cultural scripts.

While the boys are playing their instruments, whipping their hair around and scowling for the camera, the lone girl is doing the following:

-Observing the band members play with interest

-Writing trite sayings on a chalkboard in the background

-Clutching onto the lead singer in some sort of sexually charged hug, rubbing her hands over his body

-Brandishing a yardstick in a non-threatening manner

-“Headbanging” in front of Jame’s Malones crotch

I can jump to the conclusion that her role is mainly decorative.

The stills tell it the way our culture is comfortable seeing it. What fun would a tale be without the pictures?

"Whoa, who farted? I'll keep playing, but I'll show my displeasure through the poopy face!"

 

She’s SO very interested in his playing. Or maybe trying to check out his general nipple area? Any ideas? What’s she doing?

 

"You do the sexy pout, I'll give my best metal face! RAAAH!!!"

"That's not how you keep a beat! Pay attention to my yardstick!"

She looks less interested now, and just kind of irritated. Maybe she doesn’t like the face he’s making. It still feels like she’s just sort of there, and I can’t tell why.

 

"Ok, fine. Play your guitars and stuff. I'll just go back to my writing in the background! Hmmf!"

Does this seem familiar at all? I’m not talking about the specifics here, just the general tone and implications. Men/boys are doing interesting, engaging, creative, and exploratory stuff. The girls/women are just sort of there. They are there so you can gawk at them in the act of being on display. It’s the whole subject/object dichotomy in a cultural text. (I’m calling this video a cultural text. Believe it.)

It reminds me very much of toy catalogs. You don’t really notice the differences in what boys and girls are shown doing unless it’s made explicit through a critique such as this one over at Sociological Images. Here’s another example of gendered body language in advertising (which is another form of cultural text).

Yes, I know. It’s just an Arsis video. It’s fun, frivolous, and entertaining. Yet it’s another example of an accepted paradigm. Guys do stuff. Girls pose for the camera and try to be as enticing as possible. Do what your culture tells you to do as a man or a woman and you’ll get some warm, fuzzy validation. People will “ooooh!” and “aaaah!” and pay attention to you and listen to your music.

Go against the norms and you’ll be ignored (most of the time). Not only does the accepted script appeal to what people have been taught, but it reinforces their beliefs about The Way the World Is.

Women do lots of cool stuff in metal and other kinds of music. They don’t just pose for pictures and provide sexual favors (real or implied). It would be nice to see that reality reflected a little more often. Sex appeal might sell, but (for me at least), it’s a really boring story. Let’s write our own.

\m/

-Ms. Anthropia

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2011 4:39 pm

    So, Kim”s the leader of thismeansyou, and she and James have been good friends for years. The whole song is a tongue in cheek romp through 80’s glam rock tropes, and so is the video.

    Yes, the tropes are super sexist, but as performed by someone who’s defying those roles in her own work – it’s a mad-men-esque look at how horribly sexist our culture has been. And since thismeansyou got heavily mentioned in the press releases for the video, it was deliberate promotion for something that defies the currently ingrained cultural sexism and gender roles.

    • January 21, 2011 9:41 pm

      Good call. I missed that press release. Thanks for clearing that up.

      It definitely alters my interpretation of the video. I knew it wasn’t meant to be a serious video, but I didn’t know they were specifically satirizing older videos.

  2. Picard permalink
    January 22, 2011 3:34 pm

    Maybe that would be the problem of the video?
    To understand this video, not only the watcher has to know who the players/actors are (I know who are Arsis, but I fear I’ve never heard about thismeansyou until today – curse the French networks?), but it is also recommended to have some grasps of knowledge on the 80’s video style AND to keep a distance from the bad taste of this period AND to detect the sarcasm and irony of Arsis and Kim?
    I rather think that many people could (would?) receive the video like a “serious” one and will hardly see the joke.

    But I could be wrong.

    But I could be right, who knows?

  3. becca permalink
    January 27, 2011 1:40 am

    To be fair, if I hadn’t recognized Kim, I would not have read the video any differently. The “Hot for Teacher”ness of the video is clear, however the tongue in cheek aspect of Kim’s role in it is really not obvious without some context.

  4. November 6, 2011 9:09 pm

    Great article! It is very helpful, I thank you

    Best Regards

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