Forced To Rock! (And Make A Blog Post)
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?
She’s SO very interested in his playing. Or maybe trying to check out his general nipple area? Any ideas? What’s she doing?
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.
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.