I have something to get off my chest. Now let me start off by saying that I love the song “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars. I find most of what Mars does regularly, vocally talented as he is, to be one big pop cliche, but I really do enjoy this song. So today when I decided that I needed to hear it, I looked it up on Youtube. I have to say, I’m sorry I ever saw the video. The Vevo channel is encouraging people to vote for it to win some best video award, but it’s just not very good. And it’s sexist.
Now, I understand what they’re trying to do. The song draws from old funk inspiration without directly ripping like some songs we’ve seen in recent months. The video is attempting to bring us back to the big funk band in gold chains and flashy purple suits, and the fellows in this video look sharp. The thing is, not much really happens in the video. It’s not really creative. The entire premise is Bruno Mars and the band cat-calling some women, and this is where I have a problem.
I’m going to use that dirty f-word, feminism. Just remember that feminism is simply this: the idea that men and women are inherently equal, but that society treats them as inherently unequal. In order to correct this disparity, feminism seeks to elevate women to the same status as men in society.
Feminist criticism looks at the roles of women in a particular work and how these roles contribute to the societal big-picture. Just because a work is not feminist does not mean it can’t have other redeeming qualities. I like this song. But I don’t have to like the video.
All These Headless Women
The women featured in the “Uptown Funk” video are mainly headless creatures. They walk by the camera, displaying their assets for the band. Dr. Caroline Heldman (professor at Occidental College) marks this as her number one sign that a women is being objectified in media. The video starts with a woman’s legs and a slow pan up her body. The camera stops just before she has eyes—before she has a face.
Throughout the first half of the video, two other women walk by. This is legs lady. She only has legs.
And here is boobs woman. She only has boobs.
And finally we have whole package woman. She has a body, but no head.
Throughout their passing across the camera, we see Bruno Mars singing at them, emphatically gesturing while waxing on about how awesome he and his band are. As whole package woman passes, Mars’s choreography lets the viewer in on what he’s really doing: he’s street harassing them.
Look at him, stretched up to shout, chin out in an over-confident display of importance. Body language experts could mine this pose for myriad signs of aggression and entitlement.
Behavioral investigator Vanessa Van Edwards says:
“In addition to the fact that he keeps popping his forehead up, looking down his nose at the camera, he also pops his chin up in an anger thrust. We have learned that this is part of the anger body language. This shows his anger and when combined with him looking down his nose makes the deadly mix of condescending and angry feelings.”
And though she’s talking about Reza Aslan and not Mars, the interpretation applies. She didn’t stop for him, and she has to let him know that he’s so hot he makes dragons want to retire.
The Blurry Women
A few other women exist within the world of the video, but they are mostly blurry.
The Joke Woman
Indeed, the only woman in the entire video who has a face in focus is this lady right here:
And she’s just the setup in a joke about how Bruno Mars is pretty like a lady. She’s an older woman with a bit more weight on her frame. In this video women fit into two categories: sex objects and jokes.
The Role of Women
These are no other women in the video unless you count some other blurry background extras I didn’t bother to screencap. And I know you’re going to say that nobody was in focus outside of the band, but that just isn’t true. Some portly white dude in a suit is even in focus as he walks behind the band, but women just aren’t there. There are not even women shown enjoying the music in the audience at their show. Women exist in this video as the sum of their parts or as a joke. That’s it.
So remember, I really like this song. I really do. But the music video is just uncreative and a bit sexist. There were so many more options for the producers than just putting the men on the street to catcall before their show. It sends the wrong message to viewers, enforcing the idea that catcalling is charming and cool and that women exist in public space for the approval and enjoyment of men. And it’s just really boring. Personally, my first idea would be to do something with the visuals to tribute old funk masters.
Now that I’ve written this article and vented about how disappointing the video is, I’m going to stick to listening only (or perhaps watching school theater departments do it.)
And now for a bit of comedy. Someone cut video of Obama to make him sing “Uptown Funk.”