I don’t listen to pop music much. So I only discovered Robin Thicke and Blurred Lines a few weeks ago.
After reading about the controversy surrounding the unrated video for Blurred Lines and then seeing the “rapey” lyrics and viewing both the original Blurred Lines video and the “censored,” unrated one, I could see why people call Robin Thicke a misogynist.
Plenty’s been written about how the unrated version shows women topless and wearing nude thongs and high heels, dancing badly while the men in the video are fully clothed. The men, Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell Williams, treat the women in degrading ways and the video alludes to bestiality and drug use. Robin Thicke’s video feature the hashtag #THICKE in huge red letters. The parodies show their own hashtags with performers’ names, causes and sometimes, silly words.
The best of the parodies turn the sexism on its head or use Robin Thicke’s videos as jumping off points to raise awareness of something important.
But before I list my absolute favourites, here’s an example of what not to do in a parody.
Parodies need a humourous approach. While I agree with this video’s feminist stance, for me the lack of humour makes its message fall flat:
Videos tackling women’s issues, consent
This clever parody turns Blurred Lines into a song about the women of the Texas legislature and the fight for pro-choice rights in Texas.
While the men are topless (and young, and good-looking), they’re hardly degraded and the women look comfortable in business outfits and casual wear. It looks like everyone involved had fun putting this video together.
This Ask First parody uses Blurred Lines (lyrics rewritten, of course) as an opportunity to spread the message that “Consent is Sexy.” The group is a mix of young women and men and it looks like they’re having a great time getting a “sex-positive” message out.
Gender-reversing & gender-bending parodies
Some parodies are truer to the Robin Thicke unrated video than others. A lot of what you find in Ronda Rush’s Blurred Lines (Dirty Version) Parody Cover and boylesque troop Mod Carousel’s parody is faithful enough to the original you can see how they’re mocking it.
I love the humour in these parodies. As they reverse genders and rewrite lyrics, they show the stupidity and sexism in Robin Thicke’s videos for Blurred Lines and get people questioning their assumptions.
For these parodies men take on roles women play in Thicke’s videos for Blurred Lines. A man says “Meow” in both videos, in both you see a man on all fours with a vehicle going up his back; a stop sign or something else (in Ronda Rush’s parody, featuring “Pharrell and Lil’ Rush, it’s a styrofoam cup with a smiley face) is placed on a guy’s behind, there’s a topless guy on a bicycle, a man lies on the floor and moves his legs suggestively. In both parodies, one of the men sandwiches his feet on either side of a woman’s face, just as one of the women in Thicke’s video does to Thicke. Both parodies show guys mock playing musical instruments, just as one of the women does in Thicke’s video. In Rush’s video, a man a cardboard drawing of a needle syringe replaces the huge needle syringe in Thicke’s video. In the Mod Carousel video, a big sword replaces the needle syringe. When the men brush the women’s hair in Robin Thicke’s video it looks controlling. But in the Rush and Mod Carousel parodies it looks as though the men enjoy having their hair brushed and combed. In both parodies the women alternate between masculine and feminine outfits.
In the Robin Thicke video a woman cradles a real lamb and at one point the same woman straddles a real dog. Rush has a stuffed animal lamb and real, small dogs but nothing weird’s happening, unless you consider cozying up to a stuffed animal or gently holding a small dog weird. The Mod Carousel video shows one of the guys cradling a stuffed animal tiger. In Thicke’s video at one point Thicke eats a chocolate ice cream cone. Rush eats a fudgsicle but Caela Bailey, who stands in for Robin Thicke in the Mod Carousel video, eats a phallic-looking orange treat. Thicke blows cigarette smoke in a woman’s face. Rush also blows smoke in one of the men’s faces – I’m not quite sure why she copied that part. No one blows smoke at anyone in the Mod Carousel video but they replace the huge white and red dice in Thicke’s video with pink dice. They also have one of the guys switch between sneakers and heels, just as one of the women does in Thicke’s video. Rush has one of the guys in her video wear a motorcycle visor instead of the gas mask one of the women sports in Thicke’s video. At the end of Thicke’s video the guys exchange cash. Rush and another women also trade cash but it’s laughable, they don’t look threatening. No money gets exchanged at the end of the Mod Carousel parody video.
In the unrated, “dirty” Blurred Lines video, silver Mylar balloons spell out “Robin Thicke Has a Big Dick.” Instead of Mylar balloons, Rush has the words “Ronda Rush has a Shallow Vagina,” flash across the screen. In Mod Carousel’s version, silver Mylar balloons spell out ridiculous slogans, which the men in the video change by moving letters around. First the balloons say: “Balloons R (the “R is reversed) Sex,” then “R (still reversed) Balloons Sex,” then “R (still reversed) Balls Sex” then finally, “Sex Balls.”
Some of the YouTube comments on Rush’s video show YouTube viewers don’t always get the joke. They complain that the scantily clad men in the video aren’t good-looking enough. Some of the outfits these men wear are ridiculous, and that’s the point. I like this parody, except for its rap section.
The comments on Mod Carousel’s video are even funnier. Some people are freaking out that the barely dressed men wear makeup and look gay and they don’t feel the women in the video are attractive enough. It seems a number of viewers are missing the message. But if you get it, you’ll enjoy this video’s brilliance. I agree with many viewers that Mod Carousel’s video is better than either of Thicke’s Blurred Lines videos. Poking fun at sexism is a lot more fun than watching it take over pop culture.