Sunday, October 5, 2014

Stalker Videos: Then and Now

They say the only bad publicity is no publicity.

In the past week, Maroon 5's Adam Levine has generated a lot of publicity thanks to his sensational new video "Animals." When I say "sensational," I mean the stricter definition of the word, as in "causing great public interest and excitement." I do not — definitely do not — mean the more colloquial interpretation of excellent, fantastic or awesome. Actually, I am still in a bit of awe, having watched the thing. What awes me is that the video goes to endless staging and editorial ends to ensure that all the private junk of the clearly naked model is obscured, while dousing her in blood.

Apparently, blood — lots and lots of it — is okay. Nipples? Not so much.

This fits in perfectly with our society's acceptance of violence and prudishness about nudity. Movies, for example, will earn an R or X (or dreaded NC-17) rating for bare bodies. But, murder, dismembered limbs, shootings, stabbings, gore-a-palooza ... that's PG or PG-13.

"Animals," is a disturbing (deeply disturbing) best-of-both-worlds. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet of sex and blood. In fact, it's sex in blood. It's one hot mess by anyone's measure. And, what may be the most perverse thing of all is that it quite literally equates a blood bath with orgasmic passion.

Maybe I'm not the target audience. But who is?

In the video, Levine plays a butcher who develops a crush on one of his customers (portrayed by the singer's real-life wife, model Behati Prinsloo). He stalks her, following her on the street by day, staring up at her window after dark (the usually handsome Levine is particularly creepy in a hoodie and thick glasses).

In case we don't get it, the lyrics confirm that he's a predator.

Baby, I'm preying on you tonight
Hunt you down, eat you alive
Just like animals, animals
Like animals

Maybe you think that you can hide
I can smell your scent from miles
Just like animals, animals
Like animals

Clearly, she is his prey. And, if we have any doubt that he considers her a rare and succulent piece of meat, the stalking footage is intercut with Levine bumping and grinding to butchered carcasses in back of his shop. The climax (pun intended) of the video is the two of them making love, covered in blood.

There has been outrage over the video — as everyone involved no doubt expected — from individuals and a number of organizations, including RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Bottom line? The video is offensive on so many levels and, I would argue, it's much worse than that. The graphic images, combined with the music and the allure of a superstar, may incite copy-cat behavior from obsessed and less-than-all-there fans. Why would people of power and influence put images like these out there, knowing that they're glorifying rape and murder? 

This isn't a matter of censorship. It's a matter of gross irresponsibility.

But, isn't it creative? Not even! Despite the excessive use of stage blood (I hope it's stage blood!), Maroon 5 didn't even come up with a new concept. Turn back time a quarter of a century and watch George Michael's "Father Figure."

In that video (from Michael's huge hit album Faith), the singer plays a cab driver who develops a crush on one of his passengers (sound familiar?). He stalks her, showing up at a runway show (she's a model), lingering in doorways, compulsively cutting out pictures of her. In case, we don't get it, he sings that "sometimes love can be mistaken for a crime." But, the refrain demonstrates nobler emotions as well:

I will be your father figure
Put your tiny hand in mine
I will be your preacher teacher
Anything you have in mind
I will be your father figure
I have had enough of crime
I will be the one who loves you
Until the end of time

Yes, it's still creepy. And as a feminist and the mother of a teenage daughter, I do see disturbing elements in it. But, it's nowhere near as graphic or threatening. Much of the video is filmed in black and white with a smoky film noir feeling. It was stylish and cutting edge (Michael was one of music video's leading innovators in the 80s). It was sexy, without being ... well ... downright disgusting.

I'm 52 years old, and naturally I'm going to gravitate to the culture that was popular when I was young rather than that targeting today's generation. Alone in my car, I prefer George Michael to Maroon 5. I don't think I'm becoming more conservative as I get older. I still think of myself as liberal and artistic.

But, I don't think music videos should show women being stalked (yes, that includes yours, George dear). And I certainly don't think that the media should present images that equate sex and a bloodbath. Music videos in general have objectified women since the genre began.

Mr. Levine, you have taken it to a new low. Let's just hope no one tries to take it lower.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at  

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