Can Pop Music Really Parody Itself?
Lily Allen’s recent viral video “Hard Out Here" doesn’t so much parody pop music as it demonstrates how little space there is between parody and pop. Allen is ostensibly sending up various other uber-popular songs, including ones by Three-Six Mafia, Robin Thicke, and most obviously, Miley Cyrus. “Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you?” she sings before fellating a banana at the behest of a suit-wearing white dude and smirking ironically as her black dancers gyrate in slow-motion amid product-placed cars and booze.
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I know I’m late on this Lily Allen thing but trying to figure out how I feel about it. I’ll be the first to say I like her general vibe and will always cheer on a (comparatively) big hipped pop icon who just doesn’t seem to give a (comparable) fuck.
The lyrics are obvious, the imagery are obvious, it’s all obvious parody. None of the ass shaking or slowmo here is particularly sexy, and most of the twerking is sped up to look unnatural and cartoonish rather than sexual. By the time you hear the word “bitch” auto tuned and set to a rhythm repeated a bunch of times, set to the visual of Lily Allen doing the robot in front of a marquee of balloons that says “Lily Allen has a baggy pussy” you can’t help but laugh and give her props for having quite the pair (of balls guys, not boobs. I’m saying she has balls).
There is even a small moment at the end of the video where Lily leaves her sexy pose to walk impatiently and naturally off the stage, and all the other dancers break their shoulders-back-chest-out dancer positions to become normal people again, showing us that yes, this is all pretend and these are real women.
My biggest issue though - the white guy who represents her record exec or who ever he is. An old white dude in a suit with a cell phone is an obvious representation of “the system” or “the media” or “the government” or whatever “THEM” we want to identify as oppressing, opposing, or somehow otherwise and unrightfully influencing “US.” This is where the simple and the obvious and the parody get in the way of the message.
There is not some faceless hoard of white men that is single handedly responsible for perpetuating irrational female beauty standards. There is no clear cut answer to who is responsible, but more importantly I think we stop distinguishing the “us” from the “them,” - solely blaming men or the media or whoever “them” we imagine to be out there is denying ourselves of our own individual responsibility to promote strong, individual women who are comfortable in their own definition of sexuality, and not someone else’s.
Anyways, it’s a funny video. Way to go girl.