I feel really dumb for needing to comment on this subject, but I’m so frustrated with what I’m seeing today pertaining to the #AskThicke Twitter pile-on. Before I go on a messy rant, I want to make clear that I’m not defending the Robin Thicke’s character, or the fact that his most popular song perpetuates bad ideas. (Should I put that last sentence in all caps for all of you opportunistic over-reactors?) I just think that the aim of your aggression is misappropriated.
Believe me, I had to quickly come to terms with the lyrical content of “Blurred Lines” when the song got so popular/infamous and people started begging me to play it at my solo shows. Always reluctant to learn something that’s wildly popular, naturally, upon first listen I was rolling my eyes thinking, “Oh God, it’s more of that ‘I’m-a-Casanova-with-a-sexual-prowess-you-ain’t-never-seen-before’ schtick you so often hear in mainstream music.” Yet, lame and douche-baggy as the mindset is, I get it. In a club setting (which is the setting for this song) men often over-inflate their sexual self-image because we mistakenly think that trumps all other indicators of attractiveness and will amplifies our desirability. We’re idiots. Forgive us.
Anyway, shortly after learning the jaunty tune I watched the tide start to turn on “Blurred Lines” for allegedly promoting rape culture. Rampant trending of this topic created backlash that even having Pharrell in your hit song couldn’t stop. In the blink of an eye, Robin Thicke became the punch line of snarky tweets, putting him in the company of Vanilla Ice, except with a dose scorn that Vanilla dodged with his “feasible rhymes you can vision and feel.”
The problem I have with this selective moral outrage is that there is not a single lyric in the song that expresses forcing oneself on another person. Not one. Go and read the words. “I know you want it,” is not “You’re gonna take it.” And, yes, the song promotes objectification. And even worse, it is mainly about encouraging infidelity – which is my beef with it. But this onslaught turning Robin Thicke into the poster boy for a rapist mindset that’s supposedly indicative of how all males think in our society is a bit wrong-headed. If you’re truly on a crusade to eradicate rape culture in popular music, you better turn your attention to a whole lot more artists in the rap/hip-hop genres other than zeroing in on this one guy.
Is “Blurred Lines” a scummy portrayal of a guy seducing a married woman in a club? Yep. And, true, the rap section (not performed by Robin Thicke, mind you) does make mention of rough sex, as if to say that the woman’s husband/partner doesn’t fulfill her kinkier side in the way that the narrator/rapper can. It’s asinine for sure. But T.I. then follows up that thought with “So I just watch and wait for you to salute and choose this pimp..”, so it’s a bit qualified… just barely. He’s waiting on the sidelines fantasizing, not slipping drugs in her martini.
I get that people can interpret the lyrics as threatening, predatory, creepy, etc., but even still there’s no mention of doing something against another person’s will. Sorry. You’re not going to find it.
At any rate, the larger point I’m wanting to make isn’t about the particulars of this stupid, but admittedly catchy song. It’s about the phenomenon of a concept taking off and being reinterpreted for everyone’s own purposes – the purpose of unloading on a supposed figurehead of a societal problem, even if that person’s not truly a prime example. They just become a scapegoat and the mob piles on. It’s frightening.
The behavior is midly akin to the mania that at one point in our history gave impetus to witch hunts. Or an even more familiar example would be in grade school when someone is suddenly declared unpopular, and it immediately became the thing of the day/week to pick on this person. I’ve been there. All of the sudden, people start enjoying spewing venom at the supposed offender. And that’s when it becomes less about the original offense, and more about the criticizer feeling like they just got a level up in their identity ranking. To hate on a celebrity gives the criticizer even more of a jolt because it’s like you’re dethroning a royal.
Certainly, social media has exacerbated our participation in these figurative public stonings. And, sadly, the ‘pile-on’ phenomenon is a well-accounted for behavior that has existed for all recorded history. So it seems it’s just a natural part of humans existing in a group. Except now that Twitter has become our digital stone-casting forum, one is safe and removed from actually threatening a real person. Hell, if people were capable of doing it in Biblical times with an actual person standing there, it’s no wonder there’s no restraint when people click the tweet button. You don’t even have to warm up your throwing arm.
Talk about objectification. Absolutely laying into someone with no regard for their being is totally a form removing their human qualities for your own gain. It’s objectification without the sexual undertones, but the goal is still the same – you get gratification at the expense of the other person. I’m not saying Robin Thicke isn’t getting some kind of karmic recourse. There’s probably some reason this is all coming to him because where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. It’s just interesting to note the parallels between what the stone-casters are decrying and the behavior they’re in turn displaying.
This is what worries me about where we’re heading as a culture and what social media has facilitated. I’d always read that ‘mob rule’ was the weakness of pure democracies, and now I’m starting to understand why. Shit can get out of hand really fast. And often times the snowball is rolling before people realize that what they’re railing against may not even be 100% true.
It’s particularly scary to see the way social media has changed how people participate in politics. I see people commenting on politicians’ social media posts, saying incredible vile things – things far more vile than any of the lyrics in “Blurred Lines.” Have we really become this disconnected? Is it really okay to have zero consideration that you’re talking to another person through these media? Imagine if our political system were tied into Twitter, where we could vote on issues in real time. We’d go back to the days of beheadings and pillorying people, I bet.
Can we just slow down a bit, people? You don’t have to jump on every band wagon and participate. It’s not an original thought, but can’t you see that the social mechanisms which were at play to create the high school pecking order you once experienced have now forever been extended into all public spheres thanks to social media? Ask yourself how being sorted-out in such a way made you feel then. And now ask your self if you want to contribute and perpetuate that stupid social framework on for the rest of our lives. You don’t need that self-righteous pat on the back you get after cutting someone else to shreds in 140 characters or less. Do something better with your time.
I probably should have instead of writing this.
R.I.P Robin Thicke’s career.. you were actually talented and not many knew it.