Friday, June 27, 2014

Robin Thicke Normalizes Harassment and Violence Against Women...Once Again

Robin Thicke’s new song, “Get Her Back,” is extremely problematic, to say the least. Between the lyrics, the music video, and his controversial song “Blurred Lines,” there is a great deal to discuss. First of all, let’s examine the lyrics. While not as blatantly misogynistic and sexually violent as “Blurred Lines,” the lyrics of “Get Her Back” suggest that Thicke will go to all ends, including stalking and harassment, in order to win back the desired woman. He says, “All I wanna do / Is get you back tonight / I gotta get to go, get to go, get her back.” While this line may not explicitly state that he will stalk her, it promotes the idea of a man relentlessly trying to “get” a woman back who broke up with him. To put it simply, this is harassment. He will continue to go to her house (i.e. stalk her) until she agrees to be with him, even though she does not want to be with him. These lyrics promote the misogynistic myth that stalking, though it is never referred to as such, is romantic when a man does it. He literally says, “I'll wait for forever for you to love me again,” implying he will not stop harassing/stalking her until she agrees to love him. These are just samples of the problems with Thicke’s lyrics.
Unfortunately, the music video might be considered even more disturbing than the lyrics. In short, the video shows a sad Thicke singing, sometimes with blood on his face, while also showing a mostly nude woman, wearing lots of make-up, in the background. In some frames, the video only shows her body; in others, it shows her drowning. And, throughout the video, there are texts that appear on the screen that show Thicke explaining he will never back down while the woman repeatedly tells him that their relationship is over. Basically, every part of this music video is problematic. Generally, as common with many music videos, this one sexualizes the woman. She wears a lot of make-up and practically no clothes; in fact, in some shots the camera only shows her buttocks. Also, sometimes she is touching Thicke’s chest in a suggestive manner. Thicke, on the other hand, is shown mostly in close-ups of his face. As was the case with the video for “Blurred Lines,” this video emphasizes the sexuality of the woman.
This music video also focuses on violence against woman. Thicke has blood on his face, implying that there was some sort of fight between the couple. If that was not enough, the woman is shown drowning in a series of repeated shots nearing the end of the video. Is this implying that Thicke is fantasizing about her drowning? Or is it showing that she cannot live without him? Either way, it disempowers the woman and punishes her for her choice to break up with Thicke.
For me, one of the most scary and real parts of the video is the addition of the text messages that appear on screen throughout it. The first one reads, “I kept trying to warn you you were pushing me too far…” This text already sets up the music video to be extremely disturbing. If this text is directed at the woman, it reads as Thicke blaming her as an excuse for something. If read as the woman texting him, the more likely situation since she ended things with him, it shows that Thicke “pushed” her too far, which could mean there was a violence, or emotional abuse, in the relationship. The texts show that this woman clearly does not want to see him, yet the last text reads, “This is just the beginning,” and the video shows Thicke walking away from the camera. He implies that he will not relent until she takes him back, which is a scary thought.
Overall, this song is disturbing. It normalizes harassment and stalking while showing Thicke as a hopeless romantic who will not give up rather than a truly frightening ex. If I could say one thing to Thicke, it would be that he can make hit songs without the use of violent, sexist imagery and lyrics. Maybe eventually he will understand how his songs disempower women.
-Emily Schacter