MTV worries me… Part 2; Guns and Sexual Power

Videophone Beyonce Lady Gaga

Two of my very favourite female pop musicians right now have come together to create (okay, okay remix) a dirty great slice of harsh, nasty, catchy hip-pop. Cause for celebration? Yes… and no. (Oh, come on! As if I could leave well alone!)

The song, Video Phone, has been around for a while on Beyonce’s I Am… Sasha Fierce album (of which I am a proud owner!) but it has had a re-vamp with new vocals from Lady Gaga for the album’s re-released Deluxe edition. Now, much as I LOVE Beyonce (and much as the song is sexy and catchy and all that), I’d always found the lyrics of this song hard to swallow.

The lyrics all point to a woman allowing a sexual partner to film her whilst they have sex – “What, you want me naked? If you liking this position you can tape it on your video phone” – so that he can remember her later whenever he watches it.

Beyonce is often portrayed as a powerful woman, which is probably the main reason I like her. But this song feels devoid of power… I mean, as Paris Hilton knows only too well, once you create amateur porn for a boyfriend (and the ‘male character’ in this song seems a lot less long-term, and trust-worthy, than that), your lack of control with the output leaves you in a rather powerless position.

With this song Beyonce (who is always said to have buckets of class) was basically saying that she would pull out some amateur dramatics in the bedroom for any old Tom, Dick or Harry to film on their phone and then wank over later. Before showing it to their friends, probably. And then leaking it onto the internet. Oh, Beyonce… that’s disappointing.

Video Phone Beyonce Bike

Which brings me to the new Video Phone music video that has just come out. Take a look and try to count how many times a gun pops into frame. Personally, I’m not even going to try. I just know it’s A LOT. There are A LOT of guns. And what do lots of guns signify?

I think the answer is; lots of power. And it’s interesting to think that the prop of a gun is used here as a shorthand for power, since the lyrics of the song are so lacking in any real power. It’s as if the art directors knew the pitfalls of the lyrics and decided they needed to lay on the visual references to tell the audience that whatever it is they think Beyonce’s saying, she’s still the one in control.

Videophone Beyonce Guns

The video starts off like a scene from a Tarantino film, before Beyonce gets her first pair of many guns (Oooh and safety specs too! Go to respect the health and safety, eh B?) with which to taunt some men she’s put hoods over and tied to chair. Isn’t torture sexy?

Videophone Beyonce Masked Men

Well, I’m going to have to say ‘no’, because whenever I see hoods like this I am reminded of Amnesty International’s horrific film Waiting For The Guards that highlighted the use of ‘Stress Positions’ during interrogation torture. But, hey, that’s just me.

Video Phone Beyonce Phallic Gun

Of course there’s something to say about the phallic symbolism all tied up in guns, something Beyonce brings our attention to as she strokes a gun shaft and sings “I know you like that.”

Not to get too Freudian or anything (’cause what did he know, eh?!) but with the prop of a gun, Beyonce is being gifted an aggressive sexual power that women aren’t ’supposed’ to usually have. She is threatening, and threatening the viewer and the men in the video with her sexuality. This is something we usually expect only men to do because they have the phallus, and therefore, the tool to rape. But not this time! Beyonce’s got plenty of phalluses and she’s not afraid to shoot you, the viewer, in the face with them.

Would it be childish at this point to draw your attention to the fact that Lady Gaga only ever has one gun throughout the whole video? And that, compared to Beyonce’s arsenal, it’s a bit on the small side… What does that tell us about who is the Star of this video?

Video Phone Beyonce Lady Gaga

The more I watch this video, the more it begins to read like a revenge fantasy. As odd characters appear with camera’s for heads, Beyonce is happy to dance for these voyeurs. However, later on we see her shooting them with a cross bow. Did the naughty camera-heads disrespect her trust, show their footage to the world and then get what was coming to them? Or was it all just an elaborate honey-trap? Either way, Beyonce comes out of this video looking like a Black Widow spider. The target even looks like a web, for chrissakes!

Videophone Beyonce Camera Men

Video Phone Beyonce Cross-Bow

Videophone Beyonce Dead Camera Man

Okay, so after a few viewings the video remains gloriously baffling. But one thing is certain; guns are NOT COOL. Beyonce, what were you thinking? People die because of guns. I don’t care how colourful or plastic looking they are, writhing around with them and posing every which way with them is really not a good look. Tsk, I thought you were more responsible than that!

It saddens me that Beyonce, who I do believe is a strong woman, has been made (?) to fall back on the lazy metaphor of guns just to show how strong she can be. Ultimately, and in my opinion, it only makes her look weak.

(Still images taken from Beyonce ft. Lady Gaga – Video Phone (remix) music video)

By: Sarah Barnes, 17.11.2009 | Comments (1)
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