A couple of weeks ago we posted about Erykah Badu’s new album and linked to her newest video. The video, for a track called Window Seat was a teeny bit more controversial than I expected.
In the video, Badu walks through downtown Dallas and strips her clothes off in slow motion. Now, most people would figure that this was either a) Fake and done on a soundstage somewhere or b) Staffed with extras and cleared with the locals. It was neither.
Badu just guerilla filmed this video, strolling through Dallas while stripping in public and eventually collapsing at the scene of JFK’s assassination. A political statement, to be sure.
But let’s go through this step by step. Start with the video itself:
Why do it at all?
NPR’s The Two Way writes that:
Badu, a Dallas native, tells the Morning News that Dealey Plaza was chosen intentionally because the video — for her song Window Seat — is about “the character assassination one would go through after showing his or her self completely.”
This is entirely possible, but it’s also a bit far-fetched in my mind. Character assassination has definitely been occurring after this video, with lots of accusations and questions about why Badu would do such a thing.
This is probably the biggest thing on people’s minds. Why would she get naked? The Police apparently have begun an investigation after receiving complaints, and it’s possible that Badu will wind up with a fine. Considering the video clearly shows kids in the immediate area, I understand why parents were concerned. Nudity is not always a big deal, and some are making the argument that nudity has earned itself a bad rap.
NPR’s Tell Me More quotes TheRoot.com
And then there’s this interesting take from our friends at TheRoot.com, written by Natalie Hopkinson.
And here’s a perspective from one of our own, Tell Me More producer Jasmine Garsd:
“I think the issue here is that she’s chilling naked in a non-sexual way. People are so used to seeing over-sexualized, exploited women on TV so people freak out when they see a woman just naked, relaxing, with cellulite, some tummy (she looks great though) — ESPECIALLY a woman of color. You are supposed to be writhing next to 50 Cent all oiled up. You are supposed to be oversexed, having Nelly swipe a credit card in your butt. You are not supposed to just be naked, walking. It’s too humanizing. And even if you are not a woman of color, you are supposed to be Britney writhing half naked with a snake promising you are a virgin. How is this any less sexual than Beyonce’s new video with Gaga, or any rap video? If anything, it’s less exploitative.“
This is definitely an interesting take on the issue. Part of me honestly does agree that it’s a bit less exploitative simply because it doesn’t sexualize the nudity. Badu’s always been a bit unpredictable and also a bit of an exhibitionist. At the same time, she’s not necessarily known as someone who uses her sex as a way to sell her albums in a way that many stars do today. In this video, despite her being nude, you don’t get the sense that she’s sexing things up.
Instead, you get the feeling that she’s very comfortable in her own skin. I honestly think I wouldn’t be nearly as intrigued by this video had it not been for the JFK link.
The JFK Link
Now, Badu quickly went on the defensive after accusations that she was disrespecting JFK. On the Wanda Sykes Show, Badu made her passionate defence. Pitchfork quotes her:
Talking to Sykes, Badu defended the video, claiming “that’s what performance art is about… I think my point was grossly misunderstood all over the United States of America.” She also said that she wasn’t doing it to disrespect Kennedy’s memory, calling him “one of my heroes” and “a revolutionary, a rebel.” She goes on to say that Kennedy was “not afraid to butt heads with America, and I was not afraid to show America my butt naked truth.”
You can see the video of her interview with Sykes on a BET blog here.
Like I was saying, I don’t think the video concerns me for anything except the faux shooting. I’m not easily scandalized, and video otherwise is fine. I get why people are concerned, but Badu is no stranger to controversy so I don’t think it’s unexpected. After listening to her interview with Wanda Sykes, you can hear she genuinely does respect JFK and that she probably wasn’t trying to disrespect him. Even so, I think the video would have been a legitimate hit and a more subtle message if she had done this minus the gunshot/collapse at the end. Just my two cents.
I wonder if ?uestlove had any idea what he was getting himself into when he collaborated with her for this track.