Laying it on Thicke

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Last Week an Auckland University student group’s video “Defined Lines,” a parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” went viral. The video, which was created by Adelaide Dunn, Olivia Lubbock and Zoe Ellwood for a revue show, was briefly removed from youtube for indecency. While youtube corrected its error fairly quickly, its action made the video an instant, international success.

If, like me, you largely live under a rock when it comes to music, Thicke’s song was this summer’s anthem despite the fact that the “blurred line” involves sexual consent. The lyrics charmingly refer to women as animals who require domestication and “want it.” The video, which consists of women either parading around topless (in the unrated version), grinding on everything from a singer to a bike, and making suggestive faces, reinforces the idea that women really do want sex, regardless of what they say.

The “Defined Lines” parody directly challenges Thicke’s message. So what do we learn from this?

  1. Rape culture is deeply entwined in American popular culture. What made the parody “offensive” were its references to “emasculation” and “castration.” If you read comments across the blogosphere, much of the criticism revolves these terms and how men’s bodies are used. If you still are not convinced that there is such a thing as rape culture or that we are profoundly uncomfortable when confronted by it, check out this parody of “Blurred Lines.” Rather than challenge the message of Thicke’s song directly, they reverse the roles and make fun of men who are considered socially unattractive. You know that an idea is entrenched in a society when challenging it creates a thunderstorm of criticism.
  2. No really, rape culture is deeply entwined in American popular culture. Thicke’s music is made for a mass public. He is in the for-profit, music business. The “Defined Lines” parody was made for a law revue show – which is a very small audience. Yet, look at the conversation their video started. Thicke’s song lyrics, on the other hand, are so commonplace in American pop music that they received little discussion.

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About Double take Sociology

I am a professor of sociology at Florida State University. I research (and write about) social movements, mass media and politics. My new book is "Abortion Politics, Mass Media, and Social Movements in America" (2015, Cambridge University Press). Be sure to visit my website at www.DeanaRohlinger.com!
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