Business News Education & Events The Great Escape 2014

Pop misogyny debate turns to music videos, empowerment and porn at The Great Escape

By | Published on Thursday 15 May 2014

Blurred Lines: The Video Dimension

Having asked what steps could be taken to improve equality in the UK music industry, and what can be done about misogyny in pop when the most controversial music is coming out of the US, the third part of the ‘Blurred Lines’ strand at The Great Escape last week looked more deeply at music videos.

Led by Caroline Bottomley from Radar Music Videos, the debate included Phil Tidy, a prolific producer who has collaborated with Diane Martel, director of the ‘Blurred Lines’ video; Craig Haynes, content manager for electronic music YouTube channel UKF; Jerry Barnett, founder of free speech group Sex And Censorship; and De La Muerta (aka Deborah Scanlan and Elizabeth Adams), regular directors for artists such as Kyla La Grange, Lulu James and Chlöe Howl.

Tidy began by saying that he felt that nudity in videos had become more prevalent and more accepted in recent years, but noted that the problems being debated here weren’t new. As an example, he mentioned ‘Bicycle Race’ by Queen, which features 65 topless women riding bicycles, adding: “The lyrics in that song are massively derogatory. But I think now there are more things like that with the combination of images and lyrics”.

On the personal responsibility of video directors, Adams said: “We get a lot of free rein. Obviously the people with the money do get to have their say, but we always try to speak to the artist and try to find out who they are as a person. If they want to be sexy, then that’s OK, but if not, we’ll do something different. The way that we make videos, we don’t ever want to put anything out that adds to a sexist or misogynistic world view”.

Scanlan added: “We make videos for people, not just women. We want to make videos about people, and sex is a part of that. If we just show an arse, that’s serious objectification, but if you show a whole person that’s OK, I think”.

While not creating videos itself, UKF is a curator of music videos, and a massively popular curator at that, with over seven million subscribers. Haynes admitted that other channels within the AEI Media network, of which UKF is a part, do feature scantily clad women, but he felt that this was done in a way that was not focussed on simple titillation. Meanwhile on UKF itself, that has never been prevalent in the videos the service selects.

“I don’t think UKF is actively making a stand, or avoiding that type of video, but it just doesn’t fit what we’re doing”, he said. “There is definitely a sense of responsibility there, and ultimately you have to credit your audience with a decent amount of intelligence. If it was just girls shaking their asses, I don’t think our audience would be into that. They’re quick to critique videos, and they’re very into stories, so it isn’t right for our audience and they’d see through that”.

Asked if artists like Miley Cyrus were being empowered or exploited by taking their clothes off in videos, Scanlan said: “It would be objectifying a person we don’t know to say what they’re doing. As long as Miley is doing it for herself, then that’s fine. We’re not into ‘slut shaming’. As long as a person is doing it for themselves, then it’s empowering”.

Adams added: “I think every pop artist ever has been exploited, because there’s a whole industry built around them to make money. It’s how they present themselves within that”.

Barnett added: “Why not the third option that she’s doing what she enjoys, and she’s not trying to represent all women? This language never applies to men. In the ‘Blurred Lines’ video, the women do seem to be in powerful roles. They’re nearly always standing, looking into the camera. It’s only women this standard is applied to, never to men”.

He added: “No one would have batted an eyelid over ‘Blurred Lines’ in the 90s. This is more about moral panic than anything else”.

That moral panic, he felt, was one being engineered to allow for new censorship laws to be passed. The panel all agreed that putting age ratings on music videos online, something the BBFC has announced it will pilot this year, would be in effectual.

“Our business model is based on more views, so it would harm us to limit it”, said Haynes. “The easiest way to get kids to watch something is to tell them they can’t. Some channels are skewed to younger people, but say they’re 18+ to get that audience”.

On where this would lead, Barnett said: “First you put age ratings on this and everyone ignores them. Then David Cameron says, it’s outrageous that this isn’t working, now we need to do X, Y, Z. I think later this year we’ll see moves to put internet censorship into law. The BBFC will start age rating videos, and then they’ll go back and say this isn’t working because the internet lets everyone in”.

Listen to the debate in full here:

And read all of our articles on the ‘Blurred Lines’ strand at this year’s Great Escape, and listen to all four sessions in full here.


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