Sunday, 11 August 2013

Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll

The release of the Arctic Monkeys fifth studio album AM is now less than a month way, in the mean time to keep us happy they have released the third single 'Why'd you only call me when your high?' alongside a supporting music video. Amazingly, the seemingly innocuous video has already received complaints of both being sexist and glorifying the use of illegal narcotics. While being a part of the same music video, the two issues share little else in common, so I will split this entry into two parts, in order to give both topics the specific attention they need.


As Steven Fry once stated "It's now very common to hear people say, I'm rather offended by's simply a whine" and cases like this really do hammer home is point. Never at any point while watching the video did I think that women had been objectified and was amazed to discover that some women felt this way. Yes there is a brief shot of the girl Alex is texting on a motorbike but a naked body is in no way sexual and I firmly believe stems from the increasing Americanisation of Britain and the prudishness, that is imported along with it. The fact 'Alex's girl' is depicted as having sex in no way objectifies her, the sex is clearly consensual and the video most certainly isn't using the 'Male Gaze' to draw in male viewers, as there is simply nothing rewarding to men watching the video. In fact the notion that a women having sex being deemed as objectification is sexism in itself as it implying that women only play a passive role in sex and therefore simply become an 'object'. which is a Victorian idea and not acceptable in the 21st century. In fact when Alex leaves the pub, his girl is depicted as flirting with another man and is quite clearly taking the lead in the conversation; similarly she is seen giving oral sex to the taxi driver which is hardly a passive role. What also makes the feminists arguments look one sided and shallow, is the fact that not one has claimed the men having sex in the video are being sexualised or objectified which is double standards and makes me believe that feminists are not interested in equality but the subordination of men.

Similarly, there are a huge amount of music videos were men are objectified in order to attract female viewers and yet I'm yet to see a feminist bat an eyelid, or encourage a similar men's movement. On the contrary, often feminists despise men's rights activists and have in the past physically assaulted male right activists. One video that clearly objectifies men is for the very annoying 'Call Me Maybe', in which the male character is objectified in several ways. The first one of these is sexual objectification, just 19 seconds into the video the man slowly removes his T-shirt to reveal a 6 pack, clearly something most women find sexy and desirable.He also ticks the boxes of other traits that the western world finds attractive such as a symmetrical face, tall and quite fashionable. The male is also simply seen a tool, as throughout the video he is seen doing odd jobs such as, mowing the lawn and fixing his car. At no point in the video does it suggest that Carly is interested in the male for anything other than his looks and his ability to do odd jobs women traditionally struggle with. When at the end of the video the character does show some concern for Carly after she faints, it turns out moments later that he is gay, perhaps used for comedy purposes but alternative could have been used to show why he showed some concern for her; after all many women's perspectives on straight men are that they are inconsiderate dicks. Why is it completely acceptable for a video to suggest that mens value should be derived from their DIY abilities and looks, yet unacceptable for women to be portrayed in a similar manner? Feminism is supposed to be about equality for both genders and feminists need to quickly decide if they think it's ok for both genders to be sexualised or neither, as the current mindset is sexist towards men and patronising towards women. The women in the Arctic Monkeys video consented to be in the video and she has just as much right as any feminist, to decide what counts as objectification. Even if the female category was sexualised it isn't necessarily a problem as there is nothing wrong with sex or being sexy, but often you get the impression that feminists think of all men as potential rapists, who just need something to trigger their urge.

Another point I've seen made by feminists is that the video lacks a strong female character. It's a completely ludicrous argument, particularly as it is a male musician portraying himself in his own story and I find it offensive that people feel the need to patronise women by giving them a meaningful role in everything released by the media. The majority of people on the street are male but this makes sense in the context of the story as men tend to be stronger, more aggressive and indeed more likely to do the jobs portrayed in the video such as run a kebab shop. I don't for one minute think that the audience would have felt Alex was as vulnerable, had a petite women abused him on the floor or if two women had tried to intimidate him when he looked down the back alley. Another issue with this claim is that it isn't the Arctic Monkeys job to try and meet quotas, it is their job go try and tell their story to the world the way they want to. If feminists wish to have strong and empowered female characters in music videos, why can't they start their own bands and tell their story's the way in which they choose to. 

I am of course aware that my previous paragraph will have offended some feminists who no doubt will be thinking to themselves 'but women can be just as strong as men.' And they'd be right, some women are are stronger than some men but this isn't the case in general. This is an important point because when you only have a few minutes to tell your story you are going to have to rely on stereotypes and 2D characters as it isn't feasible to portray realistic and full characters in that time. People while watching the video easily recognise popular stereotypes such as skin head in tracksuit connotes violent male, when any rational person realises that in reality there will be many fine individuals with skin heads, who wear tracksuits. Further proof that it isn't only women that suffer because of stereotyping is the 'When the Sun Goes Down' video, if an alien came to earth and saw that video he would think all men are violent and misogynistic.  

The point I would take from this is that feminism is no longer necessary in the UK as women do have equal rights to men and in some cases such as divorce, custody and criminality they are treated superiorly to men. It has now reached the point were feminists are having to search for something to offend them, it is quite frankly a ridiculous state of affairs when a man can no longer hold a door for a women in fear of being branded as sexist. Feminists are by no means the only people to search for offence either, people who sit and watch programs after the watershed and instead of changing the channel, complain to OFCOM when they see something they re offended by. The worrying thing is that society as a whole tip toes around these whines, in fear of causing further offence and being berated by newspapers like the Guardian.The only group that have any right to have complain about the video is in fact homosexual, as Alex is in such a state that the taxi driver wont take him, he is called a prick by a passer by and nearly gets into a fight with two men, yet the gay man still seems to want to have 'fun' with Alex and it could be argued it is perpetrating the myth that gay men are obsessed with sex and fancy every man. But the fact that Keith Allen who portrays the gay is often rumoured to be gay on the internet, it is likely to be a joke between him, the internet and the Arctic Monkeys.


One accusation the music industry and more specifically of the rock industry, is that it glamorises drug use to children and 'Why'd You Only Call Me Your High' has been accused of this. I think the main point in this video is that their is no suggestion that Alex has taken anything illegal at the start of the video, as he seems to have taken on many of the characteristics of being drunk, such as the way he is staggering around, the blurred vision when he looks into the mirror and the fact he has yet to start hallucinating. Yet after giving him a shot, the camera begins to wobble and there is a flash of blue light suggesting Alex has been spiked. Clearly Alex is in a poor state following this shot and is very vulnerable while out on the streets; he falls over, nearly gets into a fight, nearly gets run over and has lost all sense of direction. This means it in fact works as a warning to young people about leaving your drink unattended and accepting drinks that you haven't seen pored yourself.

Never in the video is Alex being high glamorised, nor is ever shown receiving a reward for being high. This is in stark contrast to many Hip Hop artists who glamorise the use of drugs and make it seem a cool thing to do. yet escape the scrutiny of rock artists. I would even argue that the video is similar the ones often shown in PSHE classes, were the message is drugs are bad and the students are told nothing of positive affects, yet as soon as a rock band touch the subject it is branded as encouraging drug use. Even rocks most notorious drug addict Peter Doherty no longer glamorises his drug use and recently admitted he was so addicted to drugs, the only way he would ever quit is if somebody chopped his arms off.

However had the Arctic Monkeys decided to glamorise drug use I don't believe that it would necessarily be a bad thing. The main reason for this is that the target audience of the Arctic Monkeys is predominantly mid teens and above and therefore their fans should already know the dangers of drugs and not be mature enough not to blindly copy their idols. It is far more dangerous for people like Katy Perry to glamorise excessive and irresponsible use of alcohol in videos like 'Last Friday Night', when her younger fan base are more likely to use her as a role model and imitate her behaviour. Similarly  Harry Styles is often pictured extremely drunk, yet parents still take their children to One Direction gigs. One reason for this may simply be the fact that alcohol is legal, while other drugs are not and if this is the case it is a problem that society needs to address, as alcohol can be just as dangerous and addictive and other drugs. Of course I'm not advocating censorship of either alcohol or drugs, but simply highlighting the hypocrisy of concerned parents and 'do gooders,' that I believe only exists because of the governments out dated and out of touch mindset towards legalisation of drugs. After all why should the government be able to tell its citizens what they can and can't put in their own bodies and the very fact that they do suggests we are simply seen as Parliaments property and not free citizens.

Ryan Kelly

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