The new “Bad Girls” music video by M.I.A. has been circulating over the past week or so. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s posted below, and here’s one description from a LA Times blog post:
Set to M.I.A.’s Punjabi-laced chill-banger, “Bad Girls” is a lady gangsta fantasy but one that plays off very real ingredients from life in the Middle East. There’s crumbled architecture, sustained over years of attack; smouldering oil tankards; young men in kaffiyeh, standing around dangerously bored; mysterious women covered from head to toe, with only their kohl-lined eyes flashing out…
“Bad Girls” is M.I.A.’s Middle East — and in her own way, she makes it everyone’s Middle East. She’s deadpanning about having sex in cars while vamping in front of those tankard fires. Women are gyrating with AK-47s, while swathed in cheetah patterns, polka dots and gold. And like Ice Cube would (or any young dude feeling futile and angry), there are old family sedans to grab and turn into drifting, racing stunt rides, whether on Crenshaw, Eight Mile or a bullet-scarred road running parallel with an oil pipe line.
So much to talk about! Here’s our collective attempt to make sense of it.
Anneke: Did anyone see the new clip of M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls”?
Azra: Thanks for sharing this! I like M.I.A.’s beats and crazy style, but am not sure what to make of this yet (if I’m able to make any sense of it at all) – the clothes, people, pipes, cars, lyrics. I wonder why she set it in the Middle East?
Sara: The harem revisited.
With more spandex….
While I love M.I.A., anytime she does ANYTHING with Muslim women – i.e. hijab, niqab or any other imagery, I always feel like she’s just trying to position herself as the eggzotic carazyyyyyy without doing anything about it. People see it as disrupting stereotypes but she wasn’t a part of the stereotype in the first place. What does she have to do with Muslim ladies?
Sana: The video seriously pissed me off. Arab Muslim women aren’t video decor. Especially for songs that are ultimately fluff.
Azra: I don’t know ladies…I liked it. Vapid lyrics? Absolutely. But I didn’t see the women as video decor. Everyone’s having fun in the desert–women+men+kids+cars. And for once, here is a music video that isn’t a skin show. I watched it with my dad. He liked the Alfa Romeo: “I always thought it was a nice car, even though people didn’t like it.”
Eggzotic crazy is kinda harsh, Sara. I doubt MIA’s path to celebrity was easy as a woman of color, with her political commentary in her music, and her crazy sense of style. As for people seeing her as disrupting stereotypes, I think she’s always been subversive in how she presents herself musically/politically. Remember the video (and production value) of one of her first singles, Galang?
Also reread Joe’s comments on MIA’s niqab, from MMW.
What does everyone else think?
Nicole: I’m torn. On the one hand, M.I.A. has always done crazy shit, and I just feel like she is this crazy artist doing her random stuff. Like when she wore the niqab, I don’t think it meant anything other than her doing her Lady Gaga schtick. On the other hand, I’m really tired of the Arab-Muslim women as Sideshow Bob thing, people have been doing this Orientalist crap since Napoleon. At the same time, it offends me less coming from M.I.A because she is cray cray anyway, but if it was Taylor Swift or something trying to go out on the exotic tip, kind of like when she put on glasses and called herself a nerd, it would bother me more.
Diana: Just going off what Nicole said, I feel torn as well.
Although, the question of where we draw the line is looming. Sure, I understand the sentiment that maybe it is less annoying when coming from her, but why?
Is it because she is “crazy crazy,” or brown, or “eggzotic” herself?
This shouldn’t fly if these are the reasons. [Read more...]