Monday, February 14, 2011

A Feminist Listening of Bruno Mars

I drafted this up a while ago and never got around to hitting 'Publish' somehow. So, for a Valentine's Day special, here's a bitter rant on something meant to be romantic...

When one is looking for social truths, one rarely turns to the top 40 pop hits on the radio. After all, we all know that those California Girls can't hold a candle to us Texas gals. But sometimes, on repeated listening, a song just offends my sensibilities so much that I have to rant about it. Maybe it's my Sarah Lawrence education that turns every thought into a thesis, and Lord knows that pesky feminism can be so debilitating in day to day life. But since everyone within earshot is sick of hearing about it, it's time to pester the blogosphere.

After just a few times hearing Bruno Mars' song 'Just the Way You Are', the cute catchy song revealed some slightly unnerving lyrics. Here's my issue: this song perpetuates some really annoying stereotypes about the way girls are supposed to act. Even while it seems to be uplifting, it is in fact rather patronizing. Let's break it down.

Right in the first verse, there's her hair. It 'falls perfectly without her trying.' Because beauty isn't beauty if you know that she used her Chi and doesn't actually wake up perfectly quaffed. But a minor infraction, you say. Perhaps I'm being a bit to nitpicky.

Fine. So explain the fact that when he compliments her she won't believe him? That doesn't seem a little strange? Sure, he says it's sad. But kind of like a pleading puppy dog's eyes are sad. Low self-esteem is such a turn on. In girls, at least. Who cares if she's apparently constantly asking him if she looks okay. Better that than a confident girlfriend who doesn't rely on your lyrical hyperbole to feel attractive.

And then there's her laugh. It's so sexy. But she hates it. Am I cynical to think that part of the reason it's sexy is that very fact that she hates it? Again, why is it so important that every attractive feature be followed by her own negation of it? After all, if she didn't need you to tell her she was beautiful every day, maybe she wouldn't need you at all.

When I think of the girl in this song, I imagine that classic Hollywood cliche where the suave gentleman pulls the glasses off of his secretary and has her shake out her hair, proclaiming in surprise that she's beautiful. And she, of course, can't believe it either. Her beauty is dependent on his viewing of it, almost as much as it is dependent on her disinterest in it. After all, if she cared, suddenly she would be a vain seductress. No, there must be innocence and naivete to match the sparkling eyes and shiny hair.

I'm sorry, but this is really not that cute. It doesn't make me think that Bruno Mars is the sweetest guy and would make the nicest boyfriend. It makes me think that he's yet another media outlet telling me and every other girl to shut up and look pretty. Pretty, of course, as judged by boys. Not yourself. You have nothing to do with it.