I have a problem with Demi Lovato's "Really Don't Care." And it's not just that the melody and lyrics are direct copies from Icona Pop. And it's not because I spent last summer wondering why nobody would care if they crashed their car into a bridge. It's also not because I DID actually crash my car into a bridge last summer and started raging as my tires deflated and that song looped in my head.
Personal issues aside--the music video for "Really Don't Care" has rubbed me the wrong way, and what's worse is that I glossed over it at first. The video features Demi Lovato singing from a float in L.A.'s Pride parade, and it's interspersed with individuals and couples that we are meant to assume are gay (or identify elsewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum). Mike was the first one to introduce me to the video, after he caught it on TV. "LOOK," he said, pulling the video up on my phone, "can you guess why this pisses me off?"
At first, I could believe it. Shots from pride. Shots of two women kissing. Shots of protesters holding hateful signs outside. Nothing new to me, and certainly nothing I was shocked by. I wouldn't have questioned it if Mike hadn't challenged me to think more critically. This, by the way, is heterosexual privilege. Regardless of my whole-hearted support of gay rights, I still don't have to entertain many of the worries, struggles, or injustices that LGBT people do. I could shrug off the video because I'd seen it before, and because it wasn't reflective of me.
Regardless of orientation, we all need to take the time to think about the media that we consume and spread like wildfire. You can boycott or promote at your own discretion, but thinking critically about it shouldn’t ever be optional. I started to see Mike's point as we saw more and more of the interspersed shots in the video (the ones that weren't from Pride). The video went from capturing an actual event to hypersexualizing the LGBT community. The most prominent example is the close-up crotch shot of a man thrusting in a gold lamé speedo, which you can treat yourself to by skipping to the 1:44 mark of the video.
We're all about openness, honesty, and pride in who we are. We're especially supportive of this when it's done through music--that's why we're here! But when a form of media with a lot of influence chooses to rely on and perpetuate stereotypes--then it's a problem. To only display glittery, topless, screaming members of a large group communicates to viewers that HEY, THIS IS WHO YOU ARE (OR WHO "THEY" ARE) AND YOU SHOULD BE PROUD OF IT. If you are that way--you SHOULD be damn proud of it. But if you're not--you should be proud of that, too. That's the whole idea. Normalizing it. At the end of the video (3:44), "the LGBT community" is credited under a list of organizations and people to thank. Did you guys all sign off on this? Can a gay person confirm that for me? I know how you all know each other.
Imagine you're a fifteen-year-old who LOVES Demi Lovato. You've grown up with her since her first appearance on Sesame Street. You're also wrestling with who you are and the prospect of coming out. Again, I direct you to the 0:44 crotch shot. Does that make you feel comfortable? Do you feel right at home? ARE YOU PROUD YET? I hope so, but you'd better not read down to the comment section, which offers gems such as "since gays are being legalized, then lets legalize insets too" (sic) and "I have no problem with people being gay, but I lose all respect for them when they walk around in their underwear or naked." As an adult, I have seen people walk around in their underwear, usually when a little too much alcohol is involved. Some of them are gay. Some of them are straight. I still respect them, though I do give them hell for it the next day. I can also attest that some of my friends are both gay and are very conservative and keep their pants on and are constantly wrestling with how their world views and their sexuality/gender fit together. And they don't need any more skewed versions going viral and telling them that's who they are or who they need to be.
Please let me take a moment to clarify that I do not think Demi Lovato is necessarily responsible for this. In fact, I have always had a TON of respect for her support of various charities and causes, particularly related to mental health. She has always been transparent in her personal struggles. I think she's brave, honest, and serves as a good role model BECAUSE she opens up these conversations.
But then, let's go ahead and have the conversation. Let's pay attention to how we choose to portray the things that we support, even when we have the best of intentions. Let's ask ourselves whether we've been shown or are showing the whole picture.
As long as Lovato's being featured on this punk site (sorry!), let's talk about Sam Smith's "Stay With Me."
In this video, we see a blanket-enveloped form from 0:12-0:17. Only during the sixteenth second of the video do we see that the person in bed is a man, and that Sam Smith is walking away from the bed while singing about a one-night stand. To me, that one second is a lot more powerful than the nearly four minutes that "Really Don't Care" shows us. I had seen the video several times before I realized the person in bed was a man...which is how it should be. It shouldn't faze us. It should be equally normal, acceptable. We're opening up as a culture to the idea of LGBT relationships, but we focus on SEX and PRIDE and stereotypes. What about intimacy? In what emotionally-invested relationship does a couple spend more time having sex or thrusting about than just lying in bed next to each other, wondering what comes next? (Nobody has that stamina and that self-confidence...trust me, nobody). When was the last time you saw a gay character on TV argue about weekend plans? Or make breakfast for their kid? Or walk away from a one-night-stand like that? Intimate moments that are human, not straight or gay. Just human.