Saturday, October 4, 2014

Is Maroon 5's video for "Animals" really that bad?

by Melissa Scott, Writing Intern

As music videos go, I can appreciate a good thriller. Watching the same sappy romance or depressing breakup songs play out over and over again gets dull. Sometimes a shocking twist satisfies. The new “Animals’” music video, from Maroon 5 may take shock too far and “graphic” a little too seriously.

The song comes from Maroon 5’s fifth studio album, V, released August 29. With lyrics threatening “baby, I'm preying on you tonight, hunt you down eat you alive,” I would hardly expect a conservative video representation. But I never could have imagined a bloody butchering either. In the stalker-fantasy video, lead singer Adam Levine plays a geeky but unnerving butcher, who obsessively stalks one of his female customers—played by Levine’s real-life wife, Victoria’s Secret model, Behati Prinsloo. Levine’s obsession intensifies as the video carries on, leading to him breaking into Prinsloo’s room while she sleeps, and culminating in a fantastical sexual blood bath. Disturbing.

Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Samsung
Some condemn the video for its “trivialization” of sex crimes and abuse. The Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), the largest anti-sexual assault group in the US, spoke out against Maroon 5’s dissemination of the video. RAINN’s vice president of communications, Katherine Hull Flifet, protested in a statement Wednesday: “Maroon 5’s video for “Animals” is a dangerous depiction of a stalker's fantasy — and no one should ever confuse the criminal act of stalking with romance.” She insisted, “The trivialization of these serious crimes, like stalking, should have no place in the entertainment industry.”

The video definitely caught me off guard coming from the band that made classic tearjerker “She Will Be Loved.”  But Maroon 5 has consistently explored obsessive and violent love themes. In the “Misery” music video, a woman brutally beats and abuses Levine. Then, guns, fire, and explosions erupt through “Payphone,” and a gruesome car accident mutilates Levine’s love interest in “Maps.” (editor’s note: In “Wake Up Call,” Levine “had to shoot him dead”) So this gory psychotic angle doesn't deviate much from the usual dramatic Maroon 5 visuals.

Regarding RAINN’s issues with sexual assault representation, the video hardly endorses the criminal activity. Samuel Bayer, the video’s director, very carefully avoids actual commentary in the video. The portrayal could be seen in two ways. Quite possibly, it warns against the dangers of stalking, by terrorizing the viewer. Clearly, the representation confronts the idea that horrors like this exist. In fact, protests that it “trivializes” sex crimes seem off. Maybe the warning goes a step too far, but accusing Bayer and Maroon 5 of mocking or tolerating such activity seems unfair.

I think the most disturbing element of the video, dripping blood and knives aside, is its undeniably attractive quality. Shots of Levine and Prinsloo’s usually naked bodies flash from every angle—and the fact that this duo includes People’s Sexiest Man Alive and a Victoria’s Secret Angel . . . . Watching an aggressive couple in the heat of passion, drenched completely in slimy blood, should be sickening. Yet, there’s something transfixing along with the revulsion. I’m not alone. The video has received over 7.2 million views, in the four days since it was released, and the song rests comfortably at sixth on the US iTunes singles chart.

The style of video matches the song. Rather than administering a staggering interpretation of the lyrics, the story-line follows believably. Hearing menacing lines like “Maybe you think that you can hide, I can smell your scent from miles” forces a mental image of a psycho stalker - no other representation would fit. “Animals” plainly tells the story of a dangerously unbalanced man unwilling to let go of a past relationship. Meanwhile, the song came out over a month and a half ago, but no one sounded an alarm or questioned anyone’s morality then.

This video is disturbing, repellent, and possibly evil. It is also realistic. Maybe it’s that realism which makes the vivid display so taboo. Katherine Hull Flifet believes that this representation “should have no place in the entertainment industry.” But what exactly separates the acceptability of crime shows and horror films from Maroon 5’s approach here?
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2 comments:

  1. I love Maroon 5 but I agree with this. Just cheap publicity and creepy too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This isn't even normal ! Think about all the teens watching this.

    ReplyDelete

 
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