We’re Better Than This: Thoughts On Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda Video

I finally forced myself to watch the now-viral (now at over 24M views!) Anaconda video by Nicki Minaj. After much hoopla surrounding its debut, I decided to take a break from all the tragedy in the news to check out what else is going on in pop culture (besides EVERYONE and their grandma doing the ALS ice bucket challenge. I have not been challenged yet…phew).

…and I can’t get those 4:50 of my life back.

Anaconda is the second single off of Nicki’s soon-to-be-released The Pinkprint album. And if this is what we have to look forward to, well, I’ll pass.

Actually, I watched the video at the behest of my beau, who wanted to know my thoughts. After all the social media buzz, I was curious, admittedly. But as a woman who identifies as a womanist and as someone who tries not to judge other women for expressing their sexuality as they see fit, the entire time I spent watching this video, I cringed.

 

Why? Well, there are really 3 main reasons why I’m NOT here for that Anaconda video:

1. The song SUCKS

I mean, really. Anaconda samples Sir Mix-a-Lot’s classic, “Baby Got Back” and that’s mayyybe the only likable part of it. The rest? Well, between all the expletives and sexual innuendos, it was hard to distinguish just what the point of the song was…well, other than glorifying sex.

And while I’m neither a lover or hater of Nicki Minaj (I can admit she spat BARS on Kanye’s “Monster.” But everything else I am honestly quite ambivalent about), this particular song and its accompanying video really rubbed me the wrong way. Honestly, the video carries the song. And that’s not saying very much if you’ve seen it. I don’t even believe the song could stand alone without this highly anticipated (and highly disappointing) video.

2. I have yet to understand the point of the video – other than being a gratuitous display of soft-porn

Minaj had been teasing the internet with snippets of images from the video for weeks, and finally decided to drop it at midnight on August 18th. And quite possibly every red-blooded, heterosexual male on the internet happily clicked on the link to see just what all the anticipation was about.

I waited as long as I could, and again…I can’t get those 4:50 of my life back. EVER.

I’ll spare you the frame by frame analysis of this video, but all you need to know is it is full of hind-parts, slim on subtlety (and clothing), and jam packed with…twerking. And not even “good twerking” (does that even exist?). Think…a 21st century update to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” video…on steroids, crack and molly. 

Of course, Nicki’s front and center and scantily clad giving the camera all her “sexy” (?) while mouthing the raunchy lyrics to this (terrible) song. And if you know what Nick Minaj looks like, best believe much of the attention was on her tush.

I guess Nicki said eff it and decided that the concept of the video should be to solely appeal to the “Anaconda”…if you get my drift. Because, while she had dancers, there was no choreography. And while there was a video, I have yet to understand what the story line was. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there wasn’t one.

3. (Black) Women are portrayed as objects…yet again

I (think) I get it. That video wasn’t made for me (as a heterosexual female). I get the (sometimes unfortunate) fact that sex sells…every. single. time. I understand that this is the mainstream music industry we’re talking about. And, I also get the fact that Nicki Minaj isn’t exactly the poster child of female role models (argue to the contrary if you must, but again, that’s my opinion). But what I have a lot of trouble with is the fact that throughout the entirety of the video, all I’m seeing is women being reduced to objects.

Without getting too deep in academic speak, the gaze of the camera is all you need to see to come to a similar conclusion (which mimics the stereotypical male gaze). It’s primarily fixated on one body part: the butt. And while this certainly isn’t the FIRST music video to gratuitously display pornographic views of the female body, this one got a very real visceral reaction from me for a few reasons.

First, Nicki is a woman, and the headliner of this video. She’s participating in her own objectification is seems. Now, some may argue that she’s not – she’s simply acting as a sexually liberated woman who is merely expressing her sexuality in the ways she sees fit and other people shouldn’t judge her for how she chooses to do that. That’s a very cute, liberal-minded argument on the surface. But it’s not the position I take this time.

This video doesn’t hold back and there’s something disturbingly disrespectful about it. Maybe because it’s so blatantly pornographic. Maybe because the whole point of the video is to put T&A on display. Maybe because as a (Black) woman, Nicki is front and center in the coonery foolery. It’s like she’s unapologetically cooning for these coins, and I can’t deal.

Which brings me to my next (sub) points…

This is not my attempt to make Minaj the representative for all Black women in America, because she’s not. But it’s the sad reality that in pop culture, Black superstars usually are (in the eyes of non-Black consumers).

So, while this video doesn’t represent what I’m about (or what many of my friends are about), people who don’t understand the subtle nuances of Black culture and those who see Blackness as a monolith will be inundated with stuff like this, causing them to come to the erroneous conclusion that Black women are merely modern-day hottentots on display for very little else other than pleasure – when there are so many more dimensions to us. And whether we like it or not, Black women are already disproportionately hyper-sexualized in our society. This Anaconda video does nothing to help combat that myth or to display Nicki’s lyrical talents.

To be clear, this is not me pandering to the well-worn tenets of respectability politics…at all. People of all shades and genders are multi-dimensional beings, but as we’re seeing in the news about Ferguson, MO – not everyone has accepted this as fact. What Nicki should do about this?  I can’t answer that. I don’t know, exactly. All I know is I’m not feeling what she’s doing here.

Thirdly, let’s get back to this idea of the male gaze and how this very problematic video caters to that. Now, again, some argue to the contrary, stating that Nicki’s video is very intentional about expressing her sexuality through resistance. And that’s a very smart set of arguments – except I argue that most folk (especially hetero men) don’t see it that way. At least, most men that are on my social media feeds (and in my life) don’t. Many are using it as “material” to…you know…pleasure themselves and could give two craps about whether this was about female sexual expression and resistance.

Nicki Minaj; Anaconda
Nicki had dudes like…

Now, is that Nicki Minaj’s problem? Not exactly because societal expectations of men and boys were in place well before the Anaconda video dropped. So I’m not blaming her about what other people do with the content she creates, as she can’t possibly have much control over how it’s used. What I am saying is that until it is common knowledge among men and boys – I mean until it is REALLY internalized – the fact that women ARE NOT here as mere objects to be looked upon and used, stuff like the Anaconda video will forever be controversial.

And this is the part where I have to hold some men (heterosexual) accountable for viewing this material as something for other women to aspire to or as an acceptable form of media to consume. Now, I’m not saying that all men can’t parse out the difference between superficial and unrealistic standards of beauty and what they can really snag in real life  the characteristics they can really appreciate in real life. Because I know that it’s possible to “appreciate” the Nicki Minaj’s of the world as well as the regular, everyday women they encounter. But at what point will a critical mass of men and boys no longer find this (pornographic) stuff to be entertaining…or even acceptable media to consume? What about our young boys who inevitably will soak this stuff  up and use it as a way to navigate in the world (and in their relationships with women)? What about young girls who will think this is the way to be revered and adored?

I know I’m wishing on a star here, but I look forward to the day where I see our menfolk (and people in general) resist the very base, pornographic objectification of women and when female entertainers and those with influential voices and reach will lead with something else other than stuff that’ll excite the Anaconda. We’re better than this. And we’ll all be the better for it.

 

Courtney Written by: