Blurred Gender Lines

Last Thursday, SwingBot had me watch Thicke’s Blurred Lines video. By coincidence, a completely unrelated source clued me into the Mod Carousel parody/gender-reversal video. I admit that I prefer the latter, but not just for the reason you might guess.

In the original video, three fully clothed men (Singing Men) hang out with three mostly-nude women (Model Women) who are probably half their age. All three women are, of course, models with appropriately flawless skin, hair only on their heads and carefully removed elsewhere, and thin builds that spare little fat, save for their perky breasts. Their facial expressions are limited, primarily being Blow-Up Doll or Bored/Sultry Magazine Cover. They prance around aimlessly, unless a man engages them.

In the parody, the women (Singing Women) are fully clothed, but even they show more skin than the original video’s men. The men of the parody (Model Men) visually match their female counterparts from the original video well: they are smooth-skinned, muscled, and lacking in clothes. Likewise, they prance around to be ogled by the singers (in this case, women).

Why I Dislike The Original

Despite the shock value of the original video (gasp, men exploiting beautiful, nubile, female bodies; I have never seen that in popular media before), I found it dull. The Model Women just wander around, pose, and drape themselves over the Singing Men, looking unengaged and bored most of the time. For the most part, the Model Women’s expressions seem vacant. They are not there for their own fun; they are there to be the source of the Singing Men’s fun. (An expression might indicate a mind behind those doe-eyes, and that would be unsexy.)

Why I Prefer The Parody

This is why the parody is much more fun to watch, in my opinion. Certainly, there is the surprise (and eye-candy) of the nearly nude Model Men, but those men seem to be having fun. They seem to be actively having fun with the women. The brunet’s expressions constantly indicate full engagement with the Singing Women; he looks like he loves his role. The bald man’s face varies much more, reacting to the things around him; he also seems like he is there for more than a paycheck. The blond does the best of recapturing the Model Women’s bland expressions; he often wears the Bored/Sultry Magazine Cover. In contrast to his fellow Model Men, this feels deliberate, as part of the parody. Certainly, his face is used most for the Magazine Cover shots in the video.

I read a few comments complaining that the men were all so beautiful and “feminine,” and a “real” gender-reversal should feature “more masculine” men. (Really, those muscles are not masculine?) I read these complaints as saying, “These idealized men make me uncomfortable; let me instead laugh at hairy fatties and scrawny nerds, like we usually have in gender-reversal parody.”

To those making such complaints, I say this:

Being made uncomfortable by the perfect Model Men is part of the point. Welcome to the world women live in every day.