Okay, let’s cut right to the chase. Erykah Badu’s video “Window Seat” has been heating up Facebook pretty much for the past couple of days. I was hit with an onslaught of links and “whadya thinks?” since March 29, 2010. To say the least, people were “vexed,” distraught, titillated, mortified and stupefied.
Comments ranged from questioning her sanity, to outright anger, and to kudos.
Though Miss Erykah is one of my favorite music (and performance) artists, I hadn’t taken two minutes to watch the video because I’m just not one for a hard sell (no pun intended). I like people to get all of their nutty comments, talk show appearances and morning show battles out of the way before I actually feel compelled to view something objectively.
In this case, it was the subject matter that was so compelling that I had to finally watch: the perceived exploitation of the Black woman’s body, and controlling the image of the Black woman’s body. (What could it hurt, right? Plus it’s free, so stop complaining.) I click on the one of many links and sat, and sat, and sat.
First, I wasn’t that blown over by the song itself. It was pretty standard, and I felt it was more of a “filler” song. There were no vocal pyrotechnics, or note gymnastics, but it was listenable.
I started getting that Coldplay feeling like, “Oh, here we go again. Another film school experiment in an attempt to make some big –albeit undecipherable– artistic statement.”
For those who haven’t seen the video, Ms. Badu is in the same location as President Kennedy when he was assassinated in Dallas. (OK, keep that point in mind.) Dallas is also Ms. Badu’s hometown. (Point number 2.) The film is grainy and shaky. (Nothing good can come from that given the first point.) The camera is unflinching and Erykah is never out of view.
But wait… there’s more!
As Miss Erykah is walking down a busy Dallas street, she is slowly taking off clothing. By the time she takes off her top, you’re pretty sure it’s going down a slippery slope. (No pun intended, again.)
Yes, she strips down to nature’s own scuba suit… in public. And, no, there was no permit to for the filming.
In the end is a simulated assassination.
Wow. I didn’t see that coming… given the first point. But for many Am(erykah) it was just a little too much.
As someone who still cringes at nude scenes in film, I was a little floored, and somewhat impressed that she dropped it like it was hot. One side of me thought, good for her! The other side thought, now that was just unnecessary.
Of course people are outraged, including the City of Dallas. Folks in Texas don’t take to kindly to public nudity, especially when it’s filmed.
Talk shows, including the “Early Show,” went 5150. (That’s city code for “crazy.”) Morning co-host Maggie Rodriguez almost lost her breakfast while spewing out her distaste for the video, even bringing President Kennedy and how Ms. Badu disrespected the assassinated President. (Maggie, chill the f– out.)
My own mother had an interesting (and funny) comment, “You can’t expect a child not to be traumatized by seeing a nekkid Black woman… or man!” (Of course it was said in the humor.) We laughed because it was definitely in the humor of one of my favorite Mel Brook’s movies, “Blazing Saddles”: “Excuse me while I whip this out!” Aaaaaagh!
It also brought to light a bigger issue: How does America (still) respond to the Black body?
Erykah responded via Twitter to everyone’s ire:
@fatbellybella character assassination due to mob mentality/ groupthink is the theme of the window seat video . The message is encoded.
OK, I got that, but I think that a deeper message about the Black body, America’s perception of it, and the fear, fascination and loathing it still possesses for people who never have an opportunity to see it in a positive light.
Hopefully the video will deliver a larger message and start a larger dialogue. Read Natalie Hopkinson’s take on the video and the Black woman’s body at “The Root,” and visit Erykah Badu’s Twitter account for her deeper insight into the controversy.