The video starts out with a declaration in bright red letters: “Beauty Has No Expiration Date”. I instantly prepared myself for another John Legend-type “embrace the beauty of all women-style music video.” Though the video does include a variety of women of color, the ages and sizes don’t span as wide as they do for Legend’s “You & I” video. Fun fact: the majority (if not all) the women in this video are models. So if Pharrell was going for accepting and showcasing all sorts of diverse beauty, he could definitely benefitted from a wider range of women.
Basically, the women each get a turn dancing while the others sit around on the floor, middle school sleepover style. Except Pharrell is there? With a Super 8 camera? He occasionally films them, or is otherwise sitting in a chair, watching. I really liked the idea that all of these ladies were hanging out, dancing, and having a blast together, but Pharrell’s camera-handling gets like kinda weird. Him holding the camera brings the super obvious analogy to the male gaze. It would have been cool to see him chilling on the floor with all of these women and having him bust the same moves they are on the dance floor. Maybe even add some more guys! Everyone needs to be dancing!! Let’s stop fetishizing women dancing!! Cool.
Then Miley Cyrus comes! She sings alongside Pharrell and shows off her goofy dance moves with him (no twerking this time). Yes, I like this part. They pal around like friends, instead of having the girl that features dance below or on her knees next to the dude (like in maybe every music video ever).
Okay, but then all of these women start sexy dancing on Pharrell. Which is fine, because women embracing their sexuality is literally what I’m all about. It gets kind of skeevy though. Is this supposed to be a quasi-realisitic music video and not some sort of male fantasy? Is his wife okay with this? It feels a little like exploitation, like “Oh, here are all these beautiful women dancing for me while I film… here let me get in on the action, not by dancing like they are doing, but by having them dance on me! Nice!” At the end, they all do hug like old friends, so it's possible it's all just playful.
Rolling Stone notes that it could be sort of tongue-in-cheek reference to George Michael’s “Too Funky”, which is all about Michael filming scantily-clad models moving about provocatively. Is this Pharrell’s woman-friendly response? The ladies are wearing what seems to be like their everyday clothes and who just happened to come hang out with this superstar. In comparative creepiness, Michael totally beats Pharrell.
Ok so here’s my verdict: Men, like Pharrell and John Legend, creating music videos that are supposed to “celebrate women” have good intentions. They really do. However, this still presents the problem that “men need to liberate women from the evils of the world” - in this case, rape culture and media. Baby steps, I suppose? Still….questionable.
John Legend does an arguably better job of embracing women in his music video. Pharrell falls short, assuming this was his goal. If he had not started his music video with such a bold claim about beauty("Beauty Has No Expiration Date"), he wouldn’t have landed in this category. He probably should have just left it out. Or maybe included a more diverse cast of people (including men, who can be beautiful too.) Idk. Pharrell! Just don’t be creepy!!
Images via Vibe.com, "Come Get it Bae" Music Video