“Bad Girls,” Behind the Scenes

Below is the music video from M.I.A. that we viewed in class, “Bad Girls,” and further below is a fantastic short film (13 min) on the making of the video, which incidentally happened in Morocco.  As we know, all “societies” have their own gender norms, expectations or standards of “appropriate” behavior for men and for women.  Gender is also expressed symbolically, through signs conveying shared understandings of “male-ness” and “female-ness,” masculinity and femininity.

The actions, gestures, and appearances of men and women in the video scramble traditional gender norms — as well as other cultural stereotypes.  Director, Romain Gavras, explains their approach: “We didn’t want to portray guys versus women…this debate is outdated for a music video.”  Long obsessed with cars and “drift” — “the sport, the physicality of it” — M.I.A. had been looking to incorporate the concept into her work.  “It’s a unifying concept,” according to Gravas, “not something that divides men and women. Each time an Arab woman appears on screen, the audience expects a lecture such as ‘Arab men beat their wives, that’s why they yearn to be free.’ Whereas here, there is no already-given social meaning.”  Drifting, just as popular among Arab youth as American, transcends regional, ethnic and national differences as well.  Gavras explains that “The idea was to compile Arabic references — fantasized or not — into a pop video.  Pop videos usually show American kids in their element. Here, you got Arab kids in an insane car rodeo element.”  So existing symbolic codes around cultural binaries like East-West or Arab(ic)-Western are subverted in the same way the Masculine-Feminine binary is.

Here’s are some of the lyrics.  Not typically “feminine.”

Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well
Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well (x2)

My chain hits my chest
When I’m bangin’ on the dashboard
My chain hits my chest
When I’m bangin’ on the radio

Get back, get down
Pull me closer if you think you can hang
Hands up, hands tied
Don’t go screaming if I blow you with a bang

Ahh; Suki Zuki
I’m coming in the Cherokee
Gasoline
There’s steam on the window screen

Take it, take it
World’s bouncing like a trampoline
When I get to where I’m going, gonna have you trembling ….

BTW, that’s a girl balanced on top of that car in the still shot below.  The stuntwoman is interviewed in the film.

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2 responses to ““Bad Girls,” Behind the Scenes

  1. M.I.A’s music video for her song “Bad Girl’s” completely contradicts the female gender norms that have existed for so long. The location is especially important to consider since Eastern countries seem to have a more conservative view of the way women should behave. In this video women are seen acting in ways that are usually associated with men and it is evident even down to the way they are dressed. This video gives women more of an edge being that they have historically been viewed as being submissive and incapable of doing the same things as men. This video is interesting to consider when thinking about Gilman’s work where women’s main purpose was for childbearing and housework.

  2. M.I.A. did a fantastic job, she went outside the box and shocked everyone. This is what you call creative music with a vision, this is not just a looped beat mixed with auto tuned vocals or someone screaming vulgar words on it. A lot of controversy was caused due to the fact the scenery is shown as a place in the middle east and the girls are going against everything the middle east envisioned for females. And just like the comment above me she did a fantastic job going against the idea that a woman’s main purpose in life was just childbearing and housework. The women in the video represent both male and female characteristics showing that females are independent and don’t need to rely on men.

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