Change My Mind: Electric Barbarella

A couple of times a month, Daily Duranie will toss out a “Change My Mind” topic to a handful of guest writers. In this first episode, Daily Duranie declares “Electric Barbarella” is Duran Duran’s most sexist song – change our mind.

All She Wants – Is To Change Your Mind

I’m not going to claim that there aren’t sexist elements to ‘Electric Barbarella’.  It’s about using a sex doll, so… yeah.  It’s also a slight guilty pleasure (the guilt coming from the need to ignore that grim video, which is not at all fun or pleasurable to watch).

But – I would argue that ‘All She Wants Is’ is at least equally so, if not more.

First of all, I find it kind of judgmental in a way that ‘Electric Barbarella’ isn’t – Barbarella is purely a sex object (not a good thing, but it can be argued that a doll cannot really be harmed by such treatment).  The opening lines about saving money for the shoeshine boys don’t come across as a celebration of the protagonist’s promiscuity, but instead as condescending, even while the narrator appears keen to become involved with the protagonist himself.

‘Electric Barbarella’, meanwhile, is at least reverent of its subject – Barbarella is described as ‘perfect’, ‘so good’, ‘princess of my dreams’ – and if it, like much of Duran’s oeuvre, were about a real woman (and obviously thus not featuring lyrics like ‘I plug you in’), then it could be argued that it wouldn’t be sexist at all, merely a paean to a much-adored lover.  The sexism comes more from the out-of-song context of the use of sex dolls (and the misogyny inherent in that industry) than from the lyrical content itself.

All in all, between the two songs, ‘All She Wants Is’ most definitely creeps me out more! – Dee Cooke

Hungry Like A Wolf To Change Your Mind

Trust me, I’d be fine with laying the blame for the most sexist song our guys have ever done on the era of WC. Electric Barbarella is made especially cringe-worthy by its video, that’s certain. But if we’re to blame the videos, I have to look past Barbarella to Girls on Film, a song about the exploitation of women, with a video that well, exploited women, for the sake of giving something edgy to the video nightclub market. Or Falling Down, because nothing portrays mental collapse better than a Bedlam-esque scene of scantily clad models tended to by a patriarchal band in white coats, right? 

Lyrically though, I find Electric Barbarella more in line with Bedroom Toys. It could be about a guy treating a girl like a doll, yes. It could also be a funny song about a guy and his sex robot. It’s not great, but most sexist? I say it with love, but I have two that outstrip it, though their videos are far superior.  

First up, All She Wants Is, built around the well-known vocal stylings of an underage porn star. It’s got a great beat and you can dance to it, but all it has to say is “she wants that d***”, and it’s not precisely flattering about it.

Second, & “winner” – Hungry Like the Wolf, which is literally about stalking a woman for sex. Simon himself has said “You couldn’t get away with writing a song like that now”. And I guess he would know. – Laura Skarka 

Read My Lips – Electric Barbarella Is Not The Most Sexist

The sexism of Duran Duran’s videos are worthy of discussion even if the band’s sense of play often diminishes the general negativity of the imagery. Detaching the songs from the videos, there are still examples of sexism woven into the lyrics as is the case for most bands who came of age at that time. The music industry, as a whole, sadly remains a sexist playground for men in almost every regard. However, “Electric Barbarella” sidesteps this while “Read My Lips” reeks of stale cologne and the male predator.

The opening lines of “Read My Lips” are nothing more than a creepy come-on by a lecherous male. I don’t know why, and I have no factual basis for assuming this, but I’ve always associated this song with Warren Cuccurullo. The guitar heavy song has his fingerprints all over it and it’s an uncomfortable listening experience. I’d rather not “get a grip” on anything within ten feet of this lazy song.

The Barbarella reference of the song in question hints at a playfulness celebrating the retro-kitsch style of the film that inspired Duran Duran’s name. The song itself serves as a commentary on the inability of humans to connect on a flesh and blood level in modern society. The idea of an electric Barbarella is nothing more than a fantasy that can never be realized despite the promises of the patriarchy. The song shines a neon-flavored light on that with a knowing wink. Maybe marriage has made them wise. – Jason Lent

Driving Towards A Change of Mind

The Chauffeur is easily a more sexist song than “Electric Barbarella.”  Its dreary, coma-inducing synth line pounds the listener into submission, much like thousands of years of patriarchal civilization have to women.  The song never explicitly states if “my envied lady” and her “shadowy lined dress” is the driver or passenger, passing up a prime opportunity.  Think about the power of the last track on one of the most iconic 80’s albums definitively putting the woman in control.  But no—instead, we’re left with the “poetry” of LeBon’s lyric.  Indeed, all we do learn is that this lady “smiles” when lovers part, like some latter day Miss Havisham from Dickens’ Great Expectations.  Our singer also wonders “what glass splinters lie so deep in your mind,” which also conjures the 19th century and the misogynistic “mad woman in the attic” trope (see Jane Eyre).  

The video only makes matters worse:  a voyeuristic, male-driven lesbian fantasy involving two women touching, a third dancing off to the side, and all witnessed by a “Chauffeur” who looks alarmingly like 2019 Roger.  Some will argue that the video is someone else’s vision for the song.  Yes, it is—but endorsed and paid for by the band.  Others will claim it’s an artsy homage to the movie “The Night Porter,” about star-crossed Nazi lovers.  Right—and I guess if it was set in the Tunisian desert instead of a parking garage, that would make it a homage to Star Wars.  Please.  

Like the aphids, The Chauffeur is a blood-sucker, setting back feminism, and by extension civilization.  Skip it.  – CK Shortell

Duranies, is this the band’s most sexist song?

2 thoughts on “Change My Mind: Electric Barbarella”

  1. The take away here is that everyone has a different opinion on what constitutes a sexist video. People will filter this topic through their own personal experiences and so based on that nobody will be right or wrong.I loved Electric Barbarella-the song and the video which I find very funny. How can a sex robot possibly be sexist? It’s a construct and not self aware or sentient (or was she?…) I wonder if that salesman had a room with hunky boy robots? But that would really push the envelope so it’s just as well they wanted a girl robot. If anything the song would be sad because the protagonist does not or cannot make a connection with a flesh and blood girl. All She Wants Is …well, I met some groupies at the last concert who proved that song accurate.More power to them! (of course the boys are older now and probably not interested but some girls live in hope…) Chauffeur is IMO exquisite and some women are lesbians and some men like watching. The point I’m trying to make is that Duran are a group of guys who clearly appreciate the female form and spend a fair amount of time writing songs about it, and what they’d like to do with it.Bully for them.Personally I’m glad they aren’t trying to be all politically correct, or woke and just write great songs for us to discuss.

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