I need to thank the London Evening Standard for publishing an interview with the band. Just as I was about to scrape the bottom of idea barrel in search of a decent blog topic – there comes an interview. Coincidence? Maybe….or else those ceremonial offerings to the Duranie Gods are beginning to actually work!
If you haven’t caught the interview yet, please allow me to direct you here to read it. I’m not going to comment on everything, but I do want to touch on a subject that has been mentioned more than a few times as of late. The interview, at least in part, seemed to center around the band’s younger years (due to Denis O’Regan’s Careless Memories pop-up gallery and photography book) and how they would find girls hiding in their wardrobes, hotel rooms, etc. In the interview, Simon admits Duran Duran were “sexist”. “But not misogynist. We like girls in bikinis but the women always win in our videos. We wouldn’t have made the Robin Thicke video. It’s just a bit too …” He gropes for the word, his hand a claw of agony, “… you know.”
Oh, I do know. Sometimes, I swear the band knows what I’m thinking, and if I were really deluding myself, I’d swear they were reading my discussions on Twitter.
Just a few weeks back, similar comments from Simon were also in the press. I couldn’t help but agree with him and said as much openly on Twitter. I’d commented many weeks prior that at least in theory – that Robin Thicke’s video was probably a mistake. Maybe I’m just getting old and less tolerant overall, but his video is just a little bit (a lot really) over the line for me. I think there is just a certain tone to his video – the fact that the man wins (using Simon’s words!) and that the woman really seems to not be in control, that registers pretty highly on my “this is complete sexist and cruel BS” meter. It makes me very uncomfortable to watch, in a very similar way to how I’ve felt about Chris Brown. I realize that for Robin Thicke, that video is likely just an act, but that’s not the point. Why do women really need to be used like that?? What year is this again?? I’d said as much on Twitter, and gotten into quite a discussion with a few others on the subject. We never came to full agreement, but I enjoyed the subject – just not the frustration of having to explain my thoughts in 140 characters or less. Damn Twitter.
I’m getting ahead of myself here, because I’m forgetting to mention that when those comments of Simon’s became public, the response and outcry was rather swift. “What about Girls on Film, Simon?? Did we forget all about that Duran Duran video then?”
Yes, what about that video?
This was exactly the point of discussion when I took to Twitter at a later date about Simon’s comments. Yes, Girls on Film (to begin with) does seem to be a bit of a problem when looking back on Duran’s career as one reflects on Simon’s feelings about Robin Thicke’s video. The women in the video are put in various situations including a lovely little pillow fight while on a cream-slathered candy striped pole (oh, the subtle innuendo), a cowgirl riding and then giving a horse a bath…a sumo-wrestler being massaged after losing a fight…and my personal favorite, the lifeguard “saving” a young woman drowning in a kiddy pool. And that’s just the R rated version. If you want to really see something, the “Night” version has even more going on backstage…but I’ll leave that to you to find if you haven’t already seen it. In the interview linked above, Simon mentions that in their videos – the women “win”. To be fair, I suppose it is possible to see that the women do end up in control of whatever situation they seem to be put in here. After all, it IS the lifeguard who ends up being left in the pool, and who is riding the horse but the woman?? Again…I cringe at the innuendo, but yes, the woman do seem to be on top. (Go ahead, cringe at my play on words!)
However, not all fans see it that way, and to be equally fair – I think they too have a point. Why make a video like Girls on Film at all? Was the music not enough to stand on it’s own? Probably not, I’d say. I love the band and adore their music..but back in the 80s?? Getting attention meant taking the risk to shock the public. If you’ve ever seen the full length video, you know that at the end of it the entire band holds up a banner that says “Some people will do anything to sell records.” That alone speaks volumes to me as a viewer, and by the way…it worked! Continually throughout the bands career, the “sex” label has been stamped on their heads or branded across their bodies. When you consider the sheer amount of videos, albums, artwork, etc. that they have had in their career that contain images of women…it’s pretty impossible to say that the band is not sexist, which to his credit, Simon openly admits.
However, and I think this is a huge point most fans (among many others) that have criticized Simon’s comments miss, or at the very least misdefine: Misogyny is a pretty strong word. The definition of a misogynist, according to dictionary.com, is “a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women.” To me, it’s tantamount to calling someone a homophobe or a racist. It runs in that same vein of hatred, and I have to ask: does the band really hate women? Think about that for a minute.
Even if you think the Girls on Film video completely objectifies women – which it very well might – the women do seem to end up with the upper hand. If we look at other female images that the band has given us over the years, it would seem that the women almost always look stronger than the band. How about Rio? That woman in Rio makes each band member look ridiculous! She yanks Simon off the boat, Nick can’t even bring himself to pour champagne properly, poor Roger ends in some sort of a fish net, and then there’s John – who daydreams about being a soldier, only to be stopped dead in his tracks by yes, a woman. Such weaklings. This band does not hate women. They are not misogynists, even though by Simon’s own admission they have been sexist, a point to which I would wholeheartedly agree.
We can have the discussion about whether or not we’re all sick of seeing models in the band’s videos. We should acknowledge the band has been branded with the word “Sex”, and whether or not we think that’s propelled their fame. We should talk about the band’s sexism. We can even discuss the music and that should really be the point they stand on, historically speaking. What we we must stop doing, is applying the term “misogynist” to describe the band. It is not fair, and it is not a accurate. Oddly enough…if one really felt that way, especially as a woman, how could one be a fan?