Lana Del Rey’s recent video release for “Blue Jeans” is deeply disturbing on so many levels. The cover art preceding the video’s debut channeled a messed-up Little Mermaid meme where an inert Lana lies in a questionable stage of consciousness as a disembodied, tattooed hand stretches for her jugular.
I guess I was hoping the video would prove my suspicions wrong and showcase this individual tilting her head back tenderly, priming to caress her face. Unfortunately, this was not the case and the release of the video provides minimal clarification on the cover art.
Shot in black and white with a poolside setting, a retro one-piece-swimsuit-clad Lana watches the heavily inked object of her desire strip down to his skivvies from a voyeuristic corner.
It’s hard to say exactly what the aim of the video is, besides the fact that it is clearly evocative and creepy. There is a lot of kissing and cavorting in the pool, underwater body shots and a duo of alligators thrown in for good measure. A strange scene starts with a clip of the love interest reaching for her throat, but a beat later cuts to him sticking his fingers into her mouth in an eroticized fashion.
The video itself is highly sexualized, which makes the closing shots troubling — her suspected beau is shown pushing her head underwater. She registers a startled expression for a millisecond and the next clip is of her limp body in his arms. Finally, with his hands around her throat, he pulls them both under, Lana’s lifeless face drifting away from the surface. What started off within the context of a consensual sexual encounter seemingly turns ugly.
Sadly, this attempt at edgy eroticism is not a new aim. Many a designer label has utilized the same brand of vile advertising in which violence towards women is implied, and often sexualized, usually in an effort to toe the line of controversy without making a blanket statement. This video appears to join that category as a misguided attempt at being edgy and instead becomes distasteful.
The viewer is to understand Lana’s longing for the lankly Lothario, and the lyrics of “loving until the end of time” further affirm this. So the message becomes “I want you so badly that I am willing to allow you to do with me what you want, including potentially drown me or at best leave me semi-conscious and comatose.” For most of the video, she is passive to this man’s embrace. Her album is titled Born to Die. Enough said.
Given the staggering statistics of violence against women, continued portrayals of these eroticized images feed the notion that such behavior is acceptable, even sexy.
Because the intention of the encounter and context of the video is cleverly vague, it is hard to say with certainty what its true meaning is. But, in pop culture portrayals of women, when controversy is sought out to make a splash, it is hard to give this video the benefit of the doubt.
Showing a passive woman submissive to a man’s desires lends itself to objectification. This video is an excellent example of conveying a woman much like an inanimate play toy, save for her ability to participate in sexual acts. This makes her easily dismissed, devalued, often disrespected, and, in this case, dispensable. It is hard to imagine this video being innocent and not alluding to any anything vicious. It‘s relative ambiguity and covert connotation seems to be the aim. It calls forth an assortment of offensive and odious interpretations, one of which encourages and sexualizes violence. At the very least it is a careless depiction that normalizes female passivity in sexual encounters.