“Electric Love”: When Sexual Objectification Strikes

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 6.42.53 PMEarlier this year, we here at The Giggs put our money on BØRNS as a potential breakout artist. He’s been gathering acclaim and fans off his spring tour with MisterWives, and has just released the video for pop confection, “Electric Love”.

BØRNS’ dreamy, feminine voice and trendy, androgynous style have come to define him as an artist, and led me to hope that he would be able to spearhead a new sort of genderfuck performance as an alt/indie-pop musician. But Garrett Borns let me down.

The video for “Electric Love” is satisfyingly neon and sparkly (for those glitter addicts among us) with a stunningly detailed animation in the latter half depicting BØRNS falling through an intergalactically psychedelic pit of feminine imagery: lips, hearts, and, what is that I see? Oh, of course. Womens legs opening and closing, with a stellar view of the vagina. Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 5.57.02 PM The first thing we see in the music video are the women as “backup dancers”, prancing around like sprites in their white, fringe-laden crop tops and shorts.The blacklight used to illuminate the women, however, lights up their boobs and butts, leaving them faceless. Furthermore, the camera focuses more on their derrières than anything else. The accumulation of unnecessary camera shots of the women’s bums is, well, unnecessary, and irritating. The overall effect is an effacement of the identity of these women, all the while highlighting i.e. *objectifying* their sexuality. Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 6.11.12 PM “Electric Love” is a song about an enchanting woman who lights a spark in the singer’s heart; in fact, the singer finds himself subject to her power: “Drown me/ You make my heart beat like the rain/ Surround me/ Hold me deep beneath your waves”, he pleads. So, one may ask, what is the purpose of using the female body as passive décor in this video, whereas the woman is clearly an active character in the lyrics? Damned if I know. You can chock this one up to another case of “sex sells” in the music industry, an instance of using the female body as a site of “beauty” in order to draw attention to a product. Or you could even blame it on the visionaries – “Ben & Ross” of Bullion production – who filtered these women through the male gaze with their direction and filming.

Unfortunately, the video for “Electric Love” would’ve been just as effective and visually stimulating – and probably more streamlined – if it simply focused on BØRNS as the glitter god he is instead of sexually exploiting the backup dancers around him and painting him as a desirous sex symbol. I expect more from Garrett Borns, someone who, until now, has not ascribed to a dominating, heteronormative masculinity as the force or PR tool behind his music and image.

– Sydne


4 thoughts on ““Electric Love”: When Sexual Objectification Strikes

  1. Dear Sydne,
    I want to give you some perspective and to hopefully help you open your mind. I am originally from the Midwest. Born and raised in a suburb of Michigan not too far from where Borns was raised. Growing up where people live in the same hometown all their life and become nurses, lawyers, doctors. Jobs like that. I knew since I was a baby I wanted to be a performer. I studied ballet from the age of 3 until I was 16. I am an artist as well, having learned from my father who is very successful as a designer. I have danced my entire life. Went to performing arts college in NYC. Toured the world with Cirque du Soleil Creative Director Franco Dragone. Danced for audiences of thousands. Including Hollywood awards shows, TV, commercials and film. My movement is my art. My body a canvas. And I portray characters and people of all walks of life. I take people to a time or a place maybe they can never see themselves. I chose a different path in life. The life of an artist. A performer.

    I am one of the dancers in the Electric Love video. I can not speak for the animator but I will say it was one of the most vibrant and fun sets I’ve been on. I am very selective about my work and who I dance with or for. It was you that objectified me. Took the movement and the interpretation of the song and turned it into something ugly and one dimensional. You may see it as objective. But if you knew the pain staking hours I’ve spent and all the other dancers have spent in our lives training, stretching, auditioning, you’d know how proud we are to be there. As professional dancers we are very comfortable in the skin we’re in. Perhaps it is just that that makes you feel uncomfortable. Borns is a unique and talented new artist who is creating a scene of love and fantasy. The experience I had of dancing at 2 am in Griffith Park on a warm spring night is precious to me. It’s a show. We are our art. It’s meant to be fun. So like I said with maybe a bit of perspective you can open your mind.

    • Thank you Monica for sharing your story; I really appreciate it. As theoretical as my perspective may be, it’s very important to be able to hear about the video from the women themselves. I’m glad to hear it was such a positive experience for you, especially because I am such a fan of BØRNS (most days). As a dancer myself for many years, I understand all the work that goes into your art and the skill you have.

      For this article, I had the words of FKA twigs rolling around in my mind, who voiced her frustration of being rendered a puppet in Jessie J’s videos and now appears in and directs her own videos. Twigs has been able to take control over how her image is deployed and presented, as a woman, which can be rare in the music industry. My goal here was to call out an example of a larger societal problem: how female bodies are manipulated in music media.

      Again, I thank you for your explanation and your voice. I’m very sorry if my article made you feel objectified in turn, which was not my intention at all.

      All the best,

  2. I consider myself a feminist, but I had no issue with the women in this video, because to me it was tastefully done. There isn’t over the top offensive “torquing” going on – these dancers look blissful, peaceful, sensual and with a hint of purity actually because of the white outfits. The fringe tops fluttering throughout the video reminded me of birds or angel wings. The beginning of the video is a bit Dionysian – women dancing in shadow in the forest, looking like naked nymphs – but there isn’t any debauchery going on – it seems very innocent. It is an interesting choice for there to be multiple women dancing around an androgynous male during this song, but perhaps it could be considered symbolic of the female spirit or representative of Goddess-worshipping cultures. This video could be considered an expression of the Divine Feminine and Divine Love (think 1960s flower power and Summer of Love psychedelia). When the dancing scene turns to the psychedelic imagery, there is an image of a female in the night sky which is representative of female goddess archetypes and constellations. However, I think the imagery of the eye is overdone especially toward the end of the video (is it a Third Eye? Eye of Horus? – I’m guessing Third Eye because there isn’t any dark lines extending below the eye). Whether the video creators actually put this much thought into their imagery, I would be interested to know. Most likely they were having fun being creative with possibly some themes in mind. That’s what good art does – it provokes interesting discussion and is best left up to the interpretation of the viewers. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! 🙂

  3. Wondering what you think about the fact that he’s 24 and the American Money music video has a 15 year old playing his love interest? He just released it. I am very uncomfortable about it and I would really like to get your take on it.

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