Alice Rowlands


Reverse role play anyone?

Starting with a bad joke is never the best, but I thought it would be appropriate considering the topic of the day! In the last post I discussed the unfair ways in which women are presented in both male and female artists’ music videos. This isn’t the case in all music videos though, and there are many examples of female artists fighting back against the negative images that surround and consume female identity. Music videos such as Beyonce’s ‘Pretty Hurts’ takes a questioning approach to the expectations placed upon women to look perfect and desirable. She does this through a beauty pageant story line in her video, following Beyonce as she strives to be the prettiest of them all. Her character becomes more unstable as the competition goes on. She struggles emotionally and physically only to lose.

Though the whole video follows a beauty pageant, it’s not a far cry from the world of the music industry and music videos, where women have to match certain standards placed on them by the industry. They also have to keep up appearances for the fans and their ridiculous expectations; idolisation of both men and women is a killer in this world. The video also brings up one big question: In a world where being the most beautiful, perfect woman is a way of being on top, what else is there to make a person into an individual? It’s a sad conclusion to dwell upon, but luckily the entire world isn’t a beauty pageant and women can rely on so many of their other traits to express their individuality.

Whilst some artists’ use their videos to question the stereotypical representation of women as sex objects, others reverse this degrading imagery and place it on men (just to justify that terrible joke above). Let me introduce you to Marina and The Diamonds and her video ‘How to be a Heartbreaker’:


Phew! Anyone fancy a shower?

This won’t be the first video to make men appear as half naked commodities, desperate for their fully dressed female (pimp?) to adore them, and it would be terrible of me to say it won’t be the last. Though this video is fun to watch it brings up a few problems. Yes, it’s an excellent example of female sexuality (women like to have multiple partners too, shocker!) as Marina has “the pick of the crop”, however the video also gives a sense of vulnerability (2.23 – 2.53) when the audience is reminded that ‘[…] it’s better to be fake, can’t risk losing in love again’. It suggests that women have a lot more to lose in the world of love, and in many ways this is true. Women who have multiple partners are judged harshly, men aren’t (or certainly not as much). You will not find many videos where men show a vulnerable side whilst parading their harems, and strutting like an oversized peacock.

Another problem with this video is that it’s degrading men as a man would degrade women, and as many people say, “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Both sides should not set out to attack the other by turning each into mere sex objects, this isn’t the cartoon world where the wolf visualises the prey as a walking steak (or a blow up doll, yuck)! Neither of the sexes are slabs of meat, though Maroon 5’s ‘Animal’ seems to give that impression (just why does this video exist)?


Female artists aren’t the only ones reversing the stereotypes. Brandon Flowers’ ‘Crossfire’ gives a new perspective on the “damsel in distress” scenario, in the sense that Mr. Flowers is the “damsel” constantly being saved by a woman. I personally love this video due the pure “bad-assness” of the heroine.


Despite this, I can see a certain amount of Lara Croft imagery (also bad-ass) in this video, who was a game character created for its audience, and unfortunately that audience is (apparently) all male according to Lara Croft’s original creators (let’s not dive into the ongoing debate, maybe another day, another blog). Overall I have to question whether ‘Crossfire’ is indeed a reverse role video, or a bit of a giggle for men. Though as the heroine puts her arm around Mr. Flowers, I can’t help but hope that it’s a representation of men respecting female strength, and admitting that women are just as capable at being the hero as they are.




Alice is an English Literature student at Liverpool John Moores University. She has always had a particular interest in feminism, and in the more recent years, gender equality. Currently taking a gender studies module this year and is completely in love with Angela Carter’s work. As part of her work related learning she has made a blog on WordPress called Sexual Politics and Music Videos. You can find her blog here at and follow her Twitter @Alice_RowlandsB