I don’t want to make writing about pop culture a regular thing, but I’m particularly pissed off at the world of music right now. In particular, Bruno Mars, One Direction, Neyo and others for treating insecurity like it’s attractive.
You may be wondering: How did Lucas end up listening to so much Top 40 anyway? Two years ago I bought a 2003 Mazda that was too new for a tape deck for an mp3 adapter, but too old for an auxiliary jack. I work as a regional community organizer in a rural/suburban area and have to drive a lot. I just filed for reimbursement for 653 miles for the month of October. That’s a lot of time to listen to the radio and slowly melt away your brain.
I know singers praising the virtues of girls with negative body image issues have always been around. Maybe it’s coded into our genes. (Could men have evolved to like women who think they’re ugly because they’ll be less likely to reproduce with other men?)
But I feel like it’s gotten way out of hand in the last couple years with massive hit singles like “Just the way you are” by Bruno Mars, “What makes you beautiful” by One Direction, and the offender that inspired this blog, Ne-yo’s “Let me love you“.
These songs are condescending, superficial, and sound like poorly made Ryan Gosling memes.
“You don’t know you’re beautiful/That’s what makes you beautiful”??? That’s some of the most psychologically sick shit I ever heard.
They start by talking about how surprising it is that this cute girl has low self-esteem (after all, only ugly girls should have low self-esteem right?). They then explain to her why she should value herself. The reasoning usually goes: a) I think you’re beautiful , plus b) Whenever you walk around outside, lots of other people look at your body, so you must be beautiful . That’s fucking science bro.
Some people like these songs because they relate to them. They think: “Wow, sometimes I also think I’m not beautiful. Maybe the guys from One Direction like me too! Or maybe not. But at least even when I’m feeling down, there are probably people out there who think I’m beautiful. Maybe I could be the shy girl in some hipster movie who gets the guy in the end when he finally realizes the popular girl he’s dating is a total bitch.”
But the sinister part is that even though the messages in these songs appear to be about loving people despite their insecurities, they actually promote the idea that people are or should be attracted to low self-esteem.
Okay, children don’t do everything they see in music videos. After all, my generation’s squishy brains were molded in the era of 90’s gangsta rap when it was perfectly okay to graphically describe murdering someone on the radio, but we have historically low rates of violent crime. But I do believe that unfortunately children get most of their love/relationship advice from popular music. And that means a lot of little girls right now are walking around staring at the ground and flipping their hair in the hopes that it will get someone overwhelmed. I just want to tell them: “Please, STOP THIS BULLSHIT! Your vision is severely limited like that! You could trip and fall!”
Here’s the thing. No one, not even Ne-yo and his gravity-defying sideways hats, can “love you until you learn to love yourself”. Learning to love yourself, by definition, means loving yourself whether someone else loves you or not. If you need validation from someone else to tell you you’re beautiful before you believe it, you do not actually love yourself. Being confident, secure and capable is not only good for you, it’s sexy as hell.
People are constantly telling musical artists it’s irresponsible to mention sex, drugs and violence in their music. I just felt like someone needed to go after obnoxious love songs for being irresponsible too.