Bon Appetit: A Literal Consumption of Beauty

 

Miley Cyrus Katy Perry recently dropped a new music video for her single Bon Appetit (featuring Migos)[1]. At first viewing, it appears as if the video is reinforcing the objectification of women and beauty. The video depicts Perry as an object for literal consumption (hilariously, some in the comments section feel as if the video is promoting cannibalism). However, I saw the video as an example of how white, innocent femininity is fetishized. [2] Furthermore, the creators of the video seem to be conscious of this social structure and actually push back against it in the video.

One of the first scenes of the video displays a neon “NSFW” sign, meaning either Not Safe For Work (because of graphic or sexual content) or maybe even Not Safe For Women. This is no doubt part of Perry’s increased politicization and “exploration of her sexual liberation” within her music and self expression. [3][4] Still, this may not be the NSFW initially expected. When looked through the lens of this class, Perry’s video actually includes many traditional ideas of white femininity. However, instead of pairing that white femininity with innocence, Perry’s video equates it directly with sexual desire (hence the name, Bon Appetit). More than half of the video is dedicated to preparing Perry (to be consumed both literally and sexually). She is dropped in flour, kneaded (massaged), seasoned and garnished, and boiled. Throughout this entire process, she mostly maintains the stereotype of white femininity and therefore white beauty. She has clear, pale skin and long braided hair, although, she doesn’t have the slenderness–indicative of sexual unavailability (as desired by modeling agencies). [5] Through this point in the video, there is nothing suggesting anything of this being more than just another use of white femininity as beauty capital to sell something (in this case, just to get you to listen to a damn song).

bonappetitvideo3The second half of the video, however, begins to push up against any prior messages sent. Perry’s long hair gets chopped off, rather roughly, with a knife. This is the first indication of Perry not simply being an innocent, white female embodiment of beauty. The video really gets interesting when she is served up in an event seemingly attended exclusively by older wealthy men and women. Shots of the event attendees turning her way interestingly exclude their gazes (maybe to increase the ambiguity of what really is being desired here–i.e. maybe it’s about power and class, not sex). Still, it is obvious that Perry has captivated the room. At this point, Migos do their verse in the song (no doubt part of white artists’ use of black hip hop artists to make their song cooler–but that’s another topic), which ends with one of them pulling a trap that binds the people who are sitting around Perry. At this point, a pole rises out around Perry’s groin area (for lack of a better term), suggesting a complete undoing of her femininity. With the guests tied up, the chefs enter the room and slaughter them ruthlessly with kitchen knives. The end of the video shows Perry alone at a table with a meat pie composed of the guests’ limbs. This striking image serves as a complete reversal of roles; the object of consumption consuming the consumer.bonappetitvideo

References:

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPI-mRFEIH0

[2] Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body by Susan Bordo

[3] http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop/7793006/katy-perry-bon-appetit-video-migos

[4] http://www.vogue.com/article/katy-perry-interview-religion-childhood-may-vogue-cover

[5]”Size zero high-end ethnic: Cultural production and the reproduction of culture in fashion modeling” by Ashley Mears

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2 thoughts on “Bon Appetit: A Literal Consumption of Beauty

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  1. This video was just plain uncomfortable.
    But I guess that’s what Katy Perry was trying to get us to feel?
    You mention Bordo in your post…Bordo explains that women never have complete ownership of their bodies. Although Perry’s video demonstrates white femininity, it also starts to throw a few punches at a society that is so critical of appearances. We are constantly judging each other — women and men alike — everyday, from the clothes we wear to the way we walk. Perry is literally prepared to fit the mold that US westernized society has determined a woman should look like.
    At the same time, the lyrics of this song are also worth noting. For example, Perry sings: “Eat with your hands, fine”; “Got me spread like a buffet”; Sweet potato pie”. All of these lines refer to a woman’s vagina in a sexual way; for example, “Got me spread like a buffet” is literally saying that her legs are wide opening, exposing her vagina ready for sex.

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  2. I thought this assessment of the video was really interesting and made the video so much better. When evaluating the switch in the video where Katy eats the guests, “Perry’s long hair gets chopped off, rather roughly, with a knife. This is the first indication of Perry not simply being an innocent, white female embodiment of beauty” and “This striking image serves as a complete reversal of roles; the object of consumption consuming the consumer.” I think these two statements summarize the the reversal very well and make the video make sense. However, when looking at the comments, I feel like I am not the only one who missed the message and underestimated what Katy was trying to do. But, it also concerning when looking at the messages. One message was striking to me was “did Katy and Miley switch places?” I think this makes me cringe especially after reading the other comment about Miley’s new revolution back into normalcy. I am excited to see more of Katy pushing boundaries since she has a platform to discuss not only femininity, but gender and race and since Hilary Clinton’s lose, Katy has been much for outspoken.

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