By all accounts, Nicki Minaj deserves to be parodied. She’s a larger-than-life pop-culture confection, a provocative bundle of candy-colored hair and meme-making shenanigans. She’s inspired everyone from Beyonce to British schoolgirls. She is, in short, a real character.
But neither Minaj nor any of the other artists pilloried by the self-anointed “king of music video parodies,” Bart Baker, deserve the witless, adolescent and casually misogynistic montages he gives them.
“ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARODIES TO DATE!!!” Baker screams in the comments section of his latest viral hit, an “Anaconda” parody, which has racked up a 2.1 million views since Monday. “Please LIKE, FAV, AND SHARE THE CRAP OUTTA IT!!!”
… where to even begin with this? No thanks.
Baker essentially rewrites music videos to make fun of the artists in them — which could be an entertaining premise. But Baker can rarely muster any kind of thoughtful criticism. Minaj is dumb, he says, half a dozen times. She’s a “slut.” A “whore.” A “skank,” even. She gets Botox injections and plastic surgery. It’s unclear how any of this amounts to legitimate criticism, let alone humor: It’s essentially just a string of misogynistic, slut-shaming insults, wearing the guise of a well-produced joke.
Let’s take a minute to explain why the so-called joke isn’t actually funny.
Part I: “Anaconda” is indeed about butts. To point that out repeatedly in a response video is not nuanced, revelatory, intelligent or any of the other things we usually want parodies to be. Furthermore, what Baker is essentially saying — over and over and over again, to the point you can’t even believe the video’s still going on — is that Anaconda is a bad song because it’s about butts, and Nicki Minaj is a bad artist because she sings about butts. This is oddly not a critique people generally make of Sir Mix-a-Lot, Juvenile, Pitbull or Mos Def, who do the exact same thing. So apparently men who sing about women’s bodies retain their “good artist” status, while a woman who sings about women’s bodies is — in Barker’s typically inarticulate parlance — “basically … a stripper who also knows how to rap.”
Part II: The words “slut” and “whore” are gender-based slurs, deployed to (a) make women feel embarrassed for expressing sexuality and (b) communicate that a woman’s social and sexual value are basically interchangeable. They are not okay to throw around for the lolz, and women never “earn” or “deserve” them through their behavior — just as “acting” gay or black or Jewish or whatever else never justifies the use of slurs for those people. TL; DR: No one deserves to be called a slut …
Part III: … particularly a woman just doing her job. By all means, if you want to criticize Minaj’s voice, or her song-writing, or her dance moves — go to. But to criticize a woman for acting sexual, in an industry where she is required to act sexually in order to succeed, is fundamentally unfair on its face. In this particular case, it’s also pretty oblivious: As many critics have noted already, the great triumph of “Anaconda” — and indeed Nicki Minaj in general — is the way she uses sexuality to slyly confront and subvert the male gaze. Only to be called a dumb slut by the men who ogle her.
Of course, it makes good business sense that Baker’s made slut-shaming his schtick: It’s really, dishearteningly popular. In his last “parody” — viewed 5.4 million times — Baker devotes most of his jokes to the subject of who Ariana Grande is sleeping with and how little clothing she wears. In his parody for Avril Lavinge’s “Hello Kitty,” he spends literally the first minute discussing nothing but how pale Lavigne is and who she married.
Oddly, he forgets to mention who Pharrell is sleeping with in his “Happy” video, or who Pitbull is involved with in his “We Are One” parody. But he does, in that same video, manage to make fun of J. Lo’s butt and call Claudia Leitte a transvestite.
Viewers are not entirely blind to these issues: As of this writing, roughly 5 percent of the votes on Baker’s “Anaconda” video were negative, and several commenters and Twitter users had engaged in a robust, if typically uncivil, debate on the way Baker portrays women. Alas, Baker himself remains unmoved.
… big words from a man who makes his living calling other people talentless and dumb.