I’m sure most of us have seen Robin Thicke’s notorious Blurred Lines music video, and I know that many of us find it problematic. Seattle-based boylesque troupe Mod Carousel have produced a brilliant gender-reversed response to it, and Mod Carousel member Trojan Original spoke to me about the project…
“Putting together the video was pretty easy and straightforward. A big reason I loved using Robin Thicke’s video to point out the ‘clothed male, nude female’ trend in the media is because it’s so simple to shoot; it’s one location, one lighting scheme, six people, a lot of props, and a ridiculous amount of takes. The hardest part was finding a time when everyone could be in the same room at the same time. As any burlesque producer knows, working with artists, especially such talented artists, is a lot of herding cats, and out of the two week period we wanted to shoot in (we wanted the project completed as soon as possible so that the song and the following controversy surrounding it hadn’t faded into obscurity by the time we released the video) only one day worked for everybody and it was right around the corner.
Luckily Caela Bailey (our Robin Thicke) already knew the song really well and was great at recording her vocals to add the to instrumental track. When I contacted Dalisha (T.I.) I offered her the opportunity to write her own lyrics to that section and she was great about writing the new lyrics, recording them on her own, and sending me the track to mix in. There were a lot of setbacks leading up to the shoot day, including replacing cast members due to scheduling conflicts and changing the shoot location twice in the same day.
Everyone was a super great sport throughout the shoot and we got everything we needed that night. All in all we managed to make the video from start to finish in four days. To do that I tried to keep the shoot as simple as possible. I told everyone to bring two sets of clothes, one very masculine and business like, and the other feminine and pretty. I wanted the clothes to change a lot throughout the video to keep true to the original, and I wanted the business suit/dress dynamic to show the full range of expression women have available in their clothes, from hyper femme to ultra butch. I also asked everyone involved if they had any of the props we needed for the shoot, and gathering all of them was very much a collaborative effort. I had all the video and lighting equipment as I have a photography business, and the rest is history.
The reason we wanted to do the shoot was, first and foremost, to highlight just how often women are much less dressed than their male counterparts in the media, which is a trope that comes up often in conversation within the burlesque community. We’re definitely far from the first people to think of showing that dynamic through a gender swap, but I’ve personally had issues with most gender swapping videos I’ve seen. Most videos ridicule the men they’re using in the swap. They’re often unattractive, overweight, unkempt, purposefully made to look disgusting, and then have strong, attractive women saying, ‘This is gross, men are gross, how could you possibly like this?’ And, of course, what they’re presenting is gross, but it’s a horrible way to fight for your cause. By introducing the extra variables and not comparing apples to apples, you’re not helping anything. So what I wanted to do was make this as close as possible of a comparison with the original version. Make them ask what about the two videos they like or don’t like and why. We certainly added small touches of our own humour here and there, but for the most part we kept it as true to form as we could.
Caela Bailey is the lead singer and plays Robin Thicke. All the vocals on the track are hers with the exception of the rap section. I’ve watched her sing with the Heavenly Spies many a time and next to the Mod Carousel boys she was the first I knew I wanted to ask to be a part of this project. I’m super thrilled she was able to do it, and even more thrilled that she had such awesome dance moves up her sleeve. Sydni Deveraux plays the part of Pharrell and is a very prominent Seattle based burlesque performer and producer. Dalisha Phillips is a local rapper extraordinaire and a member of Side Pony. Dalisha P. – aka Bang Bang – is a hungry hungry MC from that city by the sea. She got that Puget Sound energy.”
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.