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Tuesday, November 11, 2014 

Is it possible to parody something so clearly beyond parody?

The woman in the Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up video is the woman we've been waiting for: a woman who does everything the very worst men do and then ends it all with a hearty "fuck you".

The video for Smack My Bitch Up looks on the surface to be a dystopian feminist nightmare: shot entirely from a first person perspective, we see what look to be a man's arms as he prepares for a night out, using shaving cream, going to the toilet (notice that he sits down; is he merely dropping the kids off at the pool or perhaps sitting down for another reason?), snorting cocaine.

Nothing especially wrong with any of that.  It's once he reaches the first bar things start to go awry.  He tries to force a woman to kiss him; he gropes the women he passes on his way down to the stairs into a club; he attacks various people once on the dancefloor, before setting upon the DJ, who seems to be playing a fairly generic 90s piece of electronica which doesn't seem to know whether it wants to be straight up drum and bass or something far more tame, and is enlivened only by the vocal informing us of how the singer is "change[ing] my pitch up" then "smack[ing] my bitch up".  When all else fails, head into obviously controversial territory and then respond in the most obtuse way imaginable.  Just ask Nicki Minaj.

With the track's breakdown swirling in our ears, the ethereal female vocal that accompanies it corresponding with our protagonist injecting something into his arm, the video takes an even darker turn.  He heads for a strip club, again groping a woman on the stairs down into this new hell.  Here we see him getting too close to one dancer for her comfort, raising the question of where the bouncers are, before he somehow manages to seduce one dancer through apparent sheer force of personality.  They steal a car, and retire back to the flat we started out in.  After the requisite amount of gratuitous fumbling around, the dancer leaves as soon as the sex is over.  It's only then our view switches from the door to a mirror where it's revealed that... the person we've been seeing the world through was a woman the entire time!

This bait and switch technique, drawing in those who came for the T and A only then for the video to shove their narrow and sexist motivations back into their faces might seem like having your cake and eating it, but this doesn't matter when the joke's on them.  The video acts out these caricatures for our amusement, while also challenging our prejudices: why couldn't it have been a woman acting in such a way?  Real equality will be here when women have the right to be as stupid and irresponsible as men, and aren't judged differently for it.  This is a band in full creative control of their image, unafraid to troll people if they can also force them into thinking.  How's that for paradigm smashing?

[In answer to the title, no, you really can't.]

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