Stills from “Bitch, Bad”
Lupe Fiasco’s music video for “Bitch, Bad” features themes of African-American representation in entertainment including minstrel shows, black face, radio and the images portrayed modern hip-hop music videos.
The music video contrasts and protests many of the images shown of African-Americans in entertainment. Broken up into three acts, the dialog is set up similar to a play.
Before the ‘show’ begins, a white man stands outside counting his money as a worker puts up a playbill for the show. This doesn’t have any apparent meaning quite yet, but acts as foreshadowing leading to the main themes of the video.
A mother is singing along to lyrics on the radio. Sitting next to her son, she sings along lyrics that suggest being a “bad bitch.” The video appears to be suggesting that this is not a good message for children, especially a son who looks up to his mother. Not only is the mother limiting her own self-worth, but her son also receives the same message about women. Keeping up with the minstrel-like stage theme, the scene shows the victims of this message – the young male viewers.
Act II shows the effect portrayals of women in hip-hop music videos have on young girls. The act beings with a group of young girls, perhaps preteens, watching videos on the internet. Although music videos on television are can still be sexual and stereotypical, the online content is often even more uncensored. The video also mentions the internet’s challenge for parents: children might spend more time and have more experience online than the parents. Kids and teens know the ropes better than anyone when it comes to the web, in most cases. (Trust me, I figured out how to delete my browsing history when I was 12). Upon reaching womanhood, it is common for young girls to be curious about sexuality. What men are looking for can be especially important. The images in many hip-hop music videos only show one type of woman… the “bad bitch” dancing sexually, commonly dressed in thongs, makeup, wigs and other negative artifacts. This image of women is commonly associated with MEN being the primary “gaze” and judge; however, Lupe’s video suggests young girls are truly the victims of this image of African-American women.
During the third portion of the video, it shows the children growing up into adults. When the young girl grows into a young woman – and the boy into a young man – they cross paths. There is confusion here: The woman is ‘dressed to impress’ in skimpy clothing like the other women in the hip hop videos, but the young man views this type of woman as a ‘bitch’. This demonstrates a disconnect between the images women see men liking, and the types of women men actually want.
Throughout the music video, imagery relating to blackface is shown throughout the theatre. Actual 17th-18th century film of white actors in blackface is contrasted with modern African-American individuals applying blackface backstage.
This video potentially has many meanings and messages about racism and culture. The message I received has to do with African-Americans taking back their culture. I believe this video is a critique on the entertainment industry. The video illustrates white men determining their image in the media and using money to control the industry. The video appears to suggest that white men and money should not control the images of African-Americans. Instead of the white media determining how to use African-Americans for entertainment, African-Americans could determine their own “face” for the world to see by removing the ‘blackface’ white society as put on them in order to generate cashflow. The removal of blackface can be viewed as a metaphor for African-Americans taking back their culture and attempting to combat racial stereotypes in white consumerist society.