Martha Norman explores the controversy around THAT Maroon 5 video
Maroon 5 have managed to create a song and video which makes Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ look like a feminist anthem. If you’ve not yet seen their video to ‘Animals’ then be prepared for a shock. It’s a far cry from ‘She Will Be Loved’. The video shows a psychotic butcher becoming obsessed with one of his customers, a young woman, and traces his obsessive mental process. Front man Adam Levine is shown following a woman home down dark streets, taking photographs of her, grabbing her flesh aggressively and hanging onto carcases in a butchers store room, before smearing blood on his face and body. In the final scene of the video, a man and woman clutch each other naked whilst blood pours all over them, matting their hair and covering their bodies. This scene feels reminiscent of the blood splattered lift scene in ‘The Shining’ and is an uncomfortable thing to watch in a music video setting.
We seem to have entered a dangerous and depressing domain within popular music, where artists try to outdo one another for the most controversial video or lyric in the business (see Robin Thicke & Nicki Minaj). This video is so offensive and provocative that it will surely spark a debate surrounding the lack of age ratings in music videos which apply to feature films. As music videos become ever more explicit it seems appropriate to protect younger generations from harmful or damaging material; even if this material is set to music. The problem with this video however, is that it is not only disturbing to younger people, but it is equally (if not more disturbing) for teenage girls and women. If you are a woman, you will know that the fear of a sexually-aggressive male figure tracing your steps at night is an all-too-familiar threat, and something that shouldn’t be ‘performed’ in a music video. It is done so in a way which makes it appear sexually attractive and makes it seem as though it is a natural by-product of men’s lust.
Another problem with Maroon 5’s video is the undercurrent of violence; not explicit, but implied. This frustratingly means that it is more likely to be age-restricted for nudity than for its depiction of stalking or implied assault. Whilst not always explicit, violence is everywhere in this video and is distinctly sexual. As watchers we assume that the blood Levine smears on his mouth and body belongs to the animals he has slaughtered, but the editing and lyrics make the origin of the blood ambiguous, and you wouldn’t be crazy for assuming that it could belong to the woman that he is fetishizing. The video cuts from a young woman’s flesh, to the flesh of an animal being prepared in a purposefully disorientating way. It further cuts from a woman sleeping in underwear to Levine punching a hanging carcass. One of the most explicitly stalker-like scene is a scene where Levine appears to stroke the woman’s arm at a bar (where she turns away from him and shuns him, clearly blocking the unwanted attention). Not only does this choppy editing style literally communicate that the woman is a piece of meat, but it confuses passion and lust with encroachment and aggression. Ultimately, the video suggests that a predator/prey relationship is both normal and necessary in a male pursuit of a romantic partner. It’s not at all surprising that domestic violence groups have had a ferocious reaction to the video.
If you want to watch the video, watch it with caution, and pay close attention to the creepy lyrics which go alongside these images. As if the video’s stalker message wasn’t clear enough, Levine actually sings; “Maybe you think that you can hide, I can smell your scent for miles,” which ultimately plays off the female fear of a predatory man and further perpetuates the kind of attitudes Emma Watson addressed and broke down in her famous UN speech.