Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Critical Analysis of "All About the Bass"

You might be wondering how Meghan Trainor's "All About the Bass" fares on the body image front. Let's take a critical look. 

Trainor's catchy, end-of-summer anthem promotes body acceptance in a number of ways. Early on, she sings: "Yeah it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two/But I can shake it, shake it like I'm supposed to do." While she might not embody America's thin ideal, Trainor still moves and appreciates her body. She reiterates this point, noting that "You know I won't be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll,/So, if that's what's you're into/Then go ahead and move along." Here, Trainor defies the internalization of unrealistic, reductive beauty standards and instead rejects those who demand her compliance with such rigid norms.

Trainor goes on to decry the widespread practice of photo retouching, stating: "I see the magazines working that Photoshop/We know that sh*t ain't real/Come on now, make it stop."

Finally, Trainor riffs, "Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top," encouraging women to accept and respect their bodies in their entireties. 

Despite these self-esteem boosts, Trainor falters some in the body-acceptance quest. When she croons, "'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase," she objectifies her body, its value determined by the strength of the male gaze it invites. The singer likely learned this message from her mother, who taught her that appeal (read: worth) can be measured vis-a-vis her shape: "Yeah, my momma she told me don't worry about your size/She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night." That we exchange shape for size as commodities in our relational transactions doesn't make them any less materialized.

Trainor notes she has "All the right junk in all the right places." 
One may ask, what are "all the right places"? Yet, because of our culture's widely-accepted beauty standards, we'd likely see a lot of agreement here. The designation of "right" versus "wrong" places for "junk" (arguably pejorative, even though it's the "right" junk) creates an unrealistic expectation for many women. It may be okay to shirk the thin ideal, but you'd better do so in a legitimate way.

Lastly, when Trainor sings, "I'm bringing booty back/Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches," she unnecessarily snubs thin women and creates an "us" versus "them" mentality, a dichotomy that won't go far in promoting wide-reaching body positivity.

So, yes, while championing a curvier frame, unedited photos, and body acceptance, Trainor also promotes a woman's body as object, glorifies a certain body type/shape, and marginalizes skinny women, discouraging body acceptance across the spectrum. The tune is more weight- and size-inclusive than other mainstream representations of women, and the video refreshingly includes men and women of color, but the message advocates for a certain shape, unnecessarily sidelining women whose bodies don't conform. 

You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com.

1 comment:

Regina said...

I was actually thinking many of these same things. Thanks for voicing them.