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Jennifer Lopez May Luh Papi, But She Does Not Luh Music Video Patriarchy

"I Luh Ya Papi" serves as an appropriately twisting and turning history lesson for an art form as counterintuitive as the music video.

by Brandon Soderberg
Mar 28 2014, 5:35pm

In Jennifer Lopez's video for "Luh Ya Papi," directed by Jessy Terrero, men are relegated to the scantily clad, anonymous background role usually reserved for "video girls" and that's great. In case this conceit wasn't clear enough already, the whole thing is prefaced by a lengthy scene that articulates the double standard-destroying intentions of the video. There, Lopez and a couple friends sit back and absorb a series of cornball pitches from some label goober (real life label goober Danny Lockwood, Capitol Records' SVP of Creative and Video Production) and make the point that hey, if she were a dude, this video treatment would've been figured out in a matter of minutes and would've gone something like, "So, you'll perform on a yacht or in a mansion with a bunch of video girls behind you."

Even if this intro demolishes any sense of subtlety left in "Luh Ya Papi," a video that is supposed to be pretty damned obvious in the first place (it is perfect poppy agitprop), Lockwood's appearance illustrates the casual way in which nefarious sexism sneaks into music video-making and that's important. Namely, that sexist assumptions are ingrained and then perpetuated by way of default corporate codependence on proven-to-work formulas. That's actually much more nefarious than a music industry run by intentional lady-haters. Major points to Lockwood for his willingness to represent the banality of evil that fuels the cruel and condescending major label system, here.

So yes, "Luh Ya Papi," finds Lopez chilling out with a bunch of hot guys, crafting a glitzy, surface level conventional video that's also surface level subversive. And though it sure does suck to consider the male gaze in a video intent upon turning the male gaze around, the other message of "Luh Ya Papi" is this: Here is Jennifer Lopez, at 44, and therefore, at an age where women are inexplicably considered "past their prime," looking very good (indeed, her costumes nod to classic J. Lo looks of the past, underlining this sense of "still" having "it") while also asserting control over the music video's default misogynist mise en scéne.

Roman Coppola's video for Kylie Minogue's "Sexercize," which dotes upon the body of the 45 year-old Australian singer as she dotes upon a spruced up Maserati, is perhaps also affronting pop music's ageism, though it doesn't get big picture and take on the larger system surrounding female ageism the way Lopez's "Luh Ya Papi" does. Coppola, a filmmaker with barely any ideas (as evidence, check out: quirky abortion A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III and his Barbarella meets David Holzman's Diary lukewarm mess, CQ), is mostly paying tribute to underground cinema hero Kenneth Anger's 1965 short, Kustom Kar Kommandos, here.That three minute movie featured a handsome guy working on his automobile, and so, in this version, Minogue plays the hawt dude role. That's kind of all that is going on.

But an extended Kenneth Anger homage in a music video in 2014 turns "Sexercize" into an entry way into alternate music video history. See, Kenneth Anger is undoubtedly, the godfather of the music video. No filmmaker uses pop music with such riotous kineticism and wit like Anger, exhibited in Kustom Kar Kommandos, and his most famous short, Scorpio Rising (about a crew of sexy bikers with a deathwish and Christ complex) and this was in the early sixties! (For a more in-depth look at Anger's influence, check out a video essay for the Museum of Moving Image titled "Devil's Spawn: The MTV Legacy of Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising" put together by myself and Kevin Lee).

Which means that a man who was leering at men in his proto-music vids pretty much birthed the music video, a format that is now perhaps best known for how masterfully it has codified the visual grammar for objectifying women (check out Sut Jhally's Dreamworlds video documentaries for more on that subject). And well, that means Jennifer Lopez's "Luh Ya Papi", a proud pop subversion (complete with the kinds of beefcakes you'd imagine Anger would approve of), actually bends music videos back to their rarely acknowledge cute boys-focused origins, invoked by way of a film nerd fetishist shooting Kylie Minogue provocatively washing a Maserati. An appropriately twisting and turning history lesson for an art form as counterintuitive as the music video.

Brandon Soderberg luhs his doggie. He's on Twitter - @notrivia