Nickie Minaj – Anaconda (Analytical Essay)

free essayNickie Minaj’s “Anaconda” video looks as a seemingly common hip hop video where a bevy of pretty semi-naked girls prop up a similarly semi-naked singer in a variety of locations the main point of which to encase their beauty and different outfits. The audience might think that it is the same objectification of women it has seen before. Minaj sings about a girl two-timing guys for presents and money that allow her to look pretty. However, a close analysis reveals many details with which Minaj does her best to overcome the present stereotypes about women. In contrast to the reigning unrealistic beauty standards, Minaj calls curvy women to flaunt their curves. In contrast, to an objectified image of women complying with men’s demands Minaj proclaims independence.

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Whereas hip hop videos often serve to reinforce male hegemony in show business, Minaj’s text can be analyzed through the lens of feminist criticism. Feminist criticism argues that imagery in mass media and popular culture often denigrates women. The inequality stems from the male-oriented culture that reinforces language and images inherent to patriarchy. According to patriarchal paradigm, men dominate women in all spheres of life due to their inherently better qualities. Women’s role is purely decorative whereas men can and should act and be active in society. Such ideology results in men’s superior position in society while women take a more submissive role. In mass media, one of the ways how the patriarchal system can be perpetuated is language and images (Bordo 261). When women are portrayed only as sexual objects, it keeps inequality in pop culture and reinforces the inequality patters in real life since the audience often emulates what it sees on stage. Another form of confining women to their ‘place’ in patriarchal society is silencing them by preventing them from having their spaces for self-expression (Brummett 182). When young girls and women do not see other women doing something meaningful the patterns of women’s decorative role are further perpetuated (Brummett 184). As a result, women are portrayed as always lacking something (Trier-Bieniek xvi). They lack activity and are depicted passive; they lack voice and they are made voiceless; they lack agency and they are objectified (Bent 95). Therefore, in order to empower themselves women should seek agency and voice and show themselves in mass media active. With the use of feminist critical lens this paper will review Nickie Minaj’s text, what and how gender stereotypes are portrayed, and how the text interacts with the ideology of patriarchy.
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Inasmuch as women do not have priority in a patriarchal society, Minaj gives them a voice in her video by singing herself and producing the video with women only. Minaj projects an image of a strong and successful woman. Having platinum albums as well as being the best-selling female singer on iTunes Minaj is the most successful female rap singer. Her earnings are on par with Jay-Z and Puff Diddy (Williams & Tyree 51). Such critical acclaim and public love was earned by exploiting sexuality and gender. Whereas Minaj uses her body and beauty to win her place in show business, she does it with a feminist approach by building her independency and acquiring agency.

In contrast to typical hip hop videos where women as voiceless objects serve to satisfy men’s desires, Minaj’s video depicts a paradise without men.Singing about conventional, patriarchal relationships where a man provides for a woman and her task is only to be pretty and serve his sexual desires the video depict a different reality. In “Anaconda,” the location is an environment where women can hang out together exercising, playing, and dancing with no men around. The girls are very pretty wearing different revealing outfits and doing booty dances. Therefore, alack of menin the video isintentional.

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Minaj’s video should be read as a tool to empower women in several directions. One of them is beauty and appearance. Contemporary beauty standards set up unrealistic demands and women feel under pressure to conform. Minaj does not want play along the canon of thin body and opposes it with her refrain “Fuck them skinny bitches” (“Anaconda”). Whereas the current standards still hold it that “Areas that are soft, loose, or “wiggly” are unacceptable,” Minaj opposes it with her lyrics and visual images (Bordo 190). The video is chock-full of shots where the girls do twerking motionsin various poses from up standing with their legs wide apart to sitting on the chair to lying on the floor on their stomachs.In one particular shot Minaj slaps a girl’s distinguished bottom making it quiver. Thus, Minaj emphasizes her point that female body is good as it is.

Another direction of feminist approach used by Minaj is showing that women can and should be in control. When women comply with the stereotypes and expectations of others in their regard, then they agree to play by the existing rules. In terms of their bodies they agree to diet and exercise in order to look thin. Women externalize the demands of others so much that they come to believe that it is their own desire to look and act like that. In feminist theory, a phenomenon when women look at themselves through the eyes of others is called “the gaze” and “the best means of combatting the [male] gaze is to actively challenge it” (Moe 11). Minaj does it by celebrating her own voluptuous body and by claiming that curvy are better than skinny. At least through her video she gives a territory to curvy women to feel accepted since skinny women are currently a generally accepted trend. Minaj sings, “I wanna see all the big fat ass bitches in the mothafuckin’ club.” To emphasize her point in the refrain she raps, “Little in the middle but she got much back!” and “Oh mygosh, look at her butt!” Thus, Minaj takes control over the impression of her body and actively proclaims and promotes its prettiness and desirability.

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However, Minaj’s video cannot but pinpoint some contradictions in celebrating female bodies in such a way. While Minaj obviously regards sexualized female appearance as empowerment, the critics can argue that it enforces the existing stereotype that women are sex objects. Furthermore, women in the video are shown from a man’s perspective.Their outfits accentuate breasts, waist, and hips.Their cuddling each other resembles a girl-on-girlgenre common in pornography. Finally, Minaj toys with phallic symbolssuch as bananas, cucumbers, and whipped cream. Since it is very difficult to separate it now, many femalesbelieve it is away of looking at themselves as well (Householder 23).

However, it can be argued that in modern culture it is a matter of choice of whether women are objectified or not.Their sexuality and revealing outfits are not in direct opposition to messages of empowerment. It is evident in agreat contrast betweenMinaj’s video and lyrics when she changes it from a typical hip hopshow where women are centers of attention and happy withit to the feminist perspective on modern relations with men. First of all, by the end of the video Minaj demonstrates degrading treatment of phallic symbols. Playing with them at the beginning of the video Minaj played along an expected reverie for males. However, Minaj’s loving gazes and seductive moves are abruptly ended. The shot that started as the deep throat techniqueunexpectedly for the audience ends with banana chopping and a grimace of boredom and disdain on Minaj’s face.

Minaj further exercises her control by establishing her own rules for lap dance and rejecting Drake for violating them. Lap dance is traditionally defined as entertainment for men when women are able to showcase their eroticism and sexuality for men’s pleasure. However, Minaj overturns the assumptions making her the master of her body and the way it functions. While she shows her skill and demonstrates her beauty in what seems the embodiment of objectification and sexualization, by her rejection of Drake she shows that men can interact with her only under her terms. The moment Drake touches her, Minaj stops dancing and leaves him wanting for more.

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In terms of intersexuality, Minaj’s video makes direct references to the 1990s hit “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix A Lot. Minaj directly appropriates a line “Look at her butt” but she subverts the meaning. In the original video, a white girl says it in amazement and with disgust while Minaj leaves only amazement and adds adoration. In addition, Minaj also uses the imagery of bananas, lemons, vinyl record players but again her implication is different. As was said earlier, Minaj consciously uses her sexuality and does it on her own terms. Thus, she refuses to play by the rules of patriarchy and invents her own.

Feminism is gaining momentum now with more celebrities joining its ranks. Therefore, it is crucial to see how hip hop and pop culture follow the trend, and what messages emerge. Even though Menaj’s video begins as a typical hip hop gig with female objectification and the male gaze, at the end of it she agrees to follow existing rules and be sexy and pretty, but it does not imply that men are gods and superiors; she will treat them according to the way they deserve. Despite obvious contradictions in exploitation of sexual imagery, Minaj’s video sends women a message for empowerment.