By Courtney E. Smith
If there is one truism about Pharrell, it is that he likes all kinds of women. It’s what motivates him to write songs about them and identify beauty in all the colors of the rainbow (tip of the cap to tasting the Skittle and guessing the riddle). His album G I R L aims to take on that subject and if his intentions aren’t always clear in the lyrics, he’s making every attempt to be clear in his videos.
And so, for “Come Get It Bae,” we get a message from the women’s movement: the personal is political.
Whether you buy into the Dove commercials, finding unseen beauty in women, or not, that is the same concept Pharrell and director Luis Cervero (Justice, Battles) are tapping into for this video’s concept.
It’s a powerful message the endorse the attractiveness and sexuality of women of varied ages, colors and sizes. “The personal is political” tapes into a key component of the ’60s women’s liberation movement, where women began talking out loud to each other about their feelings of repression and it helped them realize they weren’t isolated problems but part of a movement. Today a huge part of “the personal is political” is women talking to other women about the male gaze, aging and beauty standards.
It’s a laudable conversation to kickstart with the platform of a Pharrell video, but the message is a little off when the people starting that conversation are two men. Thus, the Miley Cyrus featured spot is an absolute must for this video. Inserting not only an excellent singer but also a young woman who has taken it on herself to challenge the public very vocally and repeatedly about why beauty standards exist for pop stars, pointing out the absurdity of them with her own absurd sartorial take, takes “Come Get it Bae” to another level.
Also taking a big role in the video is Fatima Robinson, Pharrell’s choreographer. She’s a respected figure who worked on Dreamgirls, with Aaliyah and the Black Eyed Peas halftime show at the Super Bowl. She’s also a black woman in her 40s. Having her right next to him, doing those dance moves with the ladies in the video, adds some credibility to Pharrell sitting in the director’s chair and takes away some of the sting of the idea that two men were in charge of this concept and shoot.
Depending on your point of view, things either go astray at the end or the women take control in the end when the dancers auditioning are asked to freestyle with Pharrell. To some eyes, they use him as a prop to show off their moves and it’s empowering. To others it might appear that this emphasizes their lower status next to the male star. It’s a mixed bag when you play with the political or the personal. If nothing else, Pharrell is brave to tackle it.