Well, it just got complicated with Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips and Erykah Badu.
In case you’re not on top of the news, here’s a quick summary: Last week, Pitchfork premiered the video for “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face,” the Lips’ collaboration with Erykah Badu. The video shows Badu nude in a bathtub and her sister, Nayrok, nude and covered in a series of substances — glitter, something that looks like blood, and (if we’re being generous) something that looks like milk. The next day, the clip was removed from Vimeo. Today, the Lips released a statement saying they had accidentally released the video “unedited and unapproved,” and that they take full responsibility. Badu, still unsatisfied, tweeted an angry response at Coyne, claiming that he misrepresented the video to her and surmising that he purposely posted it without her OK. “As a woman I feel violated and underestimated,” she wrote.
So, then Coyne went on Twitter (not linking) and responded to Badu’s invitation to “KiSS MY Glittery ASS” by tweeting the above photo of himself puckering up with glitter on his lips. “Nice ass!!!!” he wrote, later thanking Badu for starting a controversy that got 100,000 more views for the video. And then he spent a while RTing a bunch of people — almost all dudes — who thought the Flaming Lips video was “art” and that Badu should shut up.
I’m pretty sad about this, but it’s also something I should have seen coming. I’ve been a Flaming Lips fan since I was a teenager. Many of their albums are among my favorites. Their live shows (although there could really be more Coyne singing and less tiresome call and response) are lots of fun. I briefly interviewed Coyne a few years ago and he was nothing but sweet.
But I have to admit to myself that I’ve felt alienated by their videos in the past few years. A lot of them feature beautiful, nude, objectified women — and whether you’re a “sex-positive” feminist or not (for the record, I do identify that way) seems beside the point here. As a woman, this stuff makes me feel like I’m not the audience the Lips have in mind. For them, naked chicks seem to be just another part of this crazy, weird, psychedelic world that exists as a buffet for everyone (that is, straight men) to inhale, a feast for senses already overwhelmed by drugs and music. Women aren’t participants; we’re third-eye candy.
Anyway, one good thing did come out of this dust-up, and it’s the exchange between Badu and Janelle Monae, who tweeted her support for the singer “as a woman & artist.” Badu replied, “thanks twinn… and … Hshdhj b j h box check j k mjzj hhhh j hk mzjabz dksnnxzjx/?$.&. M. 10101010010-0 (? s>.!.! And stuff. You know?” To which Monae responded, “absolutely. But kdnskssnnsnsndsnnssnnsssansn7:’sjjsjsksk! Feel me? And 83$:$:$:&&:&:ghhjjjjjjk… Always.” I don’t know about you, but I got that message loud and clear.
Anyone else feeling complicated about this?