Content Warning: mention of rape, sexual assault and harassment.
In the summer term of my first year at Cambridge I wrote the script to a short comedy video, which was filmed over the course of a couple of days. The concept was simple: I collected a few examples of sexist, creepy and downright bizarre lyrics from popular songs and put the words into every day contexts like going on a date or studying with a friend.
I then took the script to Luke Naylor-Perrott, a close friend, history student, rowing aficionado and inexplicable lover of Coldplay. We agreed to co-direct the video, with Luke also doing the camerawork and -- to his infinite delight -- many hours of editing. Next we had to assemble a cast who were willing to give up the very few hours of freedom they had amongst May balls and punting trips to Grantchester: a process which literally involved dragging people out of the common room.
But, with a push from Hannah Short, we got together a wonderful group of people: Ben Mortishire-Smith, Harry Sarson, Katie Gibson, Josh McClure and Evie Aspinall, as well as Hannah herself and me who, against my better judgement, ended up in a couple of scenes. We then filmed in various beautiful locations in Cambridge -- King's Parade, Pembroke College, Market Square -- and had a lot of fun, and a lot of giggly retakes.
It was difficult to keep a straight face, for instance, in the dog-puppet scene, at which point a passer-by remarked "this place is so weird" (true) or in the scene in which Ben comes over in his braces. We also encountered a couple of other difficulties -- I learnt an awful lot about continuity errors -- and when we filmed at the Market some charming individuals kept ringing their bike bells (listen closely at 2:55) to try and distract us.
Editing was then a laborious process, but one for which I will be eternally grateful to Luke. From my few pages of A4 we had made a proper short video, and the reaction we had from friends and family when sending it around was wonderful. On the off chance I also sent the film to Cambridge Shorts, a one-night only screening of student-made films at the ADC theatre, and was very excited to be accepted.
Since then I have been interviewed by student papers including Varsity and Blewswire, had lovely reviews written in The Cambridge Student, Varsity and The Tab, and met some other incredible film-makers along the way. And now, for the first time, we have decided to publish the film on Youtube to share with everybody -- and we hope you enjoy it.
The reason I decided to write the film in the first place was that I felt strongly the need to express my confusion with the music industry, particularly mainstream pop, rap and hip-hop. Whilst in other media representation of women seems to be slowly improving, in music lyrics like "put molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it" seem to go virtually uncriticised.
In clubs, driving with the radio on, or listening to music at home, women are repeatedly exposed to music which labels us 'sluts' and 'hoes', and seems hellbent on dehumanising us to stroke the egos of people like Robin Thicke, whose controversial 'Blurred Lines' music video featured males in suits accompanied by fully naked women.
As I did some research into the music industry in the writing of the video, I was horrified by some of the things I saw. Watch the music video for 'Literally I Can't' by Plays N Skillz, or read about how Eminem, arguably the world's most popular rapper and writer of the line "I even make bitches I rape cum", treated his ex-wife Kim Mathers, and you'll see what I mean.
And sexism in the industry doesn't stop with women's representation in songs and music videos. Making and producing music and DJ-ing are also still incredibly male-dominated spheres, whilst music gigs, festivals and clubs are amongst the most dangerous places for sexual harassment and assault. It saddened me that music, something which ought to bring people together and be enjoyed should be so steeped in sexism.
My video was, then, my response to all of this: I wanted to create something funny and light-hearted which would also make people think about women's representation in music. My philosophy on feminism is that every little helps: if we don't respond to micro-aggressions, then what hope do we have for disassembling systemic oppression?
Women do have a place in the music industry and do use it as a means of empowerment. From Cyndi Laupner and Whitney Housten, to Adele and Beyoncé, women have shared experiences, empowered themselves and others and owned their sexuality through music, and show no signs of stopping. Let's not allow an industry riddled with sexism to detract from their successes or strangle new talent.
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