Charli XCX’s ‘Boys’ Is the Inversion of the Male Gaze We All Needed.
WORDS BY HAYDN HICKSON
When I was younger I would often find myself at the newsagent going through magazines such as Tiger Beat, Girlfriend, or really anything that had Troy Bolton on the cover. I’d flick through pin-ups of boys in various poses in front of various backgrounds and escape into a semi-romantic, semi-platonic daydream. Charli XCX’s new music video essentially elevates this concept of the parasocial relationship in a music video format, resulting in what might accidentally be the most feminist M/V of 2017.
Okay, yeah so hear me out.
Much of feminism in the popisphere has centred around this notion of girl power: the need to empower other women, self-confidence, the “I don’t need a man” attitude etc. And don’t get me wrong, this article doesn’t intend to downplay the importance of broadcasting those messages out into the world – I mean, it’s produced some of the world’s greatest pop songs (see: careers of Destiny’s Child, the Spice Girls and Little Mix). But essentially what Charli XCX does, is approach feminist-pop from a different angle.
Swooning over boys is almost a rite of passage in the life of a teenage girl, as seen in the huge online presence of boy-band fanbases (such as BTS’ Army and One Direction’s Directioners). And often young girls are ridiculed for obsessing over these pop-groups, evidenced in the societal rejection of the “not serious”, teenage-girl’s musical opinion. Here’s where Charli XCX comes in. The singer-songwriter seemingly takes matters into her own hands and embraces this rite of passage, but in a very feminist way.
Throughout history we’ve endured heaps of what Laura Mulvey would describe as the male gaze – i.e. women have been presented on screen as objects of heterosexual male pleasure. This can be done through camera angles, lighting and really any film technique. What Charli XCX’s directorial debut does is flip this idea, with the presentation of the masculine body under a feminine point of view.
‘Boys’ is two minutes and forty-seven seconds of pure-pop bliss backed with slow-motion, aesthetically-pleasing visuals of some of the biggest names in music right now. Charli takes her teenage-girl daydreams and literally directs her famous male friends to re-enact them. And whilst this presentation of the male body may put these musicians on a pedestal, it does so in an artistic, classy way – which unfortunately hasn’t always been the case for the inverse. Not to mention there is a full range of ages, ethnicities and body-types.
Charli XCX’s new single ‘Boys’ is a pop goldmine, with relatable lyrics, a video-game-coin sample, and a killer music video, let’s all just be thankful for the daydreams this pop songstress had.