Michael, Michael, Michael… why the male privilege?

Posted in music video, Rant, Unsung Feature by Jen on December 22, 2009

Oh, Michael. It’s not that your name has a legacy of royalty. Nope, not that. It’s not that you are the cutest big band singer, and quite possibly the hottest crooner to ever walk this Earth (ok, except for Jakob Dylan, but I digress). It’s not even that you are dating an Argentine actress and model who is 12 years your junior. I love your voice, I love your songs, you’re easy on the eyes… you really have it all.  But that video… oh, Michael, that video. It just, let’s say, enrages me. Let me backtrack and explain a little more thoroughly what I am talking about here.

Crazy Love, Michael Buble’s new album, hit the stores in October 2009. Finally aware of the release of a much anticipated record, I awaited his soft voice in tunes that had earlier been graced by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Brook Benton, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison and others. Between his caressing of notes with his vocal chords and his charming looks, this man is a feast for the senses. Therein lies the pleasure of the modern art of the music video. So far so good, and his track record made me believe that I was safe clicking on the new audiovisual Youtube link. Previously, I had always loved his videos. The video for “Home” showcased his girlfriend at the time in a story of how much he misses her, and the one for “Everything” was absolutely adorable. However, the one for my favorite track of the new album, “Haven’t met you yet”, not so much.

The video takes place at a grocery store, or as highlighted by the sign above the door, a market. This already gives us a hint of what the video will be about: Michael shopping for something, in this case, a woman. The analogy of groceries/commodities/you name it with a human being, especially of the female denomination provides, at the outset, the sense that something problematic is about to take place. The opening sequence, right after the establishing shot, shows a succession of: bananas, hands, cream puffs, yogurt and melons. Ok, call me dirty, but it is really not too hard to see the sexual implications of all this. To add insult to injury, as Michael’s soft voice lulls us with the lyrics “I’m not surprised, not everything lasts”, Michael shops in the frozen foods section, and later his video features a store clerk pricing canned goods. As his 22 year-old girlfriend enters the frame, also grabbing something from the freezer, the chilling message I take away from these images has to do with preserving looks, avoiding ageing and being frozen in time. All that matters in this market is to have the most appealing packaging, to be appealing. As the butcher wields his knife, we are introduced to the idea that this store really is a meat market.

While Michael waltzes down one of the aisles with a giant phallus, and other men blow on theirs (trumpets and other miscellaneous instruments), we are reminded of who really reigns supreme in this diegetic world. As the store patrons dance unprompted, confetti and all, the heteronormative patriarchy crucial to musicals of the 1950’s resurfaces in this modern context, one in which the male lead can sing big band music wearing sneakers. This patriarch, one that stands in all his Canadian whiteness, has conquered the Latin American woman, the locus of exoticism that has no other purpose in life than to turn herself over to the colonial power. Even the end of the video cannot alleviate this strong message. When Michael ‘wakes up’ from his musical reverie, he sees his dream woman entering the store. Firstly, the ability to conjure up the female he has imagined places him at a prime position as a creator, or somebody who, much like Scottie in Vertigo, can ‘make’ a woman exactly how he wants her. Secondly, her lack of agency throughout the whole video (he is the one speaking and singing, and she is not able to even mimic the sound of a word) also plays into this male dominated diegesis. And finally, her entrance into the store suggests that the place of the market, in which the female is a commodity, is simply inescapable.

What Buble’s video tells us, whether we like it or not, is that male privilege, money and fame can buy everything, maybe even a young, sought after female actress and model. I wish he would remember that Beatles cover he reprised in his 2005 album It’s Time. As much as you want to believe the contrary, the old adage still holds true: money CAN’T buy you love.