Wow. Entertainment figures blatantly taking advantage of kids aren’t in short supply these days…while I’m not going to go on and on about it, I feel I have to weigh in on the Erykah Badu controversy because a lot of people are missing the point. First, to catch up people who don’t know what I’m talking about: Erykah Badu is a popular R and B singer who was raised in Dallas and still calls our fair Metroplex her home. On March 13, she shot a video for her latest single, “Window Seat” at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas at the site of the spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was on the web for all to see on YouTube for awhile. In the video, done in one shot with one camera and without getting permission from the city, she drives up in a Lincoln not unlike the one ridden in by the President, gets out, and proceeds to walk down the sidewalk amidst unsuspecting tourists, toward the assassination spot, shedding her clothes layer by layer until she’s in her underwear, then completely naked. A shot is heard, her head jerks back, and she falls on the street, next to “the spot”. She claims her “art” was necessary to draw attention to the dangers of “groupthink”. (According to dictionary.com, groupthink is conformity, the practice of approaching problems as matters best dealt with by the consensus of a group rather than by individuals acting independently; the lack of a sense of personal responsibility.)
I think whatever message she was trying to get across has been lost in the controversy over this video and her own “lack of a sense of personal responsibility”. Most of the discussions I’ve read/heard about it have been the argument of “What’s wrong with nudity? America needs to quit being so prudish!” vs. “Public nudity– how scandalous!”, without much, if any, mention of why she really ought to be ashamed of herself: the fact that she knowingly took advantage of children. She claims she sent out telepathic messages to the children in the area in the hopes that they wouldn’t be traumatized—what a cheap “absolution” of responsibility. First of all, what most news coverage about this video shoot fails to mention is that it was shot on a weekend during Texas’ spring break, when all Texas public schoolchildren were off for the week, and many people were on vacation. There were many families in Dealey Plaza that day, showing their children a historic, albeit sad, site. She has three children of her own, she has friends with children, some of her crew members probably have children, so I don’t believe for one second that they didn’t know it was a high traffic moment for that site. I used to work two blocks from there for nine years and I know that if she’d just waited a week or two, there would have been less people, and a lot less kids. But then the video (and song) probably wouldn’t get as much attention as they’re getting. One of the main things viewers are looking at in the video, in addition to her cottage cheese thighs, is the reaction of the people around her—viewers are naturally curious to see how the adults and children are reacting to a naked lady in public, and without these tourists in the shot, it wouldn’t be as “intriguing”.
So I don’t think the major beef people should have with this is the public nudity. Yes, she broke the law, and that’s not a good thing, but overarching this whole scene is the fact that she knowingly took advantage of a lot of people, diminished the history lesson for all the children present that day and used them and everyone else seen in the video as unpaid actors, in an enterprise that is no doubt raking in lots of cash for her and her record label. I would have a problem with anything sensational done to make money at a historic site like that, with children watching and caught on film without any forewarning or given the chance to leave.
I wish one of those parents present that day would come forward and say something…but maybe they are stuck in the confines of…groupthink?
Note: Since this was written, someone did come forward and complain, and Erykah was fined (by the Dallas Police) less than $1,000.