Much Badu About Nothing

Some folx are feeling Erykah Badu has done some badubious stuff in shooting and releasing her video for her latest single, Window Seat. In case you haven’t seen it, the video features Erykah strolling through Dealy Plaza in her hometown of Dallas mimicking the infamous path taken by JFK at the time of his assassination. On its own, not too controversial, right? What takes the video over the top, for some, is the fact that throughout her stroll Erykah slowly sheds her clothes in a sort of slow-jam-motion strip tease.

So what’s all this fuss about? Badu’s video was inspired, as she acknowledges at the beginning of Window Seat, by dance punk duo Matt & Kim’s video for their single Lessons Learned which has them streaking through Times Square. The difference? Matt & Kim acquired the appropriate permits before their shoot while Ms Badu decided to shoot hers “guerrilla-style, no crew, one take, no closed set, no warning.” Once the video went viral and came to the attention of Dallas authorities, they actively began to seek anyone who had witnessed the shoot, particularly anyone who found it offensive.

In comes Ida Espinosa who claims to have been there with her two children. Prompted by Dallas police, she files a complaint. Next thing you know what was nothing but a potential two-minute blip on the social faux pas radar becomes a charge of disorderly conduct that comes with a $500 fine. Ms Espinoza was offended—not offended enough to call 911 while it was happening, though. Now, I get that cops should actively search for those against whom crimes might have been committed but may be too afraid to step forward, but this is ridiculous.

In diligently researching this story, I watched the video a number of times. At about he three-minute mark you’ll notice a lady walking with what could be her two children. Could this be Ms. Espinoza? One of the kids looks like he’s in his teens. Even through the Zapruder-film-inspired graininess you could tell his eyes were popping out of his damned skull. I imagine he wasn’t very offended. Mind you, Erykah doesn’t fully disrobe for another two minutes. At this point she’s still in her bra & panties, nothing more revealing than you’d see at the beach. My guess: poor Ida’s jealous she doesn’t have an ass like that. Even more likely is that Ida Espinoza saw a chance to get some publicity of her own and she found a way by riding on Ms Badu’s tail, so to speak.

The truth is no one should be offended by the human body. Unless Ms Badu lied down in the middle of Dealy Plaza spread eagle and offering her naked body to all-comers, there was nothing whatsoever sexual about what she did. Sexy, yes—but definitely not sexual. She barely gets her drawers down when the narrative in the video has her shot down by an unseen assassin’s bullet and the words Group Think form from the inky blue blood pouring from an imaginary head wound.

If there is anything obscene about this video it’s the fact that Ms Badu felt folx would relate this video to the idea of group think, a concept whereby people agree with a prevailing opinion so as not to create or foment controversy. I wonder how many of her fans will actually get it. Sadly, the act of stripping down actually feeds group think. People will watch it to see Erykah get naked, to see what all the controversy is about. Critics will view it (as some have already) as an obscene attempt to use nudity and exploit JFK’s demise as a way to attract attention. Too few will see the intended artistic connection to the Kennedy assassination, to the idea that we tend to destroy what we fear or don’t understand—that far too often we are threatened by free thinking.

Not that any of it matters. The truism there’s no such thing as bad publicity is Erykah’s saving grace. The controversy will almost certainly help her sell more albums. In the end, the video might not be remembered for opening a window into her soul, but it sure as hell did a wonderful job of opening one onto her seat.

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