Youth Culture Window
They’ve been used to record fights at school. They’ve been used to film silly (and dangerous) stunts performed by teens. And according to Beyoncé’s latest song, “Video Phone,” camera-equipped cellular devices can also be employed for something far more sensual.
From her album entitled I Am…Sasha Fierce comes Beyoncé’s latest hit, “Video Phone.” In this song, the seven-time Grammy winner sings about meeting a guy in a club who wants to film her on his video-enabled cell phone.
Sound a bit forward? Promiscuous even? Well, take a look at how Beyoncé responds:
You like it when I shake it
Shawty on a mission
What yo name is?
What? You want me naked?
If you likin’ this position
You can tape it
On ya video phone
Hustlers keep on talkin’
You like the way its poppin’
You sayin’ that you want me
Press record I'll let you film me
On ya video phone
Make a cameo
Tape me on your video phone
I can handle you
Watch me on your video phone
On your video video
If you want me you can watch on your video phone
The rest of her lyrics are just as racy, and the music video pulls no punches either. Throughout the storyline, Beyoncé is seen dancing in more skin than clothing. In several scenes, she holds various guns/rifles, rubbing them seductively. At one point in the video, she grabs her breasts and jiggles them in front of the camera for a close up view of her…umm…assets. The video also features men (who have video cameras instead of heads) gawking at her every curve.
The song’s sexiness is doubled due to the fact that Beyoncé invited Lady Gaga – another diva that we’ve written about before – to join in on the song and video. Instead of one talented hottie singing in skimpy threads, there are two.
A Tainted Image?
Beyonce has always dressed risqué and used seductive dance moves in her performances. But let’s be honest—our world doesn’t really see a problem with this.
Some people equate Beyoncé with one of the more wholesome acts in show biz. After all, it was Beyoncé that once again won the hearts of America when she turned the stage over to Taylor Swift after the teenager’s acceptance speech was hijacked by Kanye West at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. It was for these kinds of gracious and selfless acts that Billboard named Beyoncé Woman of the Year in 2009. Further, Mrs. Knowles identifies herself as “a devout Methodist” and credits the name of her original trio Destiny’s Child to a passage from the Bible. The singer has also been known to pray before going on stage, asking God to “take away anything that’s not of You, God.”
“Video Phone” makes me wonder if God missed something when He was taking away anything not of Him.
The seductive message – and images – of “Video Phone” doesn’t line up real well with the clean persona and vibe Beyoncé has tried to emit during her career. If she’s not careful, these kinds of songs could taint her good image.
Wait a second; it appears as though the singer is as crafty as she is talented.
In an attempt to protect her real-life image, Beyoncé created an alter ego named Sasha Fierce that can be blamed for anything that comes out of Beyoncé’s professional life. (That fictional name also serves as the title of her current album I Am…Sasha Fierce.)
In this article, Beyonce explains the meaning behind this self-assigned multiple personality. “I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am. Sasha Fierce is the fun, more sensual, more aggressive, more outspoken side and more glamorous side that comes out when I’m working and when I’m on the stage.”
So, let me get this straight. To shirk any unwanted responsibility in my life, I just need to create an alternate identity for myself?
Maybe Beyoncé can get away with shooting a sexy video on some guy’s cell phone in a club, and then blame it on Sasha Fierce, but what about her teenaged fans? Who can they pin their responsibility on?
Does Life Imitate Art?
Let’s hope not; the last thing we need is for our young girls to allow sexy videos to be shot of themselves on cell phones and then shared with a digital world. If our teenager’s lives imitate Beyoncé’s “art,” they might find themselves dealing with lots of unnecessary pain.
But I have a feeling that this song, produced by such a well-known star, has the potential to negatively influence a generation of young people who have already shown a lack of judgment when it comes to proper use of their cell phones. Today’s teens have been known to use their cell phones to browse online porn, and also to send sexy text messages and/or images to one another. And remember, we know that sexual messages promoted by our culture are having a distinct impact on kids.
Without a doubt, this song is being heard and the video is being watched. As of this writing, “Video Phone” is ranked on the bubble at #98 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (though it peaked at #65 and its music video has been viewed online several million times).
The good news is, in spite of the song’s exposure, if we play our cards right as parents and youth workers, we can help ensure that this sort of musical message has minimal effect on our kids.
Our Response as Parents and Youth Workers:
This song gives us yet another reason to monitor our teenagers’ music choices. Talking with them about their music not only shows you care about their choices, but it also gives you a chance to interject your concerns into the equation. Guard against lecturing in these moments; asking questions is usually the best route to helping a teenager make the right decision at the time, and down the road. For instance, you might ask:
- Do you like this song? If so, why?
- What do you think the real meaning of this song is?
- Why do you think Beyoncé would allow herself to be videoed on a stranger’s cell phone?
- Do you think that’s responsible behavior?
- How does this song intersect with what the Bible teaches?
Legitimate questions –asked in loving and not judgmental tones – almost always pave the road to influence. And that’s what we want with our teens.
This song also gives us a reason to re-address sexual temptation that must be avoided these days. Having sex isn’t the only way for kids to get in trouble with sex anymore. There are so many sexual problems for kids to avoid; in fact, the job of keeping kids sexually pure these days is a growing one. Take the particular problem mentioned in this song – shooting sexy videos of one another on cell phones. The technology to do this didn’t even exist four years ago (prior to most phones offering video cameras). Now that this danger has surfaced, it has to be added to the list of sexual temptations to be avoided.
In light of these kinds of songs and their dangerous messages, we may be tempted to take extreme measures – cancelling their cell phone service, smashing their iPods, ripping down posters of Beyoncé from our kids’ bedroom walls.
OK, go ahead and take down the posters.
But what would those severe recourses really teach our kids? That’s right, nothing. Let’s don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Let’s teach our teens how to properly, responsibly, and safely use their personal technology.
Like I said earlier, video-enabled cell phones weren’t even available in mass just four years ago. Teaching them how to handle today’s technology will prepare them for proper use of tomorrow’s tech.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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