Nicki Minaj: “Lookin Ass”

The video I chose to represent a couple of the pieces we’ve read in the last week is one of my favorite music videos of all time, “Lookin’ Ass” by Nicki Minaj. Aside from the fact that the visuals of the video are amazing, the themes from this video represent some of what we’ve read both in Bell Hooks’ “Oppositional Gaze” and the idea of intersectionality that we learned from Kimberly Crenshaw’s essay on the experience of black women. In Hooks’s piece, she discusses the idea of “oppositional gaze” to cinema that black women have developed due to the negative imagery they often see in films. She also notes that white women are sexualized differently and so identification with them as an object of phallocentric gaze also displeased them. Lastly, Hooks addresses that not only do films not account for black female spectatorship, but feminist critiques doesn’t either. In Nicki’s video, close ups of her body, specifically her butt, represent the typical sexualization of black women. This makes the critique that follows in the video inherently intersectional, as it is about being gazed upon as a black women. And in turn, gazing back. The video goes on to place Nicki (guns in tow) in opposition to the eyes of a black man. He spends the course of the video looking at Nicki’s butt, a parallel to the way that black women are sexualized in media for the male gaze. Nicki has a response however, and this is to shoot this man repeatedly for his unwelcome stares. This combines the themes that begin Hooks’ piece, about what staring meant to her as a black child, and the themes of Crenshaw’s piece, concerning the ways in which she is affected intersectionally by this gaze, both as a woman and as a black person. Lastly, this represents Hooks’ piece in that Nicki is embodying the oppositional gaze from it’s visual extreme. Nicki knows better than to trust the male gaze, and she also knows the best way to respond to it, with violence and hard-hitting lyrics.

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