New Bob Dylan video ignites controversy

dylanvidIFC recently aired a short film set to the song ‘Beyond Here Lies Nothing’ from Bob Dylan’s latest album Together Through Life and it’s caused quite a stir.

The song — the album’s first single — already has an official video consisting of black and white stills of young people in the 50s. This new clip is something else altogether.

Directed by Australian Nash Edgerton, the video is a real-time Tarantino-esque showdown between a man and the woman he is apparently keeping hostage in his apartment. Go ahead and watch it after the jump before I continue.

The controversy, of course, has revolved around the final five seconds of the film, in which the woman decides not to flee the scene and instead returns to the man and tenderly kisses him. The argument is that, no matter what the intent of the video, depicting an abused woman forgiving and rewarding her attacker is irresponsible and sick.

I can certainly see that point. But I have to admit I’m not all that bothered by it. I believe the video, like the album, is about obsessive love — love that hurts as much as it heals. In that sense, this whole film is a metaphor for two people who love each other and beat the shit out of each other (emotionally) with equal passion.

The video reminds me a bit of Kill Bill, in that the woman gives as good as she gets and winds up bloodily victorious. And in that film The Bride has a certain amount of affection for Bill despite the horrible things he does to her (may poor autoerotically asphyxiated David Carradine rest in peace, by the way).

I wouldn’t call this high art by any means, but I think to dismiss it as exploitative garbage is a mistake. Save that criticism for the Pussycat Dolls.

22 thoughts on “New Bob Dylan video ignites controversy

  1. pegclifton says:

    I’m sorry, this is not just about beating each other up (not that that isn’t bad enough) this is really more than that when knives and needles are involved. The only way this video would work for me is if she ran over him a couple of more times with the car. πŸ™‚

  2. Amy says:

    Hmmm…. I’m with Peg on this one.

    However, I don’t know if I interpret the ending the same way you do. First, I see no evidence of the “equal passion” with which these people love and beat each other. She is clearly a prisoner in that apartment, literally kept behind locked doors, and, one can assume, tied by a rope to the bed. The easy access to needles in the bathroom suggests that she’s kept drugged much of the time to dull her desire and ability to struggle against her imprisonment. Where is the love?

    I simply view that last image as the woman, who has broken free, and who has, in the process, stabbed and run over her captor, returning as a sort of ultimate “screw you” gesture. She kisses him, on her terms, then, I have no doubt, gets in the cars and drives away, leaving his battered, perhaps (we can hope) dying self behind her.

    Regardless, I’m curious how Dylan feels about having his song attached to this video. If there’s no such thing as bad publicity, perhaps it’s exactly what he’s hoping for.

    Well, now I must go view that Pussycat Dolls link to see what you view as exploitative garbage πŸ˜‰

  3. Amy says:

    Other than as an opportunity to link to a very sexy video ;-), I have no idea why you would make any mention of the PD video in the context of this short film.

  4. Clay says:

    Re: the PD, I think scantily clad women dancing on stripper poles is more exploitative of ‘the fairer sex’ than a violent video in which a woman defeats her captor.

    I like your reading of the final kiss… perhaps I looked at it as tender only because that’s how it was described in the complaints against it (which I read before seeing the video). Maybe I’m trying to hard to see a metaphor in what’s really just a Kill Bill knock-off.

    Dylan has no direct control over his videos… he lets the publishing company handle that side of his career. So there’s no word (yet) on how he feels about this one. I’m sure he’s fine with any publicity it might generate, though.

  5. Amy says:

    To me, it all depends on who is controlling the image. I know next to nothing about the Pussycat Dolls, but if they have anything to do with writing their songs, marketing their image, coming up with their group’s name – for crying out loud, then I don’t see it as being exploitative.

    Of course, they may very well be exploiting society’s fascination with scantily clad women presenting themselves in sexually charged scenarios, but that is their choice and they are doing it to achieve their own purposes. I just don’t see the women as the victims/targets of the exploitation.

    If, on the other hand, there is a Machiavellian Svenjolly πŸ™‚ – had to nod to Seinfeld – behind the orchestration of the group and its image, then I would be more bothered. I find the inclusion of Snoop Dogg in that video to be downright hilarious, as he seems so utterly out of his league that I practically feel sorry for the guy.

    For the record, I don’t find either video exploitative, though both are certainly intentionally provocative.

  6. Clay says:

    The Pussycat Dolls are indeed the product of a Svenjolly, assembled for their appearance rather than their talent. I believe most of them can’t even sing but are there just to fill in (barely) the skimpy costumes.

    I’m not concerned about these women being objectified — they are adults who have lucked into a situation where their limited talents have made them rich. I’m more bothered by the young girls out there who might look to these women as an example of how they should look and dress.

  7. Dana says:

    Pussycat video wonderful, Dylan video no good.

  8. Clay says:

    Pig! πŸ™‚

  9. Amy says:

    It’s the parents’ job to make sure that doesn’t happen, isn’t it? I’m quite happy that our daughter has Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, Hannah Montana, and the lead singer from Paramore – rather than the Pussycat Dolls – as her musical role models. And I understand why so many parents were concerned that “ella ella” Rihanna might be posing a bad role model if she were to take Chris Brown back after he beat her up. I don’t see anything in that PD video that would encourage a young girl that this is how she is to act or dress – certainly no more than the scores of images and videos that are out there. Britney Spears in her private school uniform doing her coy sex act all those years ago was far more disturbing than the more honest sexuality depicted in this video.

    And, as Peg said several comments ago, all of that is miles away from the knives, ropes and needles filling the scene in the Dylan short film, so I fear I’ve gotten us way off the topic. Sorry πŸ™‚

  10. Clay says:

    Yes, it is the parents job, and yes, Britney Spears is even more disturbing (primarily because of her age). I don’t mean to single out the PSD as the worst offenders… just the first ones that came to mind.

    Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus are definitely a refreshing change of pace. I’m not familiar enough with Avril Lavigne but I tend to think a Maxim photo shoot is a bad idea for any young woman.

    We have strayed from the original topic, and I fear I’m coming across as a prude or a member of the religious right! I don’t have a problem with women exploring their sexuality (to the contrary!) but the music industry’s drive to sexualize every young female performer is disturbing. That’s why I find somebody like Adele so refreshing.

  11. Amy says:

    Avril is working that bustier, isn’t she? πŸ˜‰ I don’t know what’s wrong with a photo shoot – Maxim or otherwise -for any young woman. It all depends on the photos, I suppose. Miley certainly got herself in the midst of a scandal over her Annie Leibovitz photos. And I’m sure, sooner or later, photos will emerge of Miss Adele πŸ™‚

    When I asked Maddie if she knew the Pussycat Dolls, she said, “yeah, I don’t like them except for ‘I Hate this Part.'” After a few minute Abbot and Costello routine, I finally realized she was naming a song.


    They seem to be frolicking around the desert as some sort of ragtag version of the Village People, but at least one of the dolls pretends? to play a piano.

  12. Clay says:

    Did she say, “But I plan to dress like them when school starts again!”? πŸ™‚

    The piano player in that clip is Nicole Scherzinger, who is the lead singer and the one Doll who seems to have some musical ability (though I don’t know if she’s actually playing the piano). The others appear to be there simply to look hot in the background.

  13. Amy says:

    By the way, don’t you find it just a bit obvious that the only of the new British invasion singers who hasn’t been the subject of such photos is the one who is overweight?

    I find it difficult to view as refreshing a message that is sent very clearly to those same young girls we fear will adopt the inappropriate dress and attitudes of the scantily clad dolls – and that message is strong: If you weigh more than Amy Winehouse, for God’s sake, stay covered up and don’t let anyone take a photograph of you below the neck. It’s the combination of the two messages that is particularly damaging to a young woman’s psyche.

    Refreshing? I don’t think so.

  14. Amy says:

    What Has Vogue Done to Adele’s Figure?
    Singer Adele appears in Vogue’s April shape issue, shot by Annie Leibovitz. She seems to have been posed in a way that makes her look thinner than she actually is. The dim lighting could have helped, too, not to mention the requisite Photoshopping. But this is exactly what we expect in the pages of Vogue and in fashion ads, and basically everywhere we look these days.

    just found this on a blog when I went to show Maddie a photo of Adele. Fascinating.

  15. Clay says:

    She’s not the only one. I’ve never seen a picture of Duffy scantily clad and she’s not overweight. Estelle, Santogold and M.I.A. haven’t been depicted that way. Lily Allen sings about sex but she doesn’t use it to sell her records. And leaving the Brits, you mentioned Taylor Swift.

    I find Adele refreshing because, regardless of how she’s photographed, there is nothing cookie cutter about her. Not her look or her personality. I’m sure lots of young talented women who look like Adele see her as a great inspiration.

  16. Clay says:

    The airbrushing thing has gotten obscene. Women in magazines these days are closer to anime than real life. When people find the need to PhotoShop women such as Faith Hill and Jessica Alba (!) because the real deal doesn’t quite cut it, that’s beyond absurd!

  17. Dana says:

    Let all the good looking ones take sexy pictures and do sexy videos. It’s hot.

  18. Clay says:

    Although if Leibovitz’s Adele photo is just a matter of how she was posed, I don’t think that’s as big a deal. Hell, I know if I was going to be in a magazine, I’d want to be posed in a way that made me look thinner!

  19. Amy says:

    Maddie wants to be sure that all your readers know that the photo you linked to above is the “new Avril,” and that Maddie prefers the original Avril (who can be seen in this video).

    As for the Vogue photo, I don’t know what they did to the image. I do know that all those ‘tricks’ – from special poses to photoshopping – contribute to giving unrealistic expectations to young women of how they’re supposed to look. I applaud when Jamie Lee Curtis and others choose to have their photos shown without all the airbrushing in an effort to present realistic images.

  20. Clay says:

    I prefer the old Avril, too. πŸ™‚ I’ve always liked that song.

    I agree about the airbrushing, and Jamie Lee Curtis’ photo shoot was worthy of applause. However, I think we all understand the desire to pick the most flattering picture of yourself for public consumption. Lord knows I waded through dozens before finding one I deemed suitable for my Facebook profile picture.

    The thing that bothers me the most is this trend of PhotoShopping women in ways that make the images literally unreal — creating a bustline and waistline more appropriate for Jessica Rabbit than an actual human being, erasing every freckle and blemish until the skin looks literally like plastic.

    Interesting video on the topic

  21. Amy says:

    Perhaps that’s what the gentleman in the Dylan video had been up to. And his subject was rebelling. πŸ™‚ Just trying to bring it full circle.

  22. Clay says:

    Well, the girl in the video is attractive but she sure isn’t PhotoShopped to perfection!

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