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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" Video: A Feminist Close Reading

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2011 at 9:08 AM

The duo is already known for compelling and profound works such as "Yes" -- an unflinching exercise in self-affirmation -- and the allegorical "I'm in Miami, Bitch," which analyzes the relationship between a physical location and a state of mind.

But with "Sexy and I Know It," the Pacific Palisades-based uncle-nephew outfit LMFAO have created a sociological masterpiece: a video that delves into the deeply internalized feelings of physical objectification -- a phenomenon often directed toward women that these two men deftly turn upon themselves.

To the untrained eye, the video may appear to consist simply of men shaking their genitalia in lamé Speedos. But the subtext of this work -- which practically begs for close analysis -- speaks to the struggles of objectified women everywhere.

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Filmmakers over the decades have examined the concept of an unflinching male gaze directed at women. But here, DJs Redfoo and Sky Blu explore how thoroughly unsettled those stares would make men feel when directed in a way that never fades.

"When I walk in the spot, this is what I see," Redfoo sighs, suggesting a deep sympathy with women forced into the spotlight. "Everybody stops and they staring at me."

The harsh looks of both men and women soon drive the rapper to complete literally what is already being done in the eyes of others: he rips his pants off, leaving the star more exposed and vulnerable than before.

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The rappers also reference the struggles of material life that, for many women as well as men, can be overwhelming. "Animal print pants -- out of control," Redfoo admits.

Later, we see the men struggling with the judging eyes of onlookers and the camera as they attempt to cover up their bodies -- either literally through crossing their arms or figuratively through affected bravado. And in the second half of the video, the two rappers are forced to strut in skimpy clothing on a bar to gain the audience's cheers and approval -- likely a reference to the way women are judged every day on their appearance.

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But Redfoo and Sky Blu aren't done. Even when stripped of their clothes, they feel they must beg for female attention in order to feel validated, specifically pointing out their physical attributes.

"Girl, look at that body," they plead repeatedly, mirroring the Sisyphean plight of women seeking to be noticed in a patriarchal society. "I work out."

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Ellen Huet

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