The Persecution of Rebecca Black

Rob Sheffield has already said everything funny there is to say about Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” So it’s time to look at this phenomenon from the ’90s Woman perspective, and that is:

WTF is so scary about an ambitious thirteen-year-old girl?

“Friday” is cringe-tastically dumb, but c’mon, that godforsaken Train song “Marry Me” outranks her on iTunes by three spots, so are the charts pure meritocracies?

The real lesson in all of this is that when a normal teenage girl achieves some kind of power — as through having a song suddenly in the Top 50 — she’s super threatening and everyone piles on in this crazy hate-fest that seems waaay disproportionate to the dippiness of the song.

Every freakout I’ve heard about her (she’s autotuned! she wrote a stupid song! hey, she didn’t even write the stupid song! her parents paid for her to do that song! she didn’t earn it! she’s wearing too much makeup! she’s not wearing enough makeup!) feels like suspiciously-intense anti-teen-girlishness, with a dash of rockist anti-pop-music vitriol thrown in.

People don’t get this angry just over some cheesy lyrics. No one was out there calling for the death of James “there must be an angel with a smile on her face” Blunt.



Filed under Ada

14 responses to “The Persecution of Rebecca Black

  1. Hannah

    This is so freaking CORRECT. When I was watching it my own 13 year old girl self started nervously thinking: “How dare she? How dare she try to be so popular? What is she trying to do? Make us feel bad? She’s just some girl at our school.” –before I came to my senses. She is trying to do anything BUT make US feel bad, obviously. And women and young women and girls trying to make something happen for themselves is threatening for EVERYONE. But it also made me think of the joy I had in staging Pat Benatar performances when I was 10 or so. Given the chance, I would’ve totally plunked down the money to make my own video! Think the problem is most certainly not Rebecca Black. Thanks Ada.

  2. While I agree that it’s mean spirited and sexist to make fun specifically of Rebecca Black, I also feel like it’s totally legitimate to be disgusted by this video. As someone that has worked with teen girls to help them make genuine, authentic short films, I see Ark Music Factory and all their products as incredibly offensive and exploitative. They’re whole system seems awfully similar to those “modeling agencies” that charge girls tons of fees and promise fortune, capitalizing off unrealistic dreams. I’m much more interested in finding out what Rebecca Black’s real life is like, and seeing her make actual art than this completely brainless, uninteresting crap. So, you’re right, the problem isn’t Rebecca Black, it’s the world that created her.

  3. Alex

    Wait, what? Apparently I’m totally out of the loop, but I had no idea people were getting *angry* about this. : / Honestly, the main response I’ve seen is people having a laugh and poking fun at a legitimately awful song and video (which…I think falls squarely on the producers shoulders, and the other adults in Rebecca’s life). Sure, it’s too bad a thirteen year old got caught up in the fray, but from what I’ve seen, the response has mostly been stunned laughter at something ridiculous…not anger?

    • plant

      Check out all the murderous, rapist, pedophilic hate being spewed at her, dozens of comments per second, on YouTube.

      • Joel

        I would never, in my lifetime, read the YouTube comments for any video. Especially one that’s being celebrated as a weird cultural phenomenon.

  4. These comments are all so good.

    Nickey, that’s super valid, except what if she’s just crazy shallow and this this exploitative vanity house IS helping her being honest about her innermost self? Just devil’s advocating for vapid pop music!

    Alex, I keep seeing brutal mockery of her looks and calls for her death. She and her mother have talked about how hardcore and aggro some of the comments have been. There are some pretty fucked up comments on YouTube. On the blog The Daily What, one of the first places to pick the video up, the first comment is: “When I first watched this it was with the volume off and I thought to myself, she’s pretty. Then I turned the volume on and suddenly it was like she morphed into some sort of troll hag that needs to be killed with fire.”

  5. Oh, I think James Blunt got his share of vitriol. Much of it from me.

    I’ll add that Bieber gets attacked as bad by plenty of folks too. My attacks against Ms. Black’s video haven’t been personal, but about everything this video stands for, which is awfulness being popular.

    Pretending it’s an “anti-pop music” thing isn’t quite right, either. This video and song are particularly bad, even by cheesy pop standards.

    • plant

      I like the video and song. The lyrics are meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Consider, “Our house, in the middle of our street. Our house, it is where we used to sleep.”

      Whoever listens to pop for deep lyrics anyway?
      It’s not like anyone’s pinning their hopes on songs protesting the bombing of Libya or global warming.

      I think this is about bashing a girl being happy and confident, and not being an object. I think it’s lashing out at a more feminine style of music: not hate, not objectification, not screaming guitars and depressing tunelessness (aka jazz) ruining the music. (And yes, I am a classically trained musician, who appreciates girls’ ability to feel joy. The same joy that is repressed and sneered at in boys, with boys learning/being trained to sneer at and hate all that is joy in this world, and wanting to crush, kill, and use it for their own consumption.)

      • Jess

        I highly doubt these lyrics are meant to be tongue in cheek. You’re giving ARK music far too much credit. ARK is about making money off rich parents with kids who want to be pop stars—regardless of talent.

        A lot of people do listen to music for more meaningful and creative lyrics. I love artists like Dylan and Lennon who use their lyrics to tell stories and talk about issues that matter to them.

        I also don’t think this is about bashing a confident, happy girl. Being a happy, confident female myself with a younger sister in her teens, I’m all for that. What irks me, and I think a lot of people, about Rebecca Black is that she epitomizes the cookie-cutter, overly autotuned, ABC bubble gum pop that is put out by supposedly serious artists. There’s nothing wrong with pop or so called “feminine styled” music as genres (when they’re done well), but “Friday” does not fall in the “done well” category; the song is really just insipid enough to be an unintentional parody of most bad pop. (You’re also not doing your argument any favours by putting down the entire genres of rock and jazz.)

        Her song and ARK music also embody the idea that having rich parents somehow entitles you to a career in music no matter what your level of talent actually is.

  6. Red Jenny

    I wouldn’t call for James Blunt’s death by any means, only his retirement from the airwaves. Fortunately in the ipod era it’s much easier to avoid other people’s music.

  7. You definitely make a valid point here. I do think the song is stupid, particuarly the part where she tells us the order of the days of the week, but it’s no more stupid than many other American pop songs. Fergie spends half her time in songs spelling out (simple) words. One of Katy Perry’s songs starts out with the very very deep question, “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?” And a recent Pink song tell us to “Don’t get fancy, just get dancey.”
    Seriously? I find all of these songs just as infuriating – if not more, because these singers are raking in the dough – as “Friday.” And as for men, what about Usher? His most recent hit features a chorus he must have spent hours writing: “Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh my gosh.” And the Train song, “Hey Soul Sister,” starts with: “Your lipstick stains on the front lobe of my left side brain.” Really? That’s the best we can do?

  8. Marilyn

    The song is pretty terrible; I think we’re all in agreement on that. But I don’t see it as much different than other terrible pop songs. It’s repetitive and the beat is boring and some of the lyrics don’t make too much sense grammatically (“we so excited”, for example) but I don’t understand the vitriol towards this girl. Yes, it’s an awful song, but there are a whole bunch of awful songs out there, for every genre. I don’t see what is so specially awful about this song.

  9. Owl

    It does make me sad that money so often overrides talent when it comes to music, and that buying fame is the new norm. (Has anyone seen Jenna Rose’s “My Jeans”? It’s way, way, way worse than “Friday” because it’s not even good for laughs. I have to say, though, that Rebecca Black, in the interview where she asks Justin Bieber to perform with her (it’s on YouTube), seems to be a remarkably self-possessed young woman who decided to essentially say “eff you” to the h8ers and keep her video on YouTube instead of taking it down and slinking off in shame. I have to give her credit for that, at least.

    But seriously. I hope she dumps ARK and, if she chooses to pursue music, learns to make some quality stuff. Or better yet, I hope she turns out to be legendary super-troll-meta-comic and shows everyone up.

  10. Well, first off, we should ALL stop the hate. and if you find that world that we ALL stop the hate, let me know. Many songs said offensive lines in them. Many people will hate you for your color, accent, upbringing, clothing, makeup, etc. The fact is, there is a lot of hate in the world. There will always be someone expressing hate in any situation. Some would say the hate is sometimes justified, and either way, when we all start being hateful to each other… we all kinda lose (similar to a quote in the movie “Pay it forward”.. Think of a chef in a local restaurant. How many people tell them that the food was good, or bad, or some where in between. The fact is, few people ever tell them when its good, few tell them when its just ok. most only say something if they believe it is bad (and usually that’s just their opinion and taste buds). You can’t satisfy everyone. And with the internet it gives billions (or more) the chance to complain or compliment. It sure would be a great place if all our musicians and singers would play loving music, and we would all dance or listen to it and enjoy eachother’s company and spread the peace. I respect everyone’s agency. But (I’m going to start deciding which musicians I support based on their content.

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