Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Central Casting for Shims:
The Foals' Miami Video

One of these is the Foals and one of these is a trans woman
getting pinned in their 'Miami' video.
Guess which is more entertaining?

No one would ever accuse rock music videos of making too much sense. They're an extended commercial of mostly unlinked images which communicate either: the musician/band is supposedly hot; the musician/band is funny; look at the sexy dancers and/or video gurl—don't you wanna have sex with them; or this is weird shit, you're weird, you should buy it. Foals are a 5-piece rock band from Oxford, England who've put out a couple of well-received but not overly successful cds. Their songs are vaguely catchy and consumable, but there's little to distinguish them from hundreds of other bands who appear on mainstream (with mild pretensions to alternative) radio. 5 pasty, white Brit guys who rather sound like The Cure from the early '90s with a new CD Total Life Forever. *Yawn* So how do you break out? In the Foals case, you hire Aussie/Brit music video wiz, Dave Ma, and have him come up with a little somethin'-somethin' which will make you stand out.

(note: if some of the video looks cropped on your browser you can see it uncropped here)

Miami Spice?
The song being sold is called "Miami" (due to be officially released on 7/4/10. What's it about... um, "Would you be there, be there, be there for me?" Maybe it was written in Miami, maybe not. It continues, "Would you betray me, save me, save me from you?" Got it. Milquetoast emo. Let's see, what would market this song? Dave Ma came up with an initial scene of a bunch of uber-tanned (fried really) and oiled body builders with bulging pecs working out in an otherwise empty alley. Most are guys, but 1 or 2 women as well, one being a very buff, older female body builder. Needless to say, none of them look like the Foals who, as Johnny Rotten once snarked of Sid Vicious, "couldn't punch his way out of a bag of crisps."

Shots from the 'Miami' video

Trans central casting
Intercut with scenes of the body-builders are quick shots of several women's legs in high heels and platforms walking... somewhere. Eventually you realize the women's legs are approaching the body builders. The 5 women are dressed like street walkers. There is a slow pan of the (hookers'?) faces lined up in a row. One of them is Calpernia addams sticking a big red candy apple (?) in her mouth like she's tea-bagging a dude. The women are pretty clearly trans-looking (or supposed to be trans-looking). And yes, that is a judgment about what trans women look like but I think it's safe to say that's what the director is going for. The women start to charge the body builders and one of the body builders, a big black guy, screams back at them.

A trans woman getting empowered

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill
The body builders and the trans-hookers are now in a rumble and fighting one another for their lives. Some of the images of the trans hookers getting choked and beaten are pretty graphic (especially in light of transphobic violence which, unless I'm mistaken, doesn't have an equivalent epidemic in the body building community). The trans hookers seem to be losing.

One of our community's leaders *gulp-gulp*

Bouncy, bouncy
Suddenly, a big, electric blue, circa 1960s Chevy Impala convertible pulls up with a carload of what is (supposed to represent) an LA-style street gang with wife-beater Ts, do-rags and caps. One is brandishing a baseball bat. The head gang-banger blows some kind of magic blue powder (fairy dust?) at the combatants and the front end of the Chevy starts to bounce up and down (the way low riders used their souped-up hydraulic suspensions to bounce the car when they see a hot mama). Suddenly, all the brawlers start jumping up and down with an ecstatic look on their face as though they've just had a vision of the blessed virgin (although Calpernia, while jumping, is deep throating her candy apple). The last shot is the car slowly driving off. Clearly, some of the trans women are either riding in the car or they've taken over the car and are slowly driving away (it's hard to tell). So, that's Miami. Tranny hookers, sunburned muscle-heads, violence, black people, gangs, classic cars. 5 guys from Oxfordshire and their Aussie director sure know the United States.

Some of the ladies driving off.
What happened to the rest?

What's the going rate for trans-hookers?
So what do trans women dressed like hookers have to do with the song or the nerdy band which performed it? Basically they're hired to supply the instant hip cred and transgressiveness. Like the muscleheads with their extreme body image and popping pecs, they're freaky. And, of course, they're a very sexualized, trashy kind of freaky. Out trans women in music videos go back to 1985, with supergroup Power Station's bit hit, "Some Like It Hot." In it, famous glamor model, Caroline Cossey (AKA Tula... who had already been 'outed' as trans 4 years before) was looking gorgeous in a skin tight bustier and micro mini. She's there as the typical hawt video babe with a few exceptions. At one point she's sitting back with shaving cream all over her face (as in, I still have a beard) and, yes, one realizes "Some Like It Hot" is a reference to the 1950s Billy Wilder film where the two main male characters dressed in drag. Sorry Tula—a trans beauty is exploited again.

Another of our community's representatives

The trans women in the Miami video include LA's own big-boobed Amanda Lepore wannabe, Glamourous Monique with her often advertised "38 FFFs." Monique has a video of her dancing to her own disco song where the chorus is "my titties" sung over and over again! Lepore herself has appeared in many high profile music videos, including those by Elton John and the Dandy Warhols.

Community empowerment and a jobs program
Yes, no doubt it will be pointed out there are lots of trans-women hookers who dress in tight, trashy outfits and enjoy tea bagging. Undoubtedly there will be people who watch the video and say (as they did with the film, Ticked Off Trannies With Knives) here's a positive sisterhood of trans women who are empowering themselves by fighting back (or, at least, attacking first), VIVA solidarity with sexworkers. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yadda, yadda, yadda. "And Calpernia is such a wonderful role model in the transgender community, surely she would never do a video which would exploit trans women or reduce them down to being portrayed as tramps obsessed with extreme plastic surgery and sex." Nope, couldn't happen, no how, no way. And this project IS providing valuable jobs for trans women because, basically, our community is a big casting agency for society's freaks. Want a man in a dress? We got it. Want a ho' with something mo' between her legs? We got it.

So fundamentally, the Foals put out this as their Miami video because they know their song is derivative, their own image isn't that interesting and they aren't exactly heart-throbs (well, maybe if you're into the emo-nerd aesthetic). In other words, trans women = rent-a-freak for the win. The New Music Express music paper called it, "The most bizarre & brilliant video we've seen in a while."

Woo-hoo, our band made a video and sold more units!
Thumbs up. We want to thank our director and all
the tranny-freaks™ who made our video worth watching.


  1. Unimpressed with the song (do not channel Robert Smith unless you're, well, Robert Smith), unimpressed with the video. I suppose a gig's a gig, and people have to make a living, but really, I have to wonder sometimes about some people's judgment. Help with one hand, undercut with the other.

    I am so, so glad that I'm not a public figure so I don't have to walk around with a scarlet T all my life. I suppose we won't get past that in my lifetime.

  2. Veronique, like all acts of cultural cannibalism, the soup gets thinner and loses taste the more often the same ingredients and recipe is used. As for the video... 25 years ago having a transsexual woman in a music video (even as exploitation) was kind of daring, now it just seems desperate. Nope, the scarlet T is here (both to be endured and exploited) for quite some time. :-(

  3. Wow, supremely misogynistic to assume that women are "hookers" because of the way they dress. "Shims"? LOL you've swallowed the oppressors Kool-aid. The women in this video are no more or less done up than Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears in their most recent videos. I guess you'd rather have them all in dockers and Michigan Womyns Fest t-shirts. It's MTV fluff, all flash and image and style, not meant for misogynistic, transphobic analysis like you're presenting here.

  4. @bluesky: Yes, I do believe they are meant to represent hookers. And yes, it is extremely misogynistic to continually present trans women as sex workers (no matter how positively you feel about sex work or some trans women's reliance on it to survive). They are being presented as "shims" (I only use that term because I'm sick of hearing tranny or shemale) not as 'sexy women'. That's what they're there for, not to be Christina Aguilera. If they wanted Christina Aguilera clones, there are plenty of those to go around. They are in the video to be freaky (like the body-builders). As long as [trans women = freaky] is being exploited by men, then that is the truest expression of misogyny. MTV fluff doesn't exist in some vacuum outside of the rest of society. The imagery it uses reflects certain obsessions and assumptions inherent in mainstream society - only intensified. These videos tend to be viewed mostly by young teens who do absorb those images in a subconscious way at face value. So, yup, there is no 'fluff' on MTV—it's expensive corporate media— and it should be examined for intent.

  5. this video was awesome! thanks for bringing it to my attention

  6. You're welcome. I'm just surprised you weren't in it.


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