The Internet is buzzing (mostly) with criticism of a new song and video by Kiely Williams, former Disney “Cheetah Girl” and member of girl group, 3LW. Her new single called “Spectacular” essentially an ode to a wild night of unconscious, drunken, unprotected sex. In the song and the video, Ms. Williams chronicles her night out at the club where some random guy buys her lots of drinks and she decides to go home with him for “spectacular” sex. That isn’t much different from most of what’s on the radio now and is not particularly problematic. But she takes it a step further when she sings: “Last I remember I was face down, ass up, clothes off, broke off, dozed off,” and “You can say what you want, call me a slut but what he did to me last night felt so good we must have been on drugs. I hope he used a rubber, or I’m a be in trouble, problem is I don’t remember…” She wrote this song, here’s the video to match.
There are so many problematic things about the lyrics that the video is just icing on the cake. I am no prude; I appreciate sexual content in music and a good drink, but the public health messaging here is abominable. I’m assuming that at 23, her main goal was more about making marketable music than educating the masses but subsequent events show that she realizes that her fan base is young girls, tweens and teens who have been idolizing her on the Disney Channel. I certainly don’t aim to shame her for having a one-night stand with a guy from the club, that is absolutely her decision as a young woman. But it is problematic to reward this guy for having sex with you once you’ve passed out from alcohol, and maybe other drugs, by telling him he could “get it again.”
Many women (and men) see this as glorifying date rape. I won’t go that far because she may have wanted to go home with this man and have a night of casual sex. I’m not mad at that. But it is creepy that he was having sex with someone so incoherent that they couldn’t stay awake for the experience, and wasn’t in the frame of mind to make sound decisions for themselves. There’s a gray area around her intentions for the night but he sounds like a dirtbag. My mom would ask, “where were this girl’s friends?!” According to the song, they were busy taking pictures at the club of events she can’t remember.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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Also, she is completely nonchalant about the fact that she doesn’t know if her partner used a condom but hopes so because that could cause her “trouble.” Yes, Kiely, you could end up with a sexually transmitted infection or an unintended pregnancy (or both). So in this scenario, you don’t know this guy’s name, or anything about him, except that he bought you lots of alcohol and that you wanted to run out of his home as fast as possible (which sounds like regret and embarrassment). It couldn’t have been that spectacular then.
I am cringing because I believe this could be a relatively common story that has been glorified with a synth beat, fast editing and sequins. Then I read the comments under her video and my fears are confirmed with people cheering her for breaking away from her Cheetah Girl persona and for the catchiness of the tune even if the words are “ridiculous.”
I’ve had ;conversations on Facebook and Twitter about the idea of young women exploring their sexuality, particularly under the lens of the Madonna/whore complex. It becomes even more exaggerated when teen stars whose entire livelihood depends on living up to a squeaky-clean, chaste image while suppressing normal sexual urges, become young adults and have to transition their career to stay relevant. Exaggerated sexuality has become the traditional path (see Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Dana Plato from Diff’rent Strokes, Jaimee Foxworth of Family Matters). What are we creating by placing such pressure and expectations on these young people? They are acutely aware that their physicality is their profit from a young age, so it’s a constant battle to keep pushing the envelope and claim a piece of the “celebrity it-girl” pie. It appears that she is trying to maintain her connection with her core audience in the video below where only six months ago she advises a teen girl to “be smart and safe” before becoming sexually active.
Some Twitter friends pointed out that she is still young and is figuring out her sexuality. Becoming a young woman who is comfortable in her sexuality can be confusing and difficult. I know I had to learn a lot of lessons through trial and error, as most people do, and it’s a constant process. But what saddens me is that she has to do it in a public forum because of her desire for fame and success. It’s unfortunate because in this Internet era, this video won’t go away. It is here for posterity and will always be connected to her name. It’s unfair in a sense to have the mistakes of your youth chronicled in this way but that’s the other side of celebrity. With no one really looking out for this young lady, she is learning hard lessons about her sexuality and creative expression.
Because of the uproar, Kiely (and I assume her PR people) quickly released a coordinated response claiming that this is more of a public service announcement than endorsement of reckless blackout sex:
I am an actor and performer. I have been so since my first role in a television pilot at five years old. I played a character when I was a Cheetah Girl. I am playing a character in the music video for the song Spectacular, as I did in the Cheetah Girl movies. Young women across the country get intoxicated and have unprotected sex. That’s a fact. I recorded the song to bring attention to this frighteningly prevalent activity. It is absurd to infer or suggest that I am condoning this behavior.
Are Lady Gaga and Beyonce advocating murder with the Telephone video? Of, course not. Was Rihanna encouraging suicide with Russian Roulette? No. Was Madonna suggesting that young unmarried girls get pregnant with Papa Don’t Preach? I don’t think so. Is Academy Award winner Monique a proponent of incest because of her portrayal of Mary in the movie Precious. Clearly, the answer is no.
I wrote Spectacular and made the video to bring attention to a serious womens’ health and safety issue. Please don’t shoot the messenger.
I’m not buying it and neither is most of the public. Lady Gaga and Beyonce didn’t sing about murdering folks. Madonna’s classic, Papa Don’t Preach, highlights the difficult situation of an unintended pregnancy. In this case, the song and the video mirror each other with no way for the viewers (adults or adolescents) to discern that this is just art. If the intention was to tell a cautionary tale, why isn’t there a message at the beginning or end offering resources or information? Furthermore, I’m disgusted that her PR people are scrambling to help her defend herself in the aftermath, but weren’t there to advise her when she decided to create this mess. But it is said that all press is good press (even if it’s bad) and the mission is accomplished. People are talking. But no one is happy…except for maybe whoever is profiting from this young woman’s body.
Maybe this is beside the point but Miss Kiely, have you ever had sex when you are at the point of passing out? I hope not because you would know that it is usually way less than spectacular. It’s probably closer to nauseating. You can do better for yourself and your fans…and you deserve better. Now can I give you hug, little sis?