I really didn’t want to write about the new Silent Comedy video. “Always Two,” which the band debuted on Monday, came to my attention via some appalled reactions from friends on Facebook. Words like “offensive,” “distasteful,” “gross,” and “unsettling” were being tossed around, none of which are terms typically associated with the San Diego band.
And viewing the video, I found myself in agreement with the people disparaging it. But at Owl and Bear, we try to be critical without being harsh or negative. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but in a world where many music writers make their names by snarkily eviscerating bands they don’t like, we try to abide by the rule our owl and bear mothers taught us: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Further adding to my reluctance, I’ve known the Silent Comedy boys for years, and they’re great guys. They’re kind, warm, down to earth, and unlike some of San Diego’s other big names, refreshingly unaffected. There would be no joy to be found in taking my friends to task for a video they may have had very limited input on. Yet the video for “Always Two” exists, and it has their name on it, and it does need to be addressed. Because how did some of the sweetest, most socially conscious dudes I know make one of the most misogynistic music videos I’ve ever seen?
The “plot” of the video is basically this: girl wakes up from presumable one-night stand, girl hangs around in her underwear all day, girl goes out to bar and gets wasted, girl flirts and dances with guys in bar, guy from bar follows her home and rapes her. Fade to black.
It’s not much of an arc, and positioning the rape as the climax of the video makes it feel like the natural consequence for the girl’s behavior. Are you an attractive female who wants to sleep around, drink, or do drugs? Do you want to flirt with guys at bars? Fine, but prepare to be sexually violated. Action, meet consequence.
The video’s gaze mirrors that of her eventual attacker in disturbing ways. It first views her with lust: We watch as she walks around in her underwear, slowly pulling on her pants, taking time for looks at her legs. Then it’s back to her apartment where her pants are off again and we watch as she texts in bed wearing nothing but panties and a tee-shirt. Next it’s time to get dressed (again), and the camera lingers over her legs (again) as she puts on her stockings. But once she begins grinding up against dudes at the bar, exhibiting loose-lady behavior, she becomes an object of disgust, worthy of our hatred for stringing those poor guys along.
She stumbles home from the bar, but she must have a lot of nerve for thinking she could end the night alone after all her teasing. One of the guys from the bar follows her home to restore order to the universe. He slaps some sense into her, throws her onto the bed, and proceeds to have his way with her. And that’s the video. Enjoy!
The video for “Always Two” was directed by Krista Liney, and yes, she’s a woman. But a woman also directed the controversial video for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” perhaps the one 2013 video more misogynistic than this one, so it’s not like having a female director lets “Always Two” off the hook. Were Liney and The Silent Comedy trying to court similar controversy? The only thing that sells more than sex is sex with controversy. Or maybe we can give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were simply trying to make as powerful a video as possible.
Fans of the band certainly saw it the latter way, and most internet chatter throughout Monday regarding the video was positive. But more disturbing than the video itself was the possibility that people were watching it without being the slightest bit aware of its misogynistic implications. Why weren’t more people up in arms about this? There’s a lot of argument in the U.S. as to whether or not a rape culture exists — and in my opinion, the fact that most people can view the video for “Always Two” as harmless entertainment is proof positive that it does.
Maybe “Always Two” is just a well-inteded but poorly executed look at a day in the life of a troubled young woman, but I doubt it. The video’s treatment of its protagonist is far too cold and cruel for that. Or maybe “Always Two” is a cynical attempt at shock value designed to get people talking, and we’re playing right into the filmmakers’ hands right now. But either way, The Silent Comedy should have known better, and so should we.
UPDATE 12/17: Director Krista Liney posted this statement about the video.
UPDATE 12/18: San Diego’s Justine Marzoni publishes an open letter to the band.
UPDATE 12/20: The Silent Comedy’s Josh Zimmerman defended the video in an interview with CityBeat. He then posted his unabridged responses here.
UPDATE 12/21: San Diego singer/songwriter Normandie Wilson expresses her dissatisfaction with the band’s response to the video in her own open letter.