Silent Misogyny: The Silent Comedy’s New Video Does Women Wrong

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 Silent Comedy

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.

11 thoughts on “Silent Misogyny: The Silent Comedy’s New Video Does Women Wrong”

  1. Gotta say that you guys are totally misrepresenting the meaning of the video. Have you actually watched it carefully? It seems like you have a really shallow knee-jerk reaction to just showing any depiction of rape. Given that you know the guys and like them, did you think for a few seconds that they are just trying to show something more than drink and you’l get raped?

    There is a definite narrative that seems to show a cycle about an abusive relationship that the girl is stuck in. She wakes up, gets mad that her boyfriend is not giving her attention, goes out and flirts with someone else in front of him to make him mad, he gets mad, and drags her home and beats and rapes her. Rinse and repeat. It’s a disturbing and all too real cycle in abusive relationships. It’s not as simple as what you and other critics have put forward (sweet girl gets drunk, and deserves rape).

    You guys are really doing the band a discredit, and also turning a blind eye to the whole issue of domestic violence.

  2. What the fuck is everyone, or 2000 views, freaking about? Looks like a typical night in North Park to me. Entitled hipster douchebag gets told “no” by his girlfriend then smacks her around. Glad she leaves the guy. Hope he gets hit by a scooter on 30th.

  3. I feel pretty bad that this band is getting knocked so much right now, on here and on Facebook, for what seems to be a misinterpretation of the video. The video is about an abusive relationship, albeit glorified in this vintage-y, cowboy, greased up whatever the hell this is… But it’s clearly about a relationship. And not about a one night stand or some sleazy, drunken, “stringing guys along” thing that people are making it out to be. The song is whatever and the video is boring. If silent comedy was going for something tragically beautiful, or something… then they failed. But misogynistic? I would suggest watching the video closely and actually listening to the lyrics before doling out such harsh criticism.

  4. Just because someone gets raped in a video doesn’t automatically mean that the people behind teh video are making any judgements about rape or rape culture. To me it seemed like the story of a very messed up relationship that ends in a rape and a subsequent break up.

  5. Cheers to you, Chris, and cheers to Owl & Bear for having the courage to post something like this.

    People who do not believe in rape culture say things like “men can’t help themselves” and constantly make excuses that sexual violence is something that’s simply encoded into men’s DNA. They view men like animals, and think that men are just too simple and primal to … not rape. I disagree with that viewpoint, and your article is one of the reasons why; men with conscience and morals who are able to say, “hey, this is wrong, and we need to talk about it.”

    Men do indeed have the capacity, privilege, and power to take actions aimed at ending rape culture and violence against women. It cannot be an easy choice to make a post like this about a band that you’re friends with; it isn’t the easy choice to call out one of the most popular bands in San Diego — a band that just won a ton of SD Music Awards and has a killer career going for them. But it’s *the right choice* and your blog just stood up in a very powerful way for your ethics, your beliefs, and your views. Not too many journalists do this anymore – especially in San Diego.

    I ranted so much about this on Twitter yesterday, and I’m going to write a blog post about it later today. But overall, I would like for there to be more of a discussion about our sexist society and how it ruins music. I used to think it was musicians who were sexist, but sadly, it’s not. It’s society that’s sexist, and as artists, we have a responsibility to stand up to the status quo, not reinforce it.

    The Silent Comedy is a very well-produced band and I think we’ve played shows with them before. as a general rule, modern indie rock with lots of guitars is not my thing. I know the band casually and I want to support my local scene. After watching this video – as a sexual assault survivor, as someone whose sister is a sexual assault survivor, as someone who knows over half of my girlfriends are sexual assault survivors, as someone whose friends are activists, as someone who’s been in a codependent and abusive relationship……. I want to have a discussion about WHY a video like this makes me feel like a show of this band’s would be an unsafe place.

    As a woman, should I feel safe going to a show of a band whose fans see no problem with a music video that glorifies violence and shows the rape of a woman like it’s no big deal? Because I don’t feel safe doing that. Should I have to choose, as a woman, between my love for the music and my concerns for my own safety and mental well-being?

    I want there to be more discussion about why women aren’t in certain scenes. I don’t think it’s because we don’t like guitars, or hard rock, or gritty lyrics. I think that women stay away from certain scenes and places in the music scene because we do not feel safe. We can’t have a music scene that’s inclusive without asking these tough questions.

    And kudos also for calling out the director!! Just being a woman doesn’t give you a pass to automatically be able to create content like this without criticism. What was the creative vision? Are there parts of the vision that we are missing? Is there one edit that would have made this video NOT a rape/violence scene, but rather a scene of a dysfunctional relationship? What about the actress in the video? What are her thoughts about her part? What was her impetus? We need to know a lot more, and I think that a band and a director releasing something this controversial deserves a direct response.

    To be fair — my day started off yesterday by seeing an eBay seller using pictures of naked women to sell guitars — two things in one day just reminded me why I feel so unsafe in music sometimes. Not just unsafe to go to shows, but also unsafe to share myself as a musician and as an artist. If a music scene doesn’t see anything wrong with a rape music video, why on earth would a music scene even care about ANYTHING a woman had to say?

    I decided yesterday that I’m done trying to force myself into any scene that doesn’t see anything wrong with glorifying rape and violence against women. If that means all I do from now on is hang in Hillcrest, gig at piano bars, and work in my cabaret band singing covers of girl group songs, so be it. If that means that no hip indie music blog will ever write about my music again, so be it. I’m just happy to know that Owl & Bear is not a part of a scene that will let something like this go without calling it out. And I’m also happy that O&B proved that you can call out your friends / the bands you like, wait for a critical reaction, and the world will still keep turning. I’m interested to see the Silent Comedy’s reaction. If they have a No Doubt-type-moment where they say, “Wow, we didn’t realized how f-ed up this was, we’re going to release another cut that tells the story we were trying to tell,” then I’ll be happy to see that. And if not, then I’m not going to stop being pissed off.

    -Normandie Wilson

    And Peter (above), just because someone is in a relationship doesn’t mean they can’t be raped by their boyfriend/husband/partner.

    1. Yes Normandie – Exactly. Thats what I am saying. Some people don’t realize that they could be in that type of relationship. What I don’t understand is why anyone would be upset with this video, its not promoting that, its the opposite – she is leaving him for that reason. So isn’t that the point that the video is making? To leave that toxic relationship?

  6. I am confused?

    That guy doesn’t just follow her home, that is her boyfriend, he doesn’t rape her, that’s their toxic relationship.

    Wouldn’t this video actually be a woman power video because she gets up and leaves?

    1. I just have to say-I’ve been listening to this song for months and the video made me love it even more. I think people are taking it the wrong way. The Silent Comedy boys would NEVER promote violence against a woman. I think it is telling the story of an abusive relationship, one which she chooses to leave in the end. I mean, are people not hearing the lyrics? I’m so confused by the outrage this has caused. I loved it, it’s deep and it made me think back on past relationships. It made me proud that I left those people in the past. I support this band 110%.

      I too have been abused AND raped. It’s definitely not something many people know, but it seems important to say while supporting this video.

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