“Teens React to Anaconda” Is Making My Head Hurt
The most telling part of this “Teens React to Nicki Minaj — Anaconda” video is at 9:27: “Please, Nicki, change!”
I’m not even sure how I feel about the fact that Teens React put a bunch of high schoolers in a position where they’d have to choose to engage or not engage with a hypersexual video, and therefore their own sexuality, in front of a camera. I’m probably as uncomfortable with it as they are. And I’m not sure that the conversation that resulted was worth it: Remember, these are teenaged girls who have to protect their own bodies and sexual reputations, because that’s what we tell high school-age kids to do — that it’s normal to be reckoning with your sexuality, but don’t have sex! Be attractive, but don’t flaunt anything, or else if you get hurt it’s your fault. Could any of these girls really say “Yeah, I’m OK with this video” in such a public forum with any honesty?
So they discuss rape culture, but they put it on Nicki Minaj that rape culture exists because she’s objectifying herself in this video. They talk about feminism, but one of the boys (at 7:17) says: “It’s empowering, but it’s objectifying — pick one!” I want to shake these kids and say “NICKI MINAJ DID NOT CREATE THE SEXUAL CULTURE SHE’S LIVING IN AND RESPONDING TO! SHE CAN’T PICK!” But they’re teenagers, so what’s reasonable to expect? After all, the majority of the responses they give are approximately as eloquent as a rehashing of tropes and clichés about feminism and equal rights as I was able to give as a 14-year-old.
But I guess I can expect more from the series’ creators, The Fine Brothers, because they’re adults. Specifically, they’re adult, white men, and if they’re going to have the guise of having a serious conversation about feminism and rape culture as it relates to the “Anaconda” video, they’re also responsible for taking into account the Black feminist responses, the responses that talk about how our culture treats Black women’s bodies, specifically.
Why do I care, really? Because children are the future. And the problem with the conversation these kids had is that they ostensibly support feminism, and ostensibly dislike rape culture, which means that they would ostensibly support Nicki Minaj’s choice to present herself however she wished (a few of them do). They would ostensibly respect her autonomy and not make her into a “role model” who is responsible for the sexual safety of other women via her presentation of her own body and sexuality. But instead of challenging these very old ideas, they’re telling Nicki to change — not the culture that was built on and still supports male entitlement to women’s bodies and denigrates women’s entitlement to our own bodies, but Nicki. If they’re fourteen and they’ve just had these very old ideas repackaged in new, politically correct terms, it looks like it’s going to be a while still before we see any progress.