A Very Close Reading Of Meghan Trainor’s Horrorshow Regressive Narcissistic Anthem, “Dear Future Husband”
Meghan Trainor’s new album came out this month, which passed my notice because I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio or watch music videos unless specifically recommended to do so, and also because I hate Meghan Trainor. Watching the music video for “All About That Bass” made me feel-it-in-my-muscles angry. There’s something about the tone of her voice and just all of the presumptuous arrogance and narcissism in that song that make me want to grow my fingernails out really long and then use them to gouge my own eyes out.
But good ol’ Megan Reynolds pointed me toward “Dear Future Husband,” which is even more egregiously presumptuous, arrogant, and narcissistic than “All About That Bass,” if you can believe it. It’s a list of all the things she expects from her life-partner-to-be. Highlights include:
“Take me on a date
I deserve a break
And don’t forget the flowers every anniversary
‘Cause if you treat me right
I’ll be the perfect wife
…And so begins the madness. Let’s break this down: “Treating me right” means spending money on her for dates and anniversaries. In return for “right treatment,” her offer is to “be the perfect wife,” which means “buying groceries.” Beyond the total absurdity of the idea that right treatment means cash and being a perfect spouse means going to the grocery store, this verse sets up the thesis of the song: Love and marriage are transactional. You do something for me, I’ll do something for you, and that is the (totally bleak) version of love that exists in the universe of this song. But, of course, her Future Husband has to do something for her first, or else she won’t deem him worthy of groceries, because for real, guys, she’s a fucking narcissist.
“You got that 9 to 5
But baby so do I
So don’t be thinking I’ll be home and making apple pies
I never learned to cook
But I can write a hook”
The only thing that bothers me here is that most people would assume that her version of “perfect wife,” if it involves going to the grocery store, also involves cooking, but I guess the perfect wife just runs errands and that’s all she ever needs to do to be “perfect.” By the way, apple pie is really easy to make.
“You gotta know how to treat me like a lady”
She never specifies what this means, but the term “treat me like a lady” has come to have lots of sex-negative connotations. I’ll swing back around to this.
“After every fight
And maybe then I’ll let you try and rock my body right
Even if I was wrong
You know I’m never wrong
This is where I got bug eyes because WHAT. There were many that practically orgasmed over the supposedly body-positive message of “All About That Bass” (which was not body-positive inasmuch as it was super skinny-bashing); here, I think we can all start to see that Meghan Trainor’s gender attitudes are incredibly regressive. She’s leaning on the “women are always right” trope, the men-as-buffoons trope, the trope of women being unable to deal with criticism, the trope of hysterical and delusional women, and the very, very dangerous social attitude that women’s bodies are prizes for men. “If you pander to my ego and act like you’re always wrong, you get my body as a prize!” What?
And well past the old, regressive gender stereotypes, there’s just the fact that telling someone “I’m always right, you don’t get to disagree with me” in a relationship is dismissive of them and their intellectual autonomy. Requiring someone to sign away their right to their independent opinions is borderline if not downright abusive. Why would anyone, of any gender, propagate that kind of relationship? You probably thought I was joking when I said “she’s a narcissist,” but I’m not. To be clear, I doubt that Meghan Trainor herself is a narcissist, but her persona is.
While we’re on the topic of abuse, check this shit out:
“Know we’ll never see your family more than mine”
That is an actual thing that happened to me in a former abusive relationship: Holidays, for example, would consist of two hours with my dad, two hours with my mom if I was lucky, and two days with his family. I saw his family for hours and hours every week, but if I tried to call my mom while he was home, he would talk shit about her in the background until I was forced to hang up. This isn’t a cute line – isolating someone from their family isn’t borderline, but just downright abusive. It is an actual tactic of predatory partners.
“Open doors for me and you might get some kisses
Don’t have a dirty mind
Just be a classy guy
Buy me a ring”
There are a few problems in this verse. First, again, this is love-as-transactional. It’s not “Thanks for being so considerate!” It’s “You’d better be considerate, and if you are, I might reward you with my affection (you don’t get affection just because you happen to be my partner).” It’s the attitude that her woman’s body, her female attention, is something she can lord over her partner in exchange for his tacit agreement to everything she says, his subservience, his money.
But then, swinging as promised back to sex-negativity: “Don’t have a dirty mind, just be a classy guy.” This implicitly means that she alone also gets to dictate the terms of their sex life, that her standards for what’s sexually arousing are the only valid standards. In conjunction with “treat me like a lady,” it projects judgment onto both other women and onto male sexuality, as if it is inherently “classless” and “dirty” (read: wrong) and will remain so without her superior moral guidance. She — and again, I’m talking about the Meghan Trainor persona as presented in the song(s), not Meghan Trainor herself — posits herself as clean, sterile, untainted, unstained. And that presentation is, again, backward and regressive. It entrenches the idea that women should be sexual not for the sake of taking joy in our sexuality, but for the sake of obtaining something from men. It entrenches women’s bodies as commodities. It positions men as providers who have financial power and women as creators who have sexual power (she only mentions once that she has a job and doesn’t assign it any transactional importance), and by labeling it as the “classy” way to handle your relationship, it discredits any other arrangement.
Because I’m alive and young in the year 2015, I’d rather not work by a system in which my body is only as powerful as my partner’s earning potential. I’d rather work by a system in which my body and my partner’s body are both invaluable, in which we share our bodies because we love each other and take joy in it, not because we expect rewards for our bodily vulnerability. I’d rather have both of our earning potential, and the things we do to advance our careers, be equally important. That way, we both matter as thinking, brilliant, creative, insightful, sensitive, autonomous people both in the home and outside of it, both in our relationship and outside of it.
But hey, it’s just a Meghan Trainor song, right? No need to worry about the messaging we send to the pop music demographic.
[Edited image via Epic Publicity]
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