How are different groups represented in music videos? Beautiful Little Fools- Jorja Smith
'Beautiful little fools' by neo-soul/R&B jazz-tinged Jorja Smith is one of her more recent singles, released on international Womens day. Jorja Smith wrote this song when she was 16 years old, after reading 'The Great Gatsby', by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Her first single was Dizzee Rascal inspired 'Blue Lights',which prompted a quick rise to success, while presenting her social awareness; exploring the stereotypes that cling to young black men regarding crime. She is featured on Drake's 'Get it together' on his 2017 mixtape 'More Lifeâ€™, his seventh consecutive number one album that broke streaming records. Jorja Smith met her manager when she was 15 (now 20). She released her EP 'project 11' in 2016, consisting of songs she wrote in her teenage years. Around a year later, she was shortlisted for the BBC's sound of 2017. She is due to go on her UK headline tour in 2018, described as a 'soulful R&B phenomenon' who is 'already a versatile, fully formed creative'. (1) In comparison to Smith's other music videos, 'Beautiful Little Fools' is composed of a more narrative structure, similar to 'Teenage Fantasy'. This narrative structure opposes the majority of her music videos which are natural, such as 'Where did I go', which was filmed, directed and edited by Jorja Smith and features her singing against a neutral background, exploring all the emotions involved during a separation.
This natural, simplistic theme portrays smith as less of a 'celebrity' and more 'normal' as such, ensuring her audience can relate to her on a more humane level. This laid back, unpretentious approach is also shown in Smith's Garage/2-step song 'On my mind' produced by renowned grime/garage producer, Preditah. The video is UKG 90's inspired and Smith describes it as 'nostalgic, reflecting the mood of the song'. Again, it features Smith performing the song in a house party style setting. It is evident that Jorja Smith is in her element when performing. The range of handheld camera shots make the audience feel as If they are a part of the music video rather than distant and alienated, strictly as an 'audience member'. These jerky and ragged shots add to the evident enjoyment shown by the performers in this video. Despite there being a range of shots used, there are predominantly close ups used.
As mentioned previously, 'Beautiful little fools' is composed of a narrative structure, with Smith as the protagonist. The fact that the song was deliberately released on international woman's day immediately implies some of the context of this video. The video highlights the social constructs that are placed upon women and the restrictions that society force upon women. This song was written after Jorja Smith read The Great Gatsby. This song and the narrative is based on a quote from the book that Smith disagreed with; "be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool". Despite progressive changes in the role of women in the 1920's with regards to post-war rights and work etc, women were still massively oppressed. This new 'speak-easy' jazz lifestyle set changes in what was acceptable for women. Women were more liberated in terms of consumption of Alcohol, Sex and Cigarettes. However, this combined with the radical change in fashion, for example, precipitated women becoming even more sexualised amongst society than before. It was evident that talent or intelligence of women was not valued by the 1920s society, and the above quote supports this further. The character of Daisy in The Great Gatsby, who appears to be a basis for Smiths characters, uses her beauty to live the glamorous and luxurious life that she does, but is also a male fantasy and constantly sexualised. Throughout the video, Smith acts and performs as three different characters that all cross paths and are shown in the same Gatsby aesthetic inspired modern setting:
This video constructs representations of gender that reinforce stereotypical representations and reinforce the hegemony of gender representation. Smith creates a representation of women being oppressed in this music video, and through presenting/exploring multiple characters she poses multiple representations of ‘different types of women’, by presenting women of different classes, occupations, and social status’. The Gatsby themed basis of the setting/aesthetics in a modern context highlights how despite the change in era and society, the problem of female oppression and gender inequality is still very apparent, whether it’s the 1920s or 2017. Smith plays an evidently wealthy woman having drinks with her boyfriend and friend, a fed up waitress and singer all in the same setting. Presenting how a wealthy and glamorous woman has the same issues as a less wealthy waitress who is working a job she clearly doesn’t enjoy accentuates the overall intention of the song/video and amplifies Smith’s representation. Factors such as camerawork, mise-en-scene and the narrative/acting of the video create these representations. Within the first few seconds of the video we are introduced to the first character, a glamorous, wealthy but evidently unhappy woman. The first shot is her in the mirror, touching up her make up. Instantly, there is an example of voyeurism and the notion of looking, that theorist Andrew Goodwin states is often in music videos. Despite this not being a sexual scene, it is intrusive of an almost personal moment, where the character is alone and ‘preparing herself’. As the ‘voyeurs’ the audience have the power of watching a character that is unaware they are being watched. It could also be an example of the character conforming to the standards of society and stereotype of women having to look good and attractive. This close up shot is clearly focused on the appearance of Smith, while making it more intimate and therefore voyeuristic. Her reapplying red lipstick is a strong symbol of love, passion, sex and danger. In the 1920’s women were not valued and respected being constantly sexually objectified whilst facing misogyny. The symbol of red meaning danger could be representative of how women were portrayed as dangerous and falling in love with a woman a bad, and distracting act.
In a group of three shots, Smith is shown forcefully and quickly smiling, then suddenly going back to a blank unhappy face. As she pauses then hastily sits down as the camera follows her to show a man that she sits next to, who from the rest of the video, we can infer is her boyfriend. Through the camerawork it is implied that this is who she is smiling at in such a scathing and forced way. Throughout the video all three characters appear extremely melancholic, presenting how trapped they all feel; clearly all doing things making them unhappy.
At 0:54 (approximately) there is a shot of a man talking to and looking at someone. The camera then cuts to a shot of a woman sat opposite him. The camera tilts upwards from her waist to her face. This is an example of the male gaze theory (Laura Mulvey). Mulveyâ€™s theory explains how women are often part of a media product to be sexualized and looked at, putting the audience in the perspective of a heterosexual male. This is shown in the shot just mentioned, where the camera follows the shape of the womanâ€™s body, objectifying her. The camera is portraying both societies view of women and how they are objectified and oppressed by men, and more specifically the man sat opposite her and his eye line. Again, the character is entirely unaware of the male gaze and how she is being looked at. Mulvey comments on the idea of the female gaze yet argues that is rarely presented in the media.
She is sitting at an angle facing away from her boyfriend, whilst she is in the foreground he is in the background. This emphasizes her unhappiness, yet oppression as she is still with him.
His gaze is clearly controlling her, as she then looks down avoiding his eye contact. This is an example of control in their relationship and how she is trapped and oppressed, and submissive to male control, juxtaposing her otherwise rejecting opinion of him.
Smith is the protagonist throughout the video, in the forms of all three characters. Her being constantly in the foreground and focus of shots represents both oppression and the male gaze, but alternatively she is the only female conscious of the oppression she/woman face in the video. This could arguably represent her as having position of power and control due to her awareness. It could be argued that there is a notable lack of male presence, due to the minimal amount of male characters. This ensures only one side of Mulvey’s male/female gaze media theory is explored. However I think exploring the female gaze would contradict the context and didactic message of the video and song. The representation is visibly targeted at females, ensuring they are aware of the oppression faced and the standards society set upon them. The way Smith looks into the camera during singing creates the image that she is addressing people directly, as there are points in the video where she almost breaks away from the narrative to address the audience. On the other hand, she could be addressing those who oppress females, similarly making them aware of how they may consciously or subconsciously oppress females in reality or through the media. To some extent, the representation rely’s on stereotypes to underline the problem of females being oppressed, by presenting the oppression and stereotypical standards women face. Angela Mcrobbie’s ‘Post feminist icon theory’ explains how ‘some female artists such as Madonna and Lady Gaga exhibit stereotypical characteristics of the male
gaze. Although, she states how by explicitly using these representations, it shows strength, courage and control of females. â€˜ This control element of their own representation is crucial in understanding the theoryâ€™. Smith uses stereotypes to highlight oppression, allowing the male gaze but not exaggerating certain stereotypes and representations of women often shown in music videos, such as females with little clothing and open, suggestive body language and more intimate voyeurism/scopophilia.