Recently another new pop hit has taken over the airwaves on mainstream radio; "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor. Surely hundreds if not thousands--or maybe even more than that--have gotten wind of this song, which concerns this writer, as it brings up an interesting question; what kind of message is she sending, and further, does she know how damaging that message can be?
In a fantastic article from Jenny Trout this summer, the writer attempts to point out all the things that are wrong with the song by dissecting it line by line. It's certainly worth a read, and brings up more questions as to the moral dilemma that's attached to a song like this, particularly when that song becomes a popular hit and has the potential to be influential.
For one thing, sure, Trainor doesn't look like a "size two" as she confidently purports in her song, but a lot of the men and women in the background of the video dancing between shots are far outside of her range of weight. It would seem that the song, and the representation, is attempting to market off the body-positive movement by creating a persona in which Trainor is one of those women who is being objectified or bullied. It may be true that she's faced similar self-esteem issues in her life, and no one's asking her to validate her position, but the weight category you would be placed in is nowhere near what other people have to deal with. Are you really in a position to tell people they should feel good about themselves period when you really don't look like you've ever struggled for acceptance?
The most important thing wrong with this song and video, however, is that it invalidates skinny women. One thing the body positive movement has tried to do is be all-inclusive. It started as a way to teach women with weight issues that they should feel good about themselves and not feel down because they don't conform to a societal ideal of body type. And by and large, that's a good thing.
Unfortunately that same idea also alienates women with eating disorders and who are incapable of gaining weight because of underlying medical conditions, and because of that, the movement quickly changed its approach to be all-inclusive and make everyone feel good about themselves no matter what they look like. No matter what you look like and what circumstances surround that, "body-positive" attempts to remind young people, especially young women, that your body is not in any way a reflection of your value, and that you should be happy with who you are and not let anyone define your self-worth by the way you look.
In "All About That Bass," Trainor defines a specific body-type, hers, to be the most desirable to men, and furthermore makes it seem that a women's value is based on her desirability. And that's where we begin to see a problem.
Whether or not this was her intention is irrelevant. It's the message that gets across blatantly through the majority of her lyrics. With the exception of one or two lines that specifically target the use of photo altering in magazine tabloids and the way that some women go so far as to physically alter themselves to fit an ideal, most of the song is, for lack of a better word, garbage. Even with those lines in the song, it only makes it worse. If "All About That Bass" focused on those ideals, it might've had a chance to become a call to arms for the body-positive movement. Instead, those lines contradict the rest of the message behind it.
Trainor becomes a walking contradiction, meanwhile, unnecessarily accentuating stereotypes and making young women feel bad about themselves. Not that "All About That Bass" doesn't attempt to aim a good message at people, it just doesn't at all succeed. It's not so much an innocent mistake when 41 million people see the video; a potentially damaging video with lyrics that are a little insensitive in their pursuit of raising people's self-esteem.
Songs like this represent what's wrong with the media we choose to create. Often in a musician's pursuit of doing the right thing, they end up doing the wrong thing altogether. A little bit of sass wouldn't have been so bad if she hadn't taken the road that excludes and offends a large majority of people. But with that catchy beat, and a hook you can't get out of your head for weeks on end, it's clear that the song's popularity outweighs the potential damage it may do to young women, at least in the producer's eyes, and none of that is likely to matter much to the singer.