“Kiss You” by One Direction is arguably the “least masculine” of these four videos. At several moments (including this screen shot of Harry Styles pinching his fellow bandmate’s nipples) “Kiss You” seems to steer in the homosexual direction. Though the girlish merriment and frequent costume changes throughout “Kiss You” might align with a more feminized/homosexual community, One Direction is also catering to their target audience: preteen girls. “Kiss You” plays down One Direction’s masculinity and sexuality, appealing to a female audience that is equally immature. Through the eyes of a preteen girl, One Direction is just a group of clean-cut, fun-loving dudes. However, their gender compass seems to point in more direction than One (see what I did there?)
In my opinion, “Lucifer” by SHINee illustrates a form of masculinity that is slightly less feminine than “Kiss You.” This is accomplished in part by the presence of sports cars in the background of the video. Cars symbolize many “manly” qualities: a need for speed, mechanical know-how, and POWER. However, considering SHINee’s fashion-forward ensembles, highly made-up faces, and somewhat feminized choreography, SHINee is still far from what American culture considers “manly”.
In contrast, Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” depicts a more “manly” masculinity than that of “Kiss You” and “Lucifer.” In this screen shot, Macklemore rides up to the thrift shop with a female accessory on either elbow, symbolizing his dominance over these women and emphasizing his own manhood (despite the contradiction of his flamboyant fur coat). However, Macklemore plays with the idea of sexuality throughout “Thrift Shop,” appearing in a pair of boyish footy pajamas at one point. In another scene, Macklemore ventriloquizes through a Hispanic woman who is, in many ways, his physical opposite. “Thrift Shop” also incorporates actors/actresses of many ages, genders, and nationalities, generating a sense of good, clean, fun and effectively distracting the viewer from the masculine undertones.
Finally, “Fuckin’ Problems” (A$AP Rocky featuring Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar) illustrates a masculinity that is both “manly” and dominant. “Fuckin’ Problems” juxtaposes its four male protagonists against cinematic inserts of female crotch shots and seductive silhouettes. Through its objectification of women, “Fuckin’ Problems” seems to overstep our traditional notions of masculinity and enter misogynistic territory. Interestingly enough, both “Thrift Shop” and “Fuckin Problems” feature female characters, while “Kiss You” and “Lucifer” do not. However, women in “Thrift Shop” and “Fuckin Problems” are subject to the male gaze. This establishes women as the performers and men as the masculine observers.