Wendy Motulsky – Seattle, Washington

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I wrestled between several ideas of how to graphically represent what I believed to be the spectrum of masculinity in these last four music videos. This way seemed both simple and effective. Both the upper and lower bound of the masculinity spectrum were easy to determine. One Direction’s “Kiss You” video was as innocent and playful as A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems” was misogynistic and crude. On the other hand, SHINee’s “Lucifer” and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” were masculine but in different ways. The hard part was deciding which factors would determine which was more masculine than the other. “Lucifer,” I decided, was less focused on masculinity and more on the heartbreak after a break-up, which leaves the band in a decidedly vulnerable position (in English, the chorus finishes, “Freely empty yourself and look at me/I’ll fill you only, completely fill you only”). “Thrift Shop” seemed more masculine insofar as it was about saving money and being a badass doing it. What sealed the deal for me was the line, “I walk into the club like, ‘What up, I got a big cock!'” Nothing says masculine like a reference to a huge penis.

For me, the most interesting of the four videos was SHINee’s “Lucifer ” in that I had reconciling my Western views of masculinity with more Eastern ones. The video combined images of blatant masculinity, from the muscled shirts to the close-ups of each singer, with the androgynous look of one of its main singers. I can think of several major popular culture instances in which androgynous-looking people were labeled as either gay or less masculine (the movies “Prayers for Bobby” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” for instance). Yet these artists seem to embrace said gender ambiguity and reorient it in order that further asserts their masculinity. These contrasting images and ideas, which I understand are contradictory partially because my conceptions of masculinity are different than those in Asia where SHINee is popular, combine to confuse my concept of how one can perform masculinity in a convincing yet less misogynistic way than other artists such as A$AP Rocky.

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