The expectation of over-sexualisation

Weeks ago one story dominated all online platforms: the same sensationalized headline calling Sia’s video for the song “Elastic Heart” paedophilic; not only a huge statement but also a damaging one.

The video features 12 year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler and Shia LaBeouf, who dance around each other and together in a cage. The video has sparked a divide in opinion with the issue being that there is a sizeable age gap and that both dancers are of the opposite sex.

I watched the video with sceptical and judgemental eyes, because of the headlines that preceded it. Expecting to be disgraced by the video’s wrong doing, I found myself looking so hard for the negative aspects; I almost missed the beauty of the video.

Curiously, I sent the video to several friends along with the news links about the controversy, and several people said that they felt uneasy watching a man and a young girl dance together. I showed the video to more people, this time leaving out the details of the controversial accusations. To my pleasant surprise they agreed with me, saying that while perhaps there were points of scepticism at the beginning, the video was powerful, moving and beautiful.
It occurred to me that because we are told to find flaws in the video by other sources, we search hard to agree with them, even when the video is nothing more than a story and proof that dancing is a perfect way to tell that story.

Why are we searching for wrongfulness in pop culture today? Why is it that a video in which there is no connotations of sex or romance, we see something harmful?

The Mirror said the two of them were “cavorting”, which by definition implies sexual or disreputable pursuits, while a Yahoo article described the dancers outfits as “skimpy”.

It is a well known fact that sex sells in the music industry, but that is not a reason to search for it when it is not present, turning something artistic into something sinister. While the Nicki Minajes of this world specialize in overtly sexual content, other people are merely artistically representing a message. In a world where my nine-year-old cousin knows all the words to “Anaconda”, does “Elastic Heart” really equate to dangerous and offensive content?

The singer later apologised to “those who feel triggered by “Elastic Heart”’, stating her intention to create “emotional content, not to upset anybody.”

Sia later explained that the dancers were separate states of her own mind, that being the cage. Even with this explanation, people still feel uncomfortable with the concept. It’s saddening that it had to be explained, that it had to be turned into something perverse simply because over sexualisation is expected in today’s world, even in the most powerful music videos.

Megan Roantree

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