Sunday, May 07, 2006

Shame of the Week (Musical)

We can't call it shame of the week because it's been a shameful week. But in terms of musical moments, it has to win the cake.

Burger King has a new commercial. Where men walk around singing of the joys of wrapping their mouths around a piece of meat.

Would that they would go there! It might make for an interesting commercial. Instead, they just mean shoving some burgers down their gullets. You get priceless gems (that's sarcasm) about turning their innies (belly buttons) into outies.

These faux gems are made offensive by both what's shown onscreen and, more importantly, by the music the gems are set to.

Onscreen, the boys (they aren't men) "send up" feminism. Or some idiot's notion of feminism. (They burn their briefs because, like many, they've bought into the myth of bra burnings.) as this anti-feminist piece of crap plays out, you may recognize the melody the boys sing (and dance to): "I Am Woman."

In fact, the lead chorus boy announces, at the beginning of the commercial, "I am man, hear me roar" as he rails against "chick food."

For those too young to remember, Helen Reddy recorded "I Am Woman." Reddy and Ray Burton wrote this number one hit (1972) which went on to become a feminist anthem. When she accepted the Grammy for Best Pop, Rock and Folk Vocal Performance, she thanked, among others God: "because She makes everything possible."

Reddy had gotten involved in the feminist movement and wasn't finding any songs she felt reflected "the positive sense of self I'd gained from the women's movement." So she wrote the lyrics and Burton wrote the music. The song showed up on I Don't Know How To Love Him (her 1970 debut album). In 1972, the song made two appearances in a new form. Reddy changed the lyrics somewhat (including adding a last verse and singing "I can do anything" from "I can face anything"). The song popped up in Mike J. Frankovich's Stand Up and Be Counted and on her (1972) album I Am Woman.

Reddy charged Frankovich a fee -- a donation of three thousand dollars (a thousand to women's centers in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York). For years, Reddy refused to allow the song to be used in commercials. The United Nations was allowed to use it for International Women's Year (a token payment of one dollar was made). But that was it. The reason Reddy often gave was that the song was too important to her.

Now it's used it a commercial that mocks the women's movement and uses non-feminist terms like "chick food." The woman who refused to perform on Dean Martin's show because she found it exploitive now allows her "anthem" (a movement's anthem) to be used in a commercial that mocks the movement?

You and me against the world, Helen? Seems like you've crossed over to the other side.

We'd suggest that, as she wrote in "I Am Woman," that there's still "a long, long way to go/ Until I make my brother understand." We're not seeing how mocking the women's movement or allowing a song that has remained an anthem to be turned into a joke helps anyone.

Should she re-record the song, we'd suggest she change the line "Yes, I've paid the price" to "Yes, I have a price."

Shame of the week, musical.
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