Culture

Megan, Cardi, and Kamala Make Bad History

Cardi B in WAP (via YouTube)
Hoary sexual clichés and deification of lowlifes in a music-video milestone

All those media hacks trumpeting “Kamala Makes History” got it wrong. Again. Seeing everything through a race-gender lens (the better to control the thinking of the masses) and categorizing routine actions as historic milestones, our media masters predictably missed the week’s real cultural event: WAP, the profane music video from Megan Thee Stallion (Megan Jovan Ruth Pete) and Cardi B (Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar).

WAP is a strip-bar extravaganza in which Megan and Cardi, today’s top-ranking rappers (both ex-strippers), explore a lavish Playboy Mansion–style estate landscaped with licentious, large-breasted, lactating statuary. Overly costumed like drag queens, they tip-toe through its cartoon corridors, T&A implants swaying like helium floats in a parade. They fake wide-eyed, Little Annie Fanny surprise — like peeping at the secret rooms of a brothel. Then, in further prurient fantasies, they imagine being brightly costumed factory workers doing industrial twerking and Kegel exercises. Colin Tilley, who also directed racialized fantasies for Iggy Azalea, Kendrick Lamar, and others, decorates WAP’s pastel whimsy with digital symbolic privates that recall Jean Cocteau surrealism and Baz Luhrmann garishness, both made salacious.

We’re a long way from Public Enemy’s “Revolutionary Generation,” with its proclamation of Mary McLeod Bethune’s insight : “The true worth of a race must be measured by the character of its women!” We’re also decades past LaBelle play-acting hookers in “Lady Marmalade.” WAP doubles down on the 2001 strip-club cover version to show us Megan and Cardi’s self-commodification. Rapping wickedly to the beat of Frank Ski’s 1993 “There’s Whores in This House” (an in-joke of the gay house-music genre), they trade energy and enterprise for licentious indolence: “I don’t cook / I don’t clean / But let me tell you how I got this ring.” They are joined by a bevy of apprentice harlots, including a Kardashian. These businesswomen are exhibitionists; they make no Kamala pretense of representing “the people.”

Yet the intermediary press has done that for them, praising WAP as a history-making advance against female oppression. (The New York Times: “An event record that transcends the event itself.” The Los Angeles Times: “A savage, nasty, sex-positive triumph.”) Strangely, these shills use that patriarchal term “filth” to admit shock at what Megan and Cardi take in pole-dancer stride. It’s a perfect example of biased media’s clueless race and sex manipulation.

Given Megan and Cardi’s professed indifference to everything but money, WAP provides an actual measure of how women and ethnicity rank in our culture. Both artists willingly cooperate with corporate and cultural entities committed to exploiting women by using hoary stereotypes as a means of maintaining power. This pandering comports with an era when Democratic Party surrogate Donna Brazile is rewarded for cheating in 2016’s presidential debate with a job on a cable news network. White liberal encouragement has never been so untrustworthy.

The song “WAP” (an acronym for lubricious genitalia) is not about war between the sexes as its media champions claim. Megan and Cardi simply update ancient dirty-blues vulgarity, now common lingo for generations brought up on Internet raunch. The witless lyric “Wipe your nose like a credit card” clumsily rips Nelly’s legendary “Tip Drill” (infamous for its video image of a credit card swiped between female buttocks). This song’s “wet and gushy” metaphor, “macaroni in a pot,” comes from cheap ratchet lifestyle, not traditional soul food. The problem is that these two comic bawds present themselves as role models according to the liberal deification of lowlifes, from Michael Brown to George Floyd, using Day-Glo iconography.

Tilley’s video celebration of black physiognomy (called “thickness”) is not the same as celebrating feminism. Prince already did it better with “P Control,” as did Kendrick Lamar in “King Kunta” (“Life ain’t shit but a fat vagina”), so did Lil Wayne’s “Take It to the Head.” (“I eat her ice cream / She eat my ice cream cone”). When conservative commentator Ben Shapiro responded to WAP’s naughtiness with a prudish answer video, claiming “This is what feminism fought for,” he missed the point. WAP is what female agency means in the millennium. It’s what music and media corporations and academicians fought for: black and female self-abnegation. The word “whore” — minus negative connotation — is claimed proudly, same as BLM’s victim status. It’s no coincidence that WAP intersects with the Kamala VP choice, a Kalorama choice? Both are politics as usual.

This wanton spectacle is praised as “sex positive” by college-grad journalists who’ve never known any sexual propriety (or the deliciousness of restraint). It distracts from the media’s usual COVID panic porn. WAP also shows black culture being co-opted for blatant political use. One media cheerleader at NBC’s website invoked Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” Access Hollywood scandal, yet she would not interpret the scandal according to WAP’s own liberated terms. This is not gaining insight from art but using it as a weapon.

Last week some readers were more upset about criticism of Beyoncé’s Black Is King than they were disappointed that Beyoncé’s video was incoherent. WAP’s lewd, grinning depravity confirms all that has gone wrong in Millennial culture — from the corruption of hip-hop to the exploitation of black and female identity. Only a depraved polity can abide this deception or its broader implications. The media pretense that Kamala Harris represents black womanhood is as specious as Megan and Cardi B’s tribute to whoredom. That black artists neglect the dignified, principled struggle of Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, Fannie Lou Hamer, and C. Delores Tucker to indulge the lowest estimation of themselves is indeed historic. What must their mothers think?

Armond White, a culture critic, writes about movies for National Review and is the author of New Position: The Prince Chronicles.

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