By Carolina S. Ruiz Austria

The word "Heresy"

was used by Irenaeus in Contra Haereses to discredit his opponents in the early Christian Church. It has no purely objective meaning without an authoritative system of dogma.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Listen up, single ladies

An unlikely conversation on gender through an annoying pop song

I don't have anything against Beyonce Knowles and happen to think she is both very beautiful and talented but the first time I heard her song "Single Ladies," I thought it sucked. How do I explain my almost visceral reaction to having endured the song being played by the hour in almost all public spaces (e.g. public transport, malls, blaring on the street where we live as it blasts from the neighbor's stereo?) The song dominated the local airwaves (as aggressively promoted pop songs usually do)for many months and I have no doubt it will continue being a favorite among many Beyonce fans.

"If you liked it, you should have put a ring on it..." is what irritates the hell out of me in the song. Just in case you are lucky enough not to be familiar with it, here is the link to the lyrics. I'm married and I don't have anything against people wanting to get married but I'm more of a Pink fan and "So What" is my preferred anthem for break ups. Its totally subjective so I guess to each her own.

Like a generation of old fogies who have found their facebook nook, I later chanced upon the SNL clip when the link was posted by a friend. In the sketch, the SNL crew and Beyonce poke fun at the song and MTV with a little help from Justine Timberlake clad in black leotards and matching pumps. I have to admit that I found it funny just like everyone else. I also hadn't seen the original MTV of Beyonce before that so I looked at that before watching the entire SNL spoof, wanting not to miss the punchline.

A couple of days ago I heard about "Single gaydies" themed spoofs and interpretations of the MTV sprouting all over You Tube and the Internet. The most popular here of course is the one by Filipino school boys who do a very good rendition of Beyonce's dance moves. Indeed many Filipinos can dance (and sing) well. There are of course those of us who are the exception more than the rule but I digress...Of course frat boy versions like this one are all over the place, where college boys horse around in hopes of internet stardom? Here is yet another one. They get judged of course (like everybody else who takes the same risk when exposing themselves on these public and social network spaces). Comments on You Tube can range from the truly funny, respectful, cheerful, thoughtful, incomprehensible to the really vicious and downright mean ones. I've made the observation elsewhere before but the anonymity of the internet when coupled with real-time reaction/commentary seems to have given birth a particular breed (and culture) of internet hot-heads who jump in and attack others' views, posts, ideas and appearance without as much as a second thought.

The "gaydies" variety of clips were most exposed to these sort of attacks. Gay bashing, sexist and comments expressing racial hate keep these online public spaces burning. So at one point, I started skipping the comments and just surfed to see the variety of clips on Beyonce's unlikely contribution to a discussion of gender and mind you I said that with a straight face. No sexual orientation pun intended.

No less popular are direct sexist responses to the song addressed to "Single Fellas" admonishing the boys to "smash that ass but to never put a ring on it."

I soon found myself surfing You Tube and discovered a treasure trove of "Single Ladies" spoofs, interpretations and surprisingly brilliant commentary. My favorite is not the one with the most hits but I think its rather well done (with original vocals) and its called "Married ladies." Yes, if there is anybody single ladies ought to listen to when it comes to these things, its the married ladies. Duh. The talented composer/performer of this version is Melanie Fontana who is a musician on MySpace where she has several songs available on-line. Its certifiably "I Laughed My Ass Off" (LMAO) stuff but just maybe its "I laughed my married ass off." Check it out. She redid the entire song's lyrics but the coup de grace to the irritatingly popular ditty comes with:

"When he liked it and I made him put a ring on America's seeing that I don't want it."

Other less profound though no less amusing takes on the MTV go as far as merging clips of Mr. Bean dancing with Ms. Knowles. The result, while certainly meant to be a parody of sex just ends up nowhere near salacious or sexy. Yes, he is pumping his hips upon Ms. Knowles' famously voluptuous behind but its Mr. Bean. As they say: "nuff said."

Perhaps without meaning to, this animated clip most probably created on macromedia flash creates a surprisingly "gender neutral" version of the MTV. It follows the lyrics (quite literally) but all the stick figures look the same and in this stick figure MTV, the usual visual representations of femaleness and maleness are absent. Try to put a ring on that. While you're on it, go figure this out too. All you single puppets. If you liked it then you should have put a string on it? But gender benders are not confined to toons or puppets as this clip proves.

When a dance craze "sweeps a nation," however, its unlikely that it can ever reach the epidemic proportions that it can reach in these here tropical isles. This clip is not so out of the ordinary. In fact it is so ordinary to see preteen and even younger Filipino girls bump, grind and gyrate to the latest pop tunes both in public schools and Catholic run private schools for girls. I have witnessed first graders gyrate to "Its raining men." Hallelujah. But if like me, you have seen "Little Miss Sunshine," it always helps to keep a sense of humor about it. A sense of humor is what these er "grace challenged" boys have. They do their Beyonce inspired ad promoting (of all things) a college ministry!

Now it may not be a pandemic (yet) but here we see why they say Brits got talent too. Sure it has a pitifully low number of hits (compared to Filipino clips) but you gotta admire these ladies for braving the cold in their leotards. Check out the passers by in their frigid weather wear. That tiny UK flag color inspired car pulling out towards the end of the clip was also cute as a button. Very Austin Powers.

Want to see a Barack Obama inspired clip? President Obama who has been quoted saying that he knows how to do the dance, or at least the hand gestures, is parodied here.

In the beginning Beyonce may have intended the song to be some sort of anthem for the single ladies out there but Justin's good humor coupled with the more fluidly gendered generation (Z?) and fandom behind this song (and THE dance because the dance I think is what made the song a hit) made this song an all around anthem for the courageous generation of internet users who are so used to posting clips and pictures of themselves. She called out to all the single ladies but the most overwhelming response Beyonce has gotten is definitely from the gay community. Shane Mercado whose You Tube post was so popular he got to meet Miss Knowles knows this only too well. Even as the lot of these internet denizens risk ridicule, a number of them actually earn their own internet fandom. Say what you will about supermodel figures, pear bottomed girls or stick figures (oh I forgot I said supermodel already) but these clips prove one thing. The Chubby and Cubby can dance.


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