So Britney Spears’ long-awaited new music video for the song “Work B**ch” dropped yesterday, and… I don’t know, Bettys. Something about it really rubs me the wrong way. Is it just me? Don’t get me wrong; “Work B**ch” is a catchy tune, and I’m sure it’s going to do well on the club circuit. At first glance, the video for it is kind of all over the place—she’s in the desert, she’s by a pool, she’s in a Michael Bay video, she’s in the VIP room—but after watching it a few times, I find it unbelievably problematic. In case you haven’t seen it yet, have a look-see:
The lyrical content of the tune is pretty plainly about Brit Brit’s rise to pop power and what she did to get to the top (and, by extension, what her fans could do to get there, too—a sort of modern-day Horatio Alger story if you will); what I find troubling, though, is that it stops there. It’s no secret that Britney’s agents, minders, handlers, and so on engineered rather a lot of her career—so much so that for a good long while, she seemed not to want to be in the spotlight anymore. The tragedy was that she stayed there at the behest of those around her, which I’ve no doubt contributed a great deal to her 2008 breakdown. I can’t help but think that “Work B**ch” would have been a more powerful song if it also addressed all the pushing and pulling various other influences had on her life and how it affected her, but maybe that’s just me.
I also find it troublesome that Britney spends so much of the video kicking other women to the curb. At one point, she is literally surrounded by sharks; the fact that they’re circling her in the same way most of the women in the video do, it draws a not-so-subtle line between the two things. In this business, other women are sharks, you stand alone, and the only way to succeed is to beat ‘em all down. This is one of the inherent problems in the music industry, but instead of commenting on it and depicting it as something that needs to change—which it desperately, desperately does—it revels in it.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, or applying too much of a feminist sensibility to it, or whatever. I also realize that I’m in the minority and that critical opinion of both the tune and the video is overwhelmingly positive. But no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get behind it (or whoever dreamed up the idea for it in the first place). Anyone else?
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s senior editor.