Now, a lot of feminist
s have written theoretical texts on how popular culture
objectifies women. The influence of pop culture on women's self-understanding perks up ears of some, while making the rest snore. But while in America
and Western Europe
, this idea is both abstract and obvious, it's mind-boggling and tangible for anyone who's watched the transformation of Russian and Ukrainian culture over the last 20 years. The music video Khorosho Krasavitsam (The beautiful girls have it good) is the perfect example of how one and the same culture can embody different expectations of appearance and behavior for women
The music video
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIMBmRAc6b4) is about how the elderly woman Verka Serdyuchka (a fictional character created by Ukrainian Andrei Danilko
in one of his comedy sketches) bemoans her old-fashioned Soviet-styled hair and outfits and tries to adopt the chic and colorful fashion sense
of the pop stars. When exactly did the plain and boring boring Soviet fashion give way to new trends? In the early 90s, to be precise. If you ask women from the former USSR
and the eastern block
countries what the arrival of capitalism meant in their lives, they will talk to you about eyeshadow
, and pantyhose
The new fashion wave is great and all, except for the older ladies
. Problem is that while the young gals immerse themselves in the catalogs and put together gorgeous outfits for themselves, older women suffer a massive panic attack when they look at themselves in the mirror. The women in their 40, 50s, and 60s were used to the drab colors of the Soviet seventies. They still wore the old kosynka
that obscured their hairdo
s. Their skirts were made from rougher materials and simple patterns. Compared to their younger counterparts, they look drab and boring.
Serdyuchka's music video Khorosho Krasavitsam (The beautiful girls have it good.) expresses exactly this sentiment. "Oh how easy it is to beautiful, everyone loves you and you don't have to worry about being attractive" she sings in scenes where she is featured in old fashioned Soviet garb. In one of these scenes, she is in a train wearing a kosynka/headscarf and a plain brown winter. In another she wears a very pale blue dress and has long blond hair with pigtails. Both pigtails and a hair-hiding kosynka make the face look square and are the farthest thing from fashionable.
What makes these grandmas look boring are the colorfully and sensually dressed young women around them. The video emphasizes the contrast between the old and the new. The segments of grandma
s in the train are intercut with scenes of girls that are all about style. Decked out in colored tank tops and short skirts, they dance hula hoop style and wriggle their hips
, behinds, and shimmy their breasts
. This wild contrast seems jarring, but it's not there just for shock value. In the late 90s and 2000s, the Russian media was flooded with gaudy, girls in sensual, multi-color outfits shaking their bodies every this way and that. Therefore, it's no surprise that the young women who grew up watching pop stars on tv abhorred the dark non-sensuous lipstick
of their mothers and grandmothers as well as the pale and monotone colors of their dresses..
The gist of what makes Serdyuchka's Horosho Krasavitsam clip is its Cinderella
story. Just like the poor stepdaughter in rags tries to turn herself into a princess, Serdyuchka the drab grandma decides to get all dolled up and turn herself into a flashy pop star. And why does it fail? Because she overdoes it! It's one thing to put on a colorful dress, but Serdyuchka puts on a butterfly
suit, wings included! Not to mention butterfly antennae
on top of a huge colorful hat that looks like peacock plumage!
But the satire
has its effect! You see, the arrival of new fashions after the dearth of choices under communism
has apparently made the Russian pop stars so hungry that they overdid their outfits by accessorizing with as much color as possible. Which brings me to the presence of the monkey
in this video... The dancing monkey dressed in a colorful skirt
and a tanktop
doesn't seem out of place at all! With so much color on Verka Serdyuchka
herself, who at one point dawns a shockingly bright yellow dress and at another a rainbow-colored one, the viewer of the video definitely gets the sensation of being in a circus. Cause so much color is only good for a spectacle in an arena ;-)
Finally, an important part of the spectacle of grandma trying to be a sexy pop star
are attempts to coo and sound seductive. Serdyuchka speaks Russian
with a cynical, guttural
voice that has abrupt stress shifts. This voice certainly fit in the Soviet seventies. In the 90s, the pop stars inspired a more breathy, high-pitched intonation that sounds seductive. In this video, Serdyuchka the grandma tries to make her voice flow and coo and sound seductive, an attempt that ultimately fails because she eventually falls back into the abrupt and guttural register.
If you've read some or all of this node, it's worth your time to watch the music video itself. It's on youtube and runs under four minutes:
For those of you who can understand Russian, here is a link to the lyrics