In my reading of last November’s “Videophone” featuring Beyonce and Lady Gaga, director Hype Williams offers up a mashup of chains of cultural references encircling a single concept. Forget your first view of this video as either an example of women’s empowerment or as just another male-gaze extravaganza. Instead, I invite you to see this short film as instruction in how the military/entertainment/telecommunications complex functions regarding a certain type of extreme violence. This video illustrates the use of technologically and culturally facilitated pleasure, to sell in extrajudicial violence.
Extrajudicial violence of the kind circulated by cellphone from Abu Ghraib as trophy and sent-up in this video. The same kind of violence encouraged over Tea Party blog and Facebook pages this past week. The kind Georgio Agamben has been discussing since 2001, that arises where rights of protection of citizens are legally removed or ignored in the name of a greater state of emergency.
From the opening sequence we are bombarded with an encyclopedic set of references on this topic. The video begins with a hat-tip to Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” and “Kill Bill,” as well as a nod to Ennio Morricone’s score from “Gunfight at the OK Corral” (where invading investors kill in order to become and enforce the law). Female icons figure throughout, like Madonna, (her Gaultier bras and boots, and general persona, are adopted here) whose lyrics we are reminded to recall from the opening titles of “Die Another Day” (where the hero is tortured by armed women, while the song exhorts: “Sigmund, analyze this”). BDSM wartime icon Bettie Page’s pictures---she's called ‘our collective guilty pleasure’ on her website--- are restaged here. Williams then clothes Beyonce in the imperial flag of Japan remixed as a bathing suit, and Luftwaffe headgear, implying the multiple and simultaneous role of the women to be aggressor and suicidal victim. Lycra zentai hooding, gloving and costuming reference anonymous pleasure: pleasure in this video presented as media spectacle and reduced to a rational instrumental activity inseparable from violence. Violence identical to that in “A Few Good Men,” where topgunner Tom Cruise investigates the cover-up of a murder from a code red event….at Gitmo.