"Talk Bernie to Me": Political (and Sexual) Authority in an Unofficial Bernie Sanders Campaign Song

Curator's Note

During the 2008 election, Obama Girl positioned her namesake candidate as an object of both political and romantic desire; in 2016, Sasha Inez and Molly Dworsky (aka “boobsforbernie2016”) similarly locate the Vermont senator as a worthy object of the female gaze as they reclaim the masculine utterance “talk dirty to me” as a rallying cry for Sanders’ feminist-friendly agenda in “Talk Bernie to Me.”

“America the Beautiful” reverberates in the background as the visuals float from a waving flag to rollicking waves, fireworks, and the Statue of Liberty. The robed colossus fades into a pair of legs clad in black stockings and red heels that peep out from a voting booth (Dworsky). An abrupt shift to synthesized beats à la EDM underscores the transition from patriotic to sexual imagery. As the song proper begins, Inez writhes by the pool and sings of her love for country and her urge for the candidate who has “a point of view” that will turn her on. Both women parody female stereotypes typically displayed for the feast of the male gaze—the scarfed exotic dancer (against a desert backdrop), the vixen, the dominatrix, and the pool baby—only to flout them (Dworksy within the song and Inez in the closing). The Bernie-voting vixen assumes the persona of Lady Liberty. No longer a dismembered sexual object, she herself becomes the iconic figure who, with “masculine” swagger, raps about the freedoms afforded by Sanders. Lady Liberty becomes a desiring subject, but her desire is for a man who will “fill her wage gap.” “In the land of the free, talk Bernie to me,” she sings. As the word “dirty” becomes “Bernie,” the women take on positions of both sexual and political authority.

“America the Beautiful” returns as the final credits roll and Inez appears again, but this time the veneer is stripped away. Barefaced and in plain clothes, she faces the camera and lectures the viewer on the importance of political engagement. By bookending the video with these serious junctures, the duo acknowledges the video’s performative nature, and its ultimate function as a tool to raise awareness (as well as titillate). This song is one of several Sanders-inspired offerings on YouTube that feature women appropriating and rearticulating the tropes of popular culture, the visual logic of music videos, and cliché sexual banter in order to promulgate third-wave feminist perspectives on the Sanders campaign.


Hi Dana, Thank you for kicking us off on such an interesting note. There is so much talk about "the enthusiasm gap" between Hillary and Bernie in this election, and the video's mashing of sexual desire and politics made me wonder what would be an interesting text to compare on the Hillary side. Specifically, your analysis of parody made me think of the scene where the Broad City hipster girls run into Hillary (http://www.cc.com/video-clips/5zgtr5/broad-city-hello--hillary). How do we consider this (staged and managed) spectacle of female-to-female desire with "Talk Bernie to Me"? I think this scene parodies romantic movies and utilizes the dangerous coolness of queer desire to attempt something similar. Does it succeed? Thoughts?

Bernie has certainly inspired more “love songs,” but some videos have offered a love fest for Hillary Clinton as well. There are two parodies of Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” (2003) that are particularly good. This one was released recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRdyQjSHcJE. Similar to “Talk Bernie to Me,” “Chelsea’s Mom” positions Clinton as a sexually and politically desirable object. We see the loyal voter/fan (Dave Days) follow Clinton on the trail, as well as watch her “tail,” so to speak. (Her backside faces the camera as she gives him a come hither stare while lounging on the hood on a Corvette and leaning over a pool table.) Again, we see a heavy reliance on standard music video tropes with regards to gender representation and visual aesthetics. While conventional in this regard, the video decenters the idea that young, perfect bodies are the most desirable. The song’s narrative takes its cue from the original video (which starred model Rachel Hunter), but offers a twist in the end—the lovesick boy runs to the podium, passionately embraces his mom crush, and ultimately becomes “first man.” (A far cry from the original video, where the boy “relieves” himself in a bathroom while gazing upon his unattainable love.) While I have not seen any recent examples of queer desire, there is of course this gem from 2007, a parody of the Obama Girl video titled “Hot for Hillary:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Sudw4ghVe8.

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