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Symbolism undermined by shock value in Badu’s video

While some were getting some sun on the beach during spring break, Erykah Badu was getting what many might consider too much sun on a famous Dallas street.

For the “Window Seat” music video, Badu walked through Dealey Plaza, the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, while removing her clothing, piece by piece, before she fell completely bare on the very spot where Kennedy was shot.

In the background, men, women and children watch as Badu makes her trek. One man even picked up her coat and chased after her in what one might assume was an attempt to return it to her.

The video was shot without a permit, but Badu faced no legal consequences related to the video shoot for more than two weeks, according to The Dallas Morning News. That is until a mother, whose children witnessed Badu’s disrobing, came forward last week.

I understand why a person would not want her child to see Badu’s bare body. If I was walking along a Dallas street with any of my nieces or nephews, I would most definitely shield their eyes and hurry away.

I understand the problem with letting naked men and women walk unchecked through Dallas streets. However, I also understand the artistic value of a video such as this.

It’s a matter of free speech. I would rather not have women taking off their clothes in public and in front of children, but I understand that there was a symbolic message behind Badu’s public indecency. I think Badu’s intent was to highlight the liberation of the act of shedding one’s clothing in public.

Reading the lyrics of “Window Seat,” “.don’t want nobody next to me I just want a chance to fly a chance to cry and a long bye bye,” one can see Badu is torn between wanting to leave the world, like Kennedy did at Dealey Plaza, and wanting attention from someone – anyone – which she has achieved.

However, Badu could have done better than, as she told The Dallas Morning News, telepathically tell children she did not mean to traumatize them. It would have been as simple as waiting until she was out of any child’s line of sight before removing her undergarments.

While there is artistic value to Badu’s video, there are ways for a person to express herself without flashing children.

However, if I were offended enough to alert the authorities, I would not wait two weeks for the striptease to get media attention. There is no reason to wait in a time when some of the children who witnessed the video shooting might even have cell phones themselves. If they had been so affronted and grossly offended, they could have called Badu in to the police right then and not waited for the story to build and get their 15 minutes of fame.

Kayla Mezzell is a junior geography and news-editorial journalism major from Mesquite.

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