It was a long time ago that I had become a target for a borderline stalker. Things managed to stop before they escalated, but that's not something you look back on and smile about.
Needless to say, I couldn't watch Robin Thicke's music video for his new single, "Get Her Back," without cringing at the thought of what almost happened to me. He may want to patch things up with his wife, but all he's doing is proving she was right to bail on his ass.
Let's jump back a little bit, get a better idea of what is going on. Robin Thicke is the son of Alan Thicke, TV host and star of Growing Pains. Thicke is also a prolific songwriter, and Robin seems to have picked up some of that. Besides music, Robin also started dating a girl in high school named Paula Patton. The two were nuts about each other, and got married in 2007. Everything seemed to be going well.
And then, last year. Robin came up with a little ditty called "Blurred Lines." Debate went back and forth about whether the song, with it's complaints about blurred social lines and chant of "I know you want it," was just macho bravado or victim-blaming and rape-y. Not helping was Robin doing an interview where he admitted the song was disrespectful of women, and that was why he felt he could sing it -- he was married, loved his wife, treated her with respect, so this song was a complete 180 from his usual attitude. Uh, that's high school acting out, not how a grown man behaves.
So, "Blurred Lines" burns up the charts. This culminates in Miley Cyrus and her twerking extraveganza (while I feel Cyrus is making a fool of herself, I can't complain about the context of the song. The song is all about a woman completely subjugating herself for the amusement of a guy. That's pretty much what was happening on that stage). Not only was there THAT little spectacle, but someone with a camera phone snapped a picture of Robin grabbing a woman's ass backstage. There are also rumors of him running around with other women. Respectful, my ass.
Well, apparently, being married to a man celebrated for being a douchebag is not what Patton had in mind. She has separated from Robin in February of this year. We don't know what is going on or what the next step is, but we might have a good idea because Robin has undertaken a very public campaign to reunite with Patton. With his public apologies and dedicating songs to her while performing on his knees, he makes John Mayer look self-assured.
(I say "might" because it is entirely possible this whole thing is just a massive publicity stunt, like Cyrus at the VMA's or the Kardashians in general. It could be the relationship is over, and by her being quiet for whatever reason, he's seeing something he can spin and have people following celebrity news eating up, the old "bad publicity is better than no publicity" thing. His dad has a sort of reality show, where he admits to presenting a fictionalized version of his life in a reality TV set-up, so no, I'm not convinced this isn't another epically staged publicity ploy. After all, did he really just start working on the album in February, get it mastered, and set for release in just under four months? 2 to the power of 100,000 to 1 against and rising.)
Robin has been telling anyone and everyone that his new album, "Paula," is all about her and how he wants her back. Okay. Kind of sappy but whatever, guys in the middle of a breakup aren't known for being rational. But then, he revealed the track list. And any thoughts he was going for a "Handsome Rob" kind of swagger went out the window. Here's a sampling of the song titles:
"You're My Fantasy"
"Get Her Back"
"Still Madly Crazy"
"Lock The Door"
"Whatever I Want"
"Love Can Grow Back"
It doesn't help that some of these titles can be taken more than one way. "Get Her Back?" As in, "Back in your life," or "Get back at her for what she did to you?" But this seems a little bit stalker-ish.
But now, we have the video for the first single, "Get Her Back," and it is creepy as fuck. It doesn't help that people have a tendency to confuse stalking with simple devotion and determination. This is often seen as empowering. Sting has stated that "Every Breath You Take" is supposed to be sinister and make people uncomfortable, but lots of people see it as a song about a man lamenting a break-up. Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" not only blatantly states it is about a stalker ("I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me"), but the video ends with her finally getting the guy and killing him with a poisoned drink. John Lennon openly stated he never should have written "Run For Your Life." Plain White T's, "Hey There Delilah" seems like a long distance relationship song until you find out Tom Higgenson wrote the song when he met Delilah DiCrescenzo at a party and got turned down for a date, and wrote that to reach out to her and hopefully get her to change her mind. And yet these songs are celebrated and the dynamic roles fantasized about when people should be calling therapists.
Robin's video gets really uncomfortable to watch right from the beginning, as it opens with a tight close-up of his face, and him singing directly to the viewer. He also has blood trickling from his nose and down the side of his head at times, but no explanation where it came from. A repeated image is him putting his finger to his temple with his thumb cocked, like a gun. Yeah, that's not emotionally manipulative at all, where do we get these ideas?!?
While the emotional ploys and "Please pity me" behavior is bad, that's not what pushes this into stalker land. The video itself is actually quite invasive and borders on public shaming. It has text messages superimposed that could potentially be the kinds of messages Robin and Patton sent back and forth since the separation in February (they COULD be made up. It's not like he, say, featured part of a voice mail like Drake did in "Marvin's Room". I'm HOPING they're made up). It features things like Robin saying, "I wrote an album for you," and her responding, "I don't care." She tells him he drinks too much, he ran around on her, and he embarrassed her. This is kind of standard stuff for break-ups (any who recalls the glory days of Motown and the "begging song" will vouch for this), although awareness of Robin's reality makes it unpleasant. The awareness is his fault, by the way -- the model featured in the video bears a suspicious resemblance to Patton.
Then, the end of the video. Her last text says, "I have to go." And he responds, "This is only the beginning."
This is what makes the song so much worse than the examples I listed a few paragraphs above. The model in the video is caressing Robin's body as the angry texts from the woman appear on the screen. The model is never shown in more than segments, objectifying her as much as possible without stripping away the identity needed for everyone to know who she is supposed to be. Robin implies that he won't take no for an answer. The stalking is not implied, it is blatant and in the open. It's real. It's targeted. It can't be ignored, it is the whole motivation for the images and actions. This isn't a narrative, this is a personal message. Robin has admitted as much, saying the whole album and everything connected with it is to get Patton to return to him. I'd be advising Patton to buy herself a gun right about now.
Fact: 1 in 6 women in the US has been stalked. Fact: 66% of stalking victims were stalked by a current or former lover.
If you want people to see you as a good guy, releasing an album with a track list that reads like a stalker's checklist probably isn't the way to do it.