Someone please explain why Justin Timberlake continually gets a pass
to fetishize and exploit the
image of Black women. Right now. Because after watching him
aggressively pulling on a chain wrapped around Ciara's neck only to
later use her bending body as a leaning post in her new video for "Love
Sex Magic," it's getting ludicrously difficult to understand.
It been years since "Nipplegate" after which he distanced himself from Janet Jackson, cowardly allowing her to endure the overly harsh criticism alone. The outcry against his actions from those of us in the indignant minority was quickly overshadowed by an increase in album sales, multiple music awards and an increase in his Pop stardom miming Black music and culture. Instead of subjecting his next project with trepidation--let alone dismissal--nearly every "urban" club, radio station and music channel on the planet had the masses bumping to a song with a hook that's about shackles, whipping and slavery.
From behind a wry smile and with his hair faded he actually tarnished a reigning, Black Pop star's image arguably beyond repair by exposing her breast on national television and then built his street cred further by bringing sexy back, Middle Passage style. He's transitioned from the post-racialist's pop culture dream of somewhat harmlessly lusting after beautiful Black love interest in the video for "Like I Love You" into something more sinister. He uses the scapegoat of S&M edginess in which he is the aggressor, the dominant force, to subordinate his object of desire when she is Black.
He distanced himself from those undertones in using shackles (why not a different two syllable kinky word like handcuffs, Justin? Or latex, like the piece you tore off of Miss Jackson?) and whipping in the song by making himself the slave, and in the video by making lusty faces with a White woman. But all of the soft edginess and ambgious sexism and racism has become the central M.O. for him in the video for "Love Sex Magic."
It's not even his song but in the video he's in the opening scene, pulling on a chained Ciara. Whenever the two are interacting she is doing all kinds of sexy acrobatics for him--crawling over him, stick out her ass for him to lean on, bumping him with her breasts--but he can barely be bothered to look her in the face half of the time...and he's on screen a lot. She looks desparate, and he looks like a pimp. As the video progresses and their roles become more evident it gets more disgusting.
Yes, Ciara is grown and autonomous. So is Janet. But that just makes his ability to exploit their collaborations to the point that they are subjegated to his dominance, wittingly or not, more protestable. Additionally, it seems that at this point active defense, tacit approval, or even celebration of this behavior/persona is beyond ignorant and only subjegates women further. The "that's capitalism" and "it's just entertainment!" defenses also fall short because both are integral aspects of our shared culture and have impact beyond the superficialities of the music industry hustle and streaming videos online. Dig deeper than that.
So the question stands: Why does he still get a pass?