Some moves in the music business are incredibly safe to make, especially if you’re a female pop singer. If you take your clothes off and say it’s a statement, the press praises your bravery and you’re lauded as a hero. If you keep your clothes on and say it’s a statement, the press praises your bravery and you’re lauded as a hero. Such is the case of Billie Eilish, the talented Californian pop star who was thrust into the public with her debut EP ‘Don’t Smile at Me’ and the follow-up album ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’
The multi-Grammy award winner’s stunt to kick off her tour has gained a lot of press – a video package played before one of her songs, where she asked a bunch of open-ended questions about her body image, then proceeded to take her shirt off and sink into black liquid. The Guardian stated that she’s “standing her ground on body shaming.” USA Today described it as “powerful.” The question is, was it really that meaningful?
For the singer? Maybe, but one would argue it would be better to handle body dysmorphia issues with a therapist (that she could easily afford) rather than taking your top off in front of thousands of people. Granted, I’m not a therapist.
Beyond that? The strength of such a message is measured by its trade-off. Did Billie Eilish’s stunt have one? Not really. It’s not as if she is built like Melissa McCarthy. She’s hardly obese, or unattractive. Is she a size four? Probably not, but how many people are really going to judge her for that in 2020, a day and age where one of the most celebrated bikini models is the ridiculously curvaceous Ashley Graham.
Beyond any societal bits, was there really a wrong move here for Eilish? When it comes right down to it, the mainstream media are suckers for female pop stars. Everything is empowering, short of kicking a baby on stage (and then there’s Planned Parenthood for that). Eilish was already celebrated in circles for having a unique style of dress, mostly because it was very much against the norm of super tight clothes and dressing like you’re working a corner in a red light district. The only mistake that she could honestly make with the mainstream media is if she announced she was a Christian.
The most impressive part about all of this is that it’s such a first world problem. For a kid who said she “never wanted a normal life,” it’s not like she even has a concept of one in the first place. She’s the child of actors and grew up in Los Angeles, and has been recording music since the age when most girls are more concerned about training bras. She has the life that every girl in Minnesota singing in a choir wishes they had. She’s not oppressed. She’s not a victim. She’s an American megastar. If she were a male Republican she’d be a prime target for Bernie Sanders campaign speeches.
The only unfortunate thing about all of this in reality is that it’s limiting. Eilish’s fashion sense is one that forces you to focus on her talents. She became a megastar because of how good of a singer she is. Maybe this move helps her mental state. Maybe it doesn’t. Only she will know. The downside is that this stunt distracts from incredible talent by having the world focus on your cleavage. Eilish will have to decide if the trade-off is worth it, because it doesn’t seem to be from the outside.
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