unpacking my feelings about “criminal” by fiona apple
(a) the first shot is of fiona taking a picture with a camera and i think that defines this piece in that it is about documenting, archiving, and making the private public — it is about exposure
(b) removal of clothes and oversharing — showing “too much” of your skin, mind, personal life, history — as performance, a radical act, art
© the “spotlight” effect creates a darkness at the edges of every shot that makes normal domestic objects (vacuum cleaner, tissue box, car) and mess (half-eaten pizza, discarded shoes, pillows on the floor) look “dirty” — it reminds me of cheaters, reality television, night-vision cameras. something is being seen that is supposed to be hidden in darkness.
(d) bathing, hiding in closets, sitting on toilets — typically private acts — becoming public through exposure with varying degrees of acceptance by fiona (the look on her face when the boy opens the closet door and leaves her there, exposed, is so familiar). she is being exposed whether she consents to it or not, so enjoying the exposure, maybe even embracing/encouraging it, can be seen as a proactive/power-taking act on her behalf
(e) bathing/water as a means of purifying oneself because women’s bodies and minds and desires and faults are dirty, dirty, dirty
(f) “what would an angel say?/the devil wants to know”
(g) this song gives me so many shame/shameless feelings that i am both in love with and disgusted by
i could analyze this all day. i feel like there’s a lot going on here that i can’t really explain but it makes me hurt a little in self-pity kind of way and that is what i need right now
i feel this analysis like, 10000000% and couldn’t have put it better myself
writing about exposure, obvs. and breaking a boy just because you can and living this day like the next will never come and being on trial.
This video is seminal. There’s so much in here. When I first saw it, I was a kid and it terrified me, because it was about, like, a completely different world. All these points above are right and true, and there’s even more to make.
1) It came out before reality TV really exploded in America beyond just The Real World - it was ‘97, reality TV was the 2000s or so? So the effect was more voyeuristic and dirty in its original context. Do you remember hearing conversations about reality TV by parents or the like, where they were like “why is this reality? It’s not really real?” Despite those reservations, however, by sane people then it just exploded as a genre because it was quick and cheap. And all of a sudden, everyone was famous.
2) The other thing that was shocking was the aesthetic. It was reminiscent of the banned Calvin Klein ads that seemed like 70s basement amateur porn, and there’s Fiona in the middle, alternately bragging and repenting. It was complicated. If she made it now, would she have to be ashamed?
3) I remember there’s always been a lot of talk about Fiona’s body and skinniness. It’s interesting that in the past ten years, I feel like the majority of female performers in movies/TV are about this skinny. (And yet people will always say, with pointed fingers of judgment, anorexic! when Fiona Apple is around) There’s a big disconnect between seeing size 0s, size 2s, and visible clavicles on screen and seeing real life people whose bodies are different. It was a mind-fuck to me when I was writing about film all the time, thinking that my body was wrong and bad because it wasn’t what I saw on screen.
I don’t understand why film/TV has followed fashion standards when it comes to female bodies. Scratch that - I understand sort of, it’s been the results of the whims of the camera, a capricious asshole of a machine. Some actresses are very skinny in person just so they can look good on camera. But can you believe that Julia Roberts states she’s a size 6 in Pretty Woman? It wouldn’t happen in today’s films. She would be fat. The Devil Wears Prada - even though it was, you know, satirical - seems like an important point in that conversation.
I’ve wanted, at times, to write about this, but it is a fine line to write about women’s bodies and their meaning because it could sound like the patriarchy when you have the best intentions. But I do think that widely displayed images of females place unnatural expectations on women and it’s a raw deal that’s only getting worse. (Lena Dunham being a notable exception, even though the Glossy Magazine Lena Dunham Image, all I’ve seen as of late, seems completely dissonant with her art, which is kind of funny if you think about it.)
It’s why the media can get weird obsessions over something like Jennifer Lawrence’s body, simply because she’s “different” from the current accepted norm. Those scare quotes are there on purpose.
4) Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” video is a ripoff of the Criminal aesthetic. I think it was an effort to make her seem like a hipster, and her music palatable to hipsters? Sort of like Lana Del Rey’s magpie videos and “realness.” Then her campaign kind of went full pop and art and weird.