Wednesday, January 26, 2011
While waiting for some new material from our fabulous miss Fiona Apple, let´s see some of her older classics. "Criminal" from her 1996 album "Tidal" is considered by many to be her greatest, and did receive a Grammy-award. (While accepting the award, she gave her famous "don´t model yourself after what we say" -speech)
The music video, directed by Mark Romanek, was controversial, and raised concerns over exploiting Apple. Although she was 19-years-old at the time, she looked years younger, to the point where the music video was judged borderline child pornography. The whole early image of Fiona Apple teased the public with "a malnourished, depressed Lolita" -denotations, with or without her blessing.
The video starts with Apple taking a picture of "us", making us the voyeur of her actions. She knows she is being watched, and thus takes the control of the gaze from us. The space is dim and dark, and the lighting gives an impression of a flashlight being forcefully focused into something morally ambiguous escaping harsh judgment. We should not be watching this, yet we want to. The stuffed animals and beer bottles move into the images and so does a scantily dressed Apple. The scene being played out looks disturbing, yet Apple never gives away the control. Half-clothed, laid out bodies next to Fiona appear just before she sings "I´ve been a bad, bad girl". The other people remain faceless, plain body parts which are used by the main subject. The idea of an orgy is played with, presented to us as a night gone awry, and the seemingly under-age girl is looking for redemption for her actions. The sin being here is her desires, and hiding in the closet cannot erase sexuality. Apple moves to kitchen tables and begins to undress. By now it is clear that we are not watching a woman, but a "child-woman" still maturing. In her thin and fragile frame she appears uncomfortable, vulnerable and awkward.
The images of a sports car seem at first out of place, until we see Apple trapped and half-naked in the backseat of the car. Someone is taking pictures and video of her, making her an object. She is shown enjoying herself being filmed, yet her body movements suggest there is something more sinister going on. The forbidden sexuality is hidden in closets, bedrooms, showers, bath tubs, pools and cars- yet made visible to the voyeur inside of us, watching her. While she sings " I´ve got to make a play, to make my lover stay, so what would an angel say, the devil wants to know" she admits her guilt and deception for the first time. The final images of the floating dish detergent are an all-too obvious metaphor to be discussed and the video ends with Apple lying on top of sleeping men while turning her gaze away from us, ashamed. Although the lyrics of the song "Criminal" suggest Fiona is on control of the sexual situations laid out for the audience, the visual imagery of the video imply otherwise.