I knew the poetic text was uncomfortable to read and listen to, but I didn’t expect to feel so sick to my stomach watching my beautiful friends dance to the words on videotape. Even as I taught them the choreography, it was a struggle. I was consistently asking them if they were comfortable doing certain things and they were all sweet and open-minded, but I still felt awful. I cut the video in the span of three hours, sitting in silence, bearing through it, and when the time came to send it out for people to watch I was immediately scared. I was worried people would think it was disgusting and awful, that they wouldn’t know how to respond, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their responses.
About half of the viewers said that it was “eerie,” or that it made them sad or “hit them in the gut,” but the other half said that it was “goofy,” “funny,” and even “hilarious.” I was glad that the viewers could see the video both ways, telling me that I stayed true to the tongue-in-cheek quality that Knudson used in her book, and yet kept it equally, if not more so, biting and raw at the same time.
Overall, I felt like the message was received fairly well. Most everyone commented on the contrast between the robotic voiceover and the un-phased smiles and dispositions of the posing women. A lot of questions were raised about how women are “expected to act” in this culture and what it means to be a “bad bitch.” One of the viewers suggested the addition of the soundtrack to which a large majority of the viewers said they preferred the video without it. The song seemed to overpower the video, making it too “cute,” and took the focus away from what the voiceover was saying. Some, however, liked the song in that it made the video feel like an infomercial and gave more meaning to the dancer’s poses. Personally, I agree with the majority that the video without the song works best. While I worried that the silence was too painful and in your face, that tension created is the most impactful if I want my viewers to come away with an overall sense of unease, rather than focusing too much on the humorous aspects of the video.
The criticisms revolved around a few main things. One was that the text was sometimes hard to understand. This is something I did not foresee at all, because I knew the text so well and was so accustomed to hearing it. I should have played the text for others before finalizing the mix to prevent that.
The second criticism was that the doilies were far too confusing. Many people thought that they were snowflakes (which I expected) and others thought they were gears (which I didn’t expect, but liked considering the context). In hindsight, I should have had the dancers wear white lace dresses and if I could re-install the project that would be my biggest change. I think I was really attached to the doilies because of their uniqueness and old-fashioned quality but perhaps the lace dresses would have communicated much better. However, I did find that I liked the fragility of the doilies and how they slowly crumpled and wore as the dancers performed.
The third thing wasn’t necessarily a criticism, but I noticed that the majority of the viewers thought that the voice was a male’s when it is actually a female’s voice slowed down a bit. This just helped reinforce how our culture has propagated ideas about how a woman is supposed to be: her voice is “supposed to be” high-pitched and bubbly, her hair must be a certain way, her lips, her legs, etc. What I worry, though, is that most people thought that the text described a “bad bitch” through a male’s eyes, when it is really through a female’s. The “bad bitch” is a female stereotype of one who rejects “girliness” in favor of becoming “one of the guys.” They want to get on a guy’s level: drink as much as him, throw sexist slurs like him, hook-up as much as him, all the while competing with other girls to become the “baddest bitch.” Essentially, by engaging in behavior they think is “empowering,” they are propagating misogynistic ideas and allowing themselves to be viewed, used and treated like an object as a result. If I re-shot the video I think I would use a more bubbly, high-pitched voice to make it clear that the rules are an example of how misogynistic ideas can become embedded in female behavior and values.