After yesterday’s blistering of Keith Richards’ cocaine/ashes habit here in Urban Semiotic, our conversation turned to the need for, and the requirement of, semiotics in society and I made this promise then:

We are going to talk more about the corruption of the young around us with craven semiotics that are imitated and intended to infiltrate and infest mainstream popular culture to influence behavior, values and the common decency of human morality.

We will begin our discussion of A Meme of Craven Semiotics in society by examining a single cultural touchstone — The Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” music video released in 2005 — that recently inspired both Will Ferrell’s imitation of the song while on a treadmill in the movie “Blades of Glory” and Alanis Morissette’s new achingly awful mocking of the song. If the original version of “My Humps” had some sense of irony or sophistication, the inferred semiotic would be influential and, perhaps, even interesting instead of merely craven.

“My Humps” has become an unfortunate ordinary common enough in the mainstream mindset to become a meme ripe for imitation and mocking where a system of behavior and expectation is passed from one person to another via — as I argue today — The Craven Semiotic embedded in both the semantic lyric and the salacious imagery intended to degrade and negatively influence the young children who watch music videos. Trends start with young people. Learned and associated values are embedded in those trends.

Get you love drunk off my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps (Check it out)

The first semiotic of the video is of “the lumps.”

The next semiotic provided is “the humps.”

With the semiotic establishment of lumps and humps — the tone and intention of the video is set — this is a woman who uses her body to get not what she deserves, but what she cravenly craves: Possessions and men.

What you gon’ do with all that junk? All that junk inside that trunk? I’ma get, get, get, get, you drunk, Get you love drunk off my hump. What you gon’ do with all that ass? All that ass inside them jeans?

A woman is not her mind or her talent or her singing: She is merely lumpy humps of genetically mandated fat and flesh. Now we are provided hotpants and legs and shoes inspection as the woman grotesquely admires her assets.

The lyric indicates the appropriate reaction to seeing the lumps and humps with sexual intercourse and male release:

I mix your milk wit my cocoa puff, Milky, milky cocoa, Mix your milk with my cocoa puff, milky, milky riiiiiiight.

Now the costumes change to reveal golden lumps hidden under the indicative innocence of baby blue hooker outfits. Touch the lumps. Pump up the lumps with the palms in beat with the music.

Now the hump gets some swinging play.

They say I’m really sexy, The boys they wanna sex me. They always standing next to me, Always dancing next to me, Tryin’ a feel my hump, hump. Lookin’ at my lump, lump.

Semantic intoxication is high and gaining semiotic relevance and validity now as the flesh peddling is ongoing and neverending. The bows tied to the backs of the hooker high heels suggest innocence, gifting and the semiotic accouterments of a little girl’s breezy summer childhood.

Now we are provided with the mandatory pre-Britney crotch shot. Anyone with a video player and a pause button — including children and adolescents
— can ogle the same craven image.

If those semiotics were not meant to be ogled and interpreted, they would not be provided in the first place.

What you gon’ do with all that junk? All that junk inside that trunk? I’ma get, get, get, get you drunk, Get you love drunk off this hump. What you gon’ do wit all that breast? All that breast inside that shirt?

The true dyad of this Craven Semiotic Meme is finally revealed: The pimp and the whore. The bling-rich man with the necessarily-loose woman with the bouncing buttocks.

We are left with the sad social reality that this woman we have followed for four minutes willfully placed her body, her morality, and her values up for sale to the highest — and crassest — bidder and she was bribed and bought with brand names and unbridled misogyny. We are all worse for the artistic effort as this new “womanly ideal” is sold wholesale to our children as entertainment and purchased, in turn, by society as proper for the meme-delivered enrichment of hatred and cognitive gender stereotyping masked by a lilting melody and a tightening, semiotic, sexuality that only binds and never frees.

68 Comments

  1. you said a lot about how i feel about the song, and then some more. i think if a person listening to the song understands what is said in between the lines, it could dismissed as nothing more than a song. but it’s people who don’t think about what goes in between the lines might have their perceptions on women unconsciously, subliminally formed. which was why i felt so indignant when this song was played at the women’s finals of the malaysian badminton open, just prior to the prize-giving ceremony.

  2. Hi sulz!
    Ouch! What a story about the real-life use of the song! I think if you just listen to it without thinking about what is being taught, supported and said — the beat and melody are fun.
    It all changes when you see the video. The video is graphic. It forces you to consider the lyrics. They’re entirely disgusting and uninspiring. They condemn young women to being hos and bitches:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2006/03/03/bitches-and-hoes/
    Did anyone complain about the song being played in a celebratory formal setting or not?

  3. nope. i did rant about it in my blog though. most malaysians don’t exactly realise that they’re being sold womenly ideals through songs like this. then again, the same could be said about everywhere else in the world, for that matter.

  4. I’m glad you went on-the-record to protest your disgust, sulz!
    Why do you think these sorts of videos find such firm footing in the international mindset?
    What is appealing about them for both sexes?
    Why isn’t everyone appalled and offended?

  5. I remember going to a Filipino Christmas party a couple of years ago sponsored by a church group. Various groups were doing traditional dances and presentations.
    Then the youth came to the stage and did their presentation — a modern dance routine set to Ushers’ “Jam.”
    I don’t think anyone realized that there were lyrics in the song sung by Ludacris along the lines of milking the cow and getting women in their birthday suits to touch their toes:

    My outfit’s ridiculous, In the club lookin’ so conspicuous
    And rowl! These women all on the prowl!
    If you hold the head steady, I’ma milk the cow.
    Man Forget about game, I’ma spit the truth
    I won’t stop til I get them in they birthday suits
    So Give me the rhythm, and it will be off in they clothes
    then bend ova to the front and touch your toes!

    I think people get caught up in the catchy songs and forget to listen to the lyrics. I wonder if the kids didn’t realize the song lyrics or have become so immune they don’t hear them anymore.

  6. Hi Chris!
    Now that’s quite a wild story! I don’t think people can UNDERSTAND the lyrics today they’re so ill-formed and illegible – probably on purpose to mask ill intent.
    I’ve seen young kids dance today — young girls bend over and their hands touch the floor “doggy style” and the their male “dance partners” stand behind them and grind their crotches into the girls’ behinds — it’s disgusting in any society with any sort of ethical or moral values.
    The kids know precisely what they’re doing and what they’re suggestively imitating and they get away with it at picnics in the park, church gatherings and house parties.

  7. I wonder that as well, arin! If AOL and MTV and everyone else refused to air the video because it’s in bad taste and it degrades women — we don’t ever have to experience it or wonder on it or try to worry it away!

  8. Emilys —
    Heh! It’s sort of curious, isn’t it, that Fergie isn’t very lumpy or humpy? You sort of watch the video and wonder, “What is she talking about?” :mrgreen: Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
    How would you handle a guy who came up to you and — because he has been desensitized and debased by the video — asked about your “Lovely lady lumps.”

  9. Bollywood dance numbers are not far behind David!
    Our songs and dances were famous for being sensuous but from early ’90s they crossed the thin line and displayed sheer vulgurity.
    If you want to experience it, watch the number below. Don’t get shocked by the subtitle, the Hindi version is an exact translation of it. Yes, they are clothed!


    Even my not-so-literate grandma was stupified by the crassness of it; she understood the hint without even knowing the language and expressed her dismay – “poor girl, what they have to do for money!”
    The dance was performed by the then number one actress in India.
    It was the biggest hit number of the year.
    Then we became downright sleazy with this:


    and,


    Even if someone doesn’t understand the language, does it take too much to understand what they are hinting at?
    As one of the biggest music retail chains in India, we sold record number of copies of both the songs.
    Every night I used to ask myself – “Why am I selling this junk when I will probably shoot the performers if I can?”
    Because it sold. Because people asked for it. Because it helped me achieve my bottomline. Because the more graphic you can be, the easier it is to engage people, they don’t have to invest much.

  10. Excellent links, Katha, thanks!
    I also appreciate you answering why this junk is popular. It doesn’t take much effort, you’re right.
    People will always slow down to watch the aftermath of a car crash while children in the street go unnoticed and hungry.
    I guess I appreciate Madonna a little bit more in this light. She challenged ideas of morality and sexuality and the meaning of core values without being a total ick-out — except for the Britney kiss on the lips — and Madonna has always let us subtlety know she was in on the mocking joke with us when it came to understanding her intent without undermining her music. There are levels and depths to her work that is missing in the current sexual-gross-outs now tempting as mainstream entertainment.

  11. I’d give him a lump. About the size of a quarter, right atop his brainless head!
    You are right, Fergie doesn’t have too much in the lumps or humps department. But even if she DID, she should not display them the way she does in this video. Ew ew ew.

  12. Note to Self: Emily + Lumps = Not!
    If Fergie had the lumps and humps — I bet the video would not have been played because it would’ve been wayyyy to graphic and suggestive. As it is now, there’s a certain strange, disconnected charm, of a woman singing about things which she doesn’t really own.

  13. Oooh David, yes yes yes on Madonna!
    I always liked that she was provocative and sexual, and still intellectual and talented.
    I have to admit, a part of my Madonna admiration died when she kissed Britney. That was pretty base, in my opinion.

  14. That’s right! :mrgreen:
    Good point David. That hadn’t occurred to me the first time I saw the video. Really though, what female recording artist actually has a womanly body these days? All of the ones that are coming to mind for me look like twelve-year-old boys with fake breasts.
    Beyonce is the only womanly figure I can think of.

  15. Emilish —
    Madonna is a cultural icon — but not much of a singer. You have to be able to sing well live to be more than an entertainment passerling — and she can’t really do much more than dance and be provocative. She can’t act. She can’t really carry a tune.
    The Britney kiss was supposed to be a passing of the torch between generations! Who knew Britney would blow it out with babies and bad marriages and not become the next Madonna?
    The real Madonna replacement is a mix between Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stafani. Neither have Madonna’s intellectual bite, but Christina is a fabulous singer and Gwen looks eerily like a young Louise.

  16. Emmils —
    J. Lo has a fine Womanly body. Shakira is young, but mature. Kelly Clarkson is humpy. 😀 Where’s Chris when you need him? :mrgreen:
    I remember seeing the “I Like Big Butts” video a while back and being completely disgusted. Couldn’t watch the whole thing. I was embarrassed for all that humps shaking…

  17. You are right, David, about Madonna’s talents. I think by ‘talented,’ what I probably meant was ‘creative!’ 😀
    Mmmm, Gwen Stefani…definitely my favorite.

  18. Em —
    Right! Madonna is much more than a singer. She’s an entity now. She knows the game.
    Love that Gwen! Did you watch her on “American Idol” last week? She was dreamy, talented and gave great feedback.
    Christina is growing on me as well now that her personal life is set straight and she is honoring her talent and her voice. Her lyrics are still sort of cheap, but perhaps she’ll grow up a bit and start doing some real music soon.

  19. David,
    Not really an ‘Idol’ fan, so I missed it. Had I known she would be on, I definitely would have tuned in.
    I think I still have a bad taste for Christina after all that “dirty girl” stuff she did a few years back. It was so crass and impossible to get away from!
    Forget self-respect; whatever happened to just keeping that stuff private? If these women want to be tramps in bed, fine. But why do we have to have it plastered all over our TVs and billboards for anyone and everyone to see?

  20. I agree, Emily, Christina was lost. It seems, though, that she has come out of her pit-of-despair and is beginning to get the old shine back. I’m glad to see her making good on her talent and living up to the promise of her life.

  21. You are right about that. She has always had such a huge, beautiful voice. My father told me when I was young that I was doing a disservice to God and to the world if I did not use and share my talents. I believe that he is right.

  22. Emily —
    Christina is awful on records — she’s over produced — but watching her live and listening to her live you see the gold in her beautiful voice. She’s perfect. She isn’t faking or singing to a backing track. Her New Year’s Eve performance in Times Square was incredibly well done and well-sung even if the lyrics were cheap.
    I do think it is important to live up to your potential and to honor your talents — but for many artistic people that can mean great pain, disappointment and loneliness — but that’s the price of your gifts and you must soldier onward without the warranty of worry or the guarantee of success or the promise of acceptance.

  23. David,
    To me “Madonna” is more of a performer than singer, she had something unique to say, she presented it ‘right’ – the packaging was great.
    J. Lo yes, – she does have a good figure, as well as some substance in her head – it least she portrays she has.
    Anyone watched “Dance with me” by Vanessa Williams??? The storyline was dumb but I loved all the dance sequences.
    Love Norah Jones, the voice.
    Emily, do you remember “Inside Man” starts with a weird song?
    The following link is for you – achieved best “choreography” in 1998; the same song is used in the movie –


    Enjoy! 😀

  24. Hey Katha —
    Yes, Madonna is a performer. Not a singer, really.
    J. Lo started as a dancer. I don’t think she’s a great live singer, but her husband sure is…
    Love Norah Jones. Vanessa is a fine singer as well.

  25. Some people dance with their body/physique, Vanessa dances with her soul – it comes to her naturally!
    I got it for you, you don’t have to watch the movie anymore – 😀



  26. I should have checked in sooner!
    I remember reading a blog written by a strip club DJ a couple of years back complaining about this song being silly.
    Speaking of great singers who don’t get enough attention.
    Check out:
    Joss Stone


    Goapele


    Mariah Carey


    Yolanda Adams


    Heather Headley

  27. Great links and lists, Chris! Brand New Heavies are a great band! Love the sound.
    Goapele is also amazing!
    Beyonce is quite talented. I saw a video of her yesterday. Don’t know if it was new or old. It was in black and white and it was just her kind of smiling and flirting with the camera in different poses. It was beautiful and mesmerizing. What a star!

  28. Glad you liked it!
    It seems she is completely immeresed in it, enjoying every move – but not overtly inviting. There is a very dignified, graceful charm in the whole thing.
    Chris, yes! “Mariah Carey”!!!
    She probably didn’t need to sing any other song than “Hero”! 😀

  29. Hey David,
    There is nothing wrong that you enjoyed those videos!
    Indian Hindi movie industry is famous for its dance numbers. It is basically a mix of various folk dances, classical dances and aerobics. Each region, every state in India has a folk dance of its own. They are very different in style, but all of them are very vibrant, rhythmic and gorgeous.
    Any dance form is a non verbal communication and expression of joy and celebration – some celebrate festive events, some celebrate marriage, some celebrate birth, some even celebrate adolescence and puberty and so on.
    The dance moves of the first link I gave was extremely well choreographed, it’s the lyrics that was crap.
    The next two are a bit too much for my taste – I hated those. They lack class.
    The one that was used in the movie “Inside Man” is my all time favorite; it was also the biggest hit of the year!
    Here goes my all time fav 5, enjoy!
    The Dance of Envy (based on an instrumental); one of them is the ‘blouse’ girl!


    Talking about “inference of sexuality?” See the example of being carefully careless… 😀 They are featuring a modified ‘fisherman dance’ of West Coast, Goa, India.


    The third one is featuring a festive event in Rajasthan, it was a ‘must’ for any celebration in our friends’ circle! The rhythm is unbeatable!


    I loved this Indian girl with a Bengali origin, not grammatically ‘beautiful’ but probably one of the most talented commercial actress India has ever seen!


    The last one is to show screen presence and chemistry between these two “aged” actor and actress; one of them is 60, and the lady in yellow sari is 50 – she still can beat any 20! I couldn’t find the dance with subtitle but the gist is – they are celebrating their 50 years of marriage and both of them are saying – “I can still die for you!”

  30. Yes David, Madhuri is breath taking!
    The “fisherman song” you watched was released in 1990; the other one with the half Bengali girl was released in 1995. All of them were released mostly in ‘90s, the last one was released in 2003/ 2004.
    The half Bengali girl is attractive but could be considered beautiful if she had an oval shaped face, fair skin and arch shaped lips. On the contrary – she is plump and dark, has a round and small nose…but she has very beautiful and intelligent eyes and her acting talent is natural.
    Madhuri is an example of a classic Indian feature, she is considered to be classically “beautiful”. Madhuri is a well-known classical dancer too!
    I think you will like these two by Madhuri too –
    This one was released in 2000. Couldn’t find the number with subtitle, the gist of the song goes is something like this, the boy was asking the youngsters to not to fall in love, the girl was saying – que sera sera! The male dancer accompanying Madhuri is also a well known South Indian dancer in India.


    This one, again – enjoy being mesmerized by Madhuri magic! 😀 This was released in 1992.

  31. Hi Katha! Yes, Akismet ate your comment! I’m glad you let me know so I could fish you out again!
    Thanks for the additional glimpses of Madhuri. She’s exquisite.
    You have confused me with what you said about the woman in this video:


    You think she’s plump and dark and not the right nose? That is amazing to me!
    I prefer the more traditional dances and costumes. They are elegant and purposeful. The modern stuff isn’t as glamorous or telling to me.

  32. David! I don’t say it…it’s “public’s” viewpoint! Kajol will anyday get better marks from me than Madhuri!
    Madhuri exudes appeal, Kajol is charming. Madhuri sells, because of her screen presence and dance performance, Kajol needs the right roll which will exploit her acting talent becuase she is a pathetic dancer.
    Glad you enjoyed!

  33. Hi Katha!
    One of my UMDNJ students looks exactly like Kajol. Eerily so… they toss their hair and turn their heads and smile at you in the same way. Wild!
    Madhuri does exude a certain classic tale of elegance. It seems clear she is rich with the history of India.
    Thanks for this education, Katha!
    Oh, and why are the men in the videos so dull and expressionless? The videos would be so much better without them slogging around with nothing to do!

  34. Lol… 😀
    I know exactly what you mean – I will start with your last statement.
    First of all, these clippings are parts of various movies…the director of any commercial movie just cannot eliminate the “hero” from any song sequence – no matter how ridiculous and stiff he appears – there will be a furor and personality clash.
    In any commercial Indian movie, it s the “hero” who does the job, the whole movie centers on the “hero” – it’s the songs and dance sequences where the “heroines” get special attention.
    Moreover, 99% Indian hero are hopeless in romantic/passionate scene…the sensor board doesn’t allow them to do much either… 😉 They are miserable dancers as well! 😀
    With this guy, Hrithik Roshon, India got a hero who is a natural dancer and can beat any heroine any day.


    And this with Shahrukh Khan, he is comparatively better than others…tolerable, to say the least.


    Madhuri was sensuous beyond comparison (view point of the majority), Kajol was intelligent. Both of them left the industry after getting married…the void is still prevailing…the industry is yet to get someone who could match these two talents.
    Is your student Indian?
    Aishwarya Rai was expected to fill the gap of Madhuri…she is technically perfect, but she misses something – I exactly don’t know what…this one was released in 2005, another hit.


    I forgot to add one more in my favorites, Dimple Kapadia – another example of Indian beauty icon. Her come back story is amazing – she got married at the age of 15, just after her first movie, raised two kids, got divorced after 15 years, this one was the film she had as her second break through, released in ‘80s. This one doesn’t have a subtitle, but you won’t probably need one… enjoy! 😀

  35. Katha! I appreciate the Bollywood storyline analysis! It makes sense. The men blow up the world while the women dance! 😀
    Madhuri is still my favorite. She sparks on the screen. Every second her expression changes. She is alive!
    My student was Bengali, I believe, and she was definitely Sikh.
    I agree with you on Aishwarya. Pretty face. Not mesmerizing.
    Dimple does not drive me in the way Madhuri and Kajol do. I like to see animated spirit on the screen and Dimple didn’t seem to have it.

  36. Right David! You got it! You summarized a normal 3 hours long Hindi movie in 2 lines – brilliant!
    You witnessed the cream of “Bollywood” in ’90 and 2000 without enduring the 3 hrs long pain!
    It’s amazing to observe how you could understand and differentiate between a pretty face and a live one – Aishwarya and Dimple was considered to be “hot” by majority! Even by my American roommate! They are “hot”, but minus the sensuality of Madhuri and intelligence of Kajol!
    The last Madhuri for you – 😀 This dance is based by a folk style from the state Gujrat.


    Watch Kajol in this amazing number, the director knew Kajol was no Madhuri – but brilliantly exploited her power of expression and smile; this folk dance is from Punjab; it’s called Bhangra.


    I think you will like Sridevi – one sentence to introduce her – “80’s Madhuri”!
    The older songs do not have subtitles, but gist is same like the previous Madhuri song in this post. In Northern India there is a custom – before wedding night the bride will have a all female party with songs and dances, no male member will be allowed there.


    It’s startling that you noticed Madhuri’s expression changes every minute, so does Sridevi’s. I think the reason is both of them are very powerful classical dancer, and in any Indian classical dance you have to express all your feelings with your eyes as well as your movements – anger, love, joy, sadness, annoyance, lust, passion – everything. That might be a reason for the ‘spark!’
    Yay! David became a bollywood expert! 😀

  37. Thanks for those extra links, Katha! Madhuri is my absolute favorite.
    Kajol is a close second.
    They both have a delightful and warm sensuality that isn’t whorish or obnoxious.
    Sridevi is also interesting, but her sensuality comes off on film as technical and immature.

  38. I will have to search for my former student’s last name Katha, and then email it to you.
    How are you able to determine these relationships based on last names alone?
    What is the sociological “pecking order” in India when it comes to Bengali and the others?

  39. You are right! Madhuri is natural. Kajol is natural too, minus the dance. The rest looks artificial, you can tell they are acting. What is most amazing to me that you can tell the difference! Love it!
    David became a Madhuri fan! Yay!!!
    Regarding your next question: any Indian last name tells you which region/State you are from, the religion and caste you belong too. Each region has a definite look, it’s easy to tell by look also.
    Sociological pecking order between Bengali and others! Ooooops! What a loaded question!!!
    Mereko maarwaoge keya??? (I spoke Hindi for the new Madhuri fan, it means – do you want me to get beaten up by the public?) 😀
    Ok, first let me tell you the good one. The whole India becomes one when it comes to cricket. No question asked. Regardless of region and religion.
    Sourav Ganguly, a Bengali cricketer led Indian team as a captain from 2000 – 2005 and achieved enormous success. He was also very popular for his typical aggressive attitude in the field and his passion; watch his shirtless celebration after winning a cricket match in Lords, England – no one ever dreamt of it because Lords was famous for its tradition and conventionalism…. 😀


    We all have our reservations, inhibition, prejudices against each other, we even make fun of each other’s look, language, rituals, customs and food habits…but the core moral value is one.
    We are Indian. Gradually becoming GAC!!!

  40. Thanks for that info, Katha! There must be some kind of breakdown of the Indian caste system that details region, religion and last name in an ordered strata.
    I think you should write it up for us in a separate article that will also include your insight, historical influences, and hope for the future!

  41. Ok, the whole “last name” thing is very complicated by I will try to explain. Remember how “Chatterjee” was invented? Originally as Chattopadhyay, it originated from a village named Chatta, for a group of “teachers/priests” known as Upadhyay in Sanskrit – the anglisized version of Chattopadhyay is Chatterjee.
    http://www.ancestry.com/learn/facts/Fact.aspx?&fid=10&fn=&ln=Chatterjee
    Each and every last name in India has a history of its own. 99.99% times a family name means one’s father’s last name, so you can easily easily figure out someone’s ancestral history from someone’s last name.

  42. Yes, Emily! That one is my favourite too!
    The use of this song in Inside Man was a bit off-sync, no one knew why Spike Lee used it, may be he liked it too!!! 😀