In John Berger's seminal book, Ways of Seeing, he astutely observes that women occupy a unique position as both the surveyed and the surveyor in society. They not only endure being objectified and scrutinized by the male gaze but also internalize and perpetuate the roles that men have created for them, assuming misogynistic archetypes that exist solely to serve the male ego in various ways, perpetuating a cycle of expectations and limitations. Filmmakers Tanmay Chowdhary and Rhea Shukla dissect and redefine these narratives in the latest music video of the track I Wanna Be Like You for the Norwegian Avant-pop artist, Ora The Molecule.
"The concept for the music video came from the often, contradictory binaries that patriarchal structures place women in. These systems lead to a rupture of identity and sense of self, unarticulated in the daily lives of women yet experienced by them, incessantly every day", shares Rhea. The treatment and the vision for the video centred itself on using slapstick humour to highlight the ludicrous nature of the regiments themselves and the subsequent victimisation that they impose on women. In these structures, the purpose of women is only worthy if it seeks to satisfy the urges of men.
Here are the 4 archetypes explored in the video:
Depicting the "pure" woman; who like the virgin is worshipped for being holy and innocent, unscathed by the violence of sex. She is the saint with no anger, unending forgiveness and grace. She is a metaphor too, for how the pedestalization of women also others them.
At odds with the virgin archetype is that of the seductress. This archetype portrays a charming, young woman who uses her sexuality as a weapon to lure men away from their innocent wives. In this narrative, blame and lack of agency are assigned to both the housewife and the seductress, as the man cheats, free from any accountability. The wife, having fulfilled her role as a mother, is suddenly deprived of being regarded as a sexual being with desires and a mind of her own. Meanwhile, the seductress is portrayed as a home wrecker with no emotional depth, reduced to being a vessel for bodily desires.
In recent times, instances of grooming and blatant pedophilia have been increasingly highlighted in the news, where older men engage in romantic relationships with much younger women who were on the edge of adulthood when the relationship began. (which regardless of love is still statutory rape). The consent is not in debate, just the power dynamic is, that unfairly swings in the older man’s favour.
The damsel in distress, a global cliche, is the woman who is afraid of leading a life by herself, who lacks agency in her own voice and exists solely to please the wants of the man. Like the manic pixie girl, she is present only to satisfy the arc of the male character. She doesnt have a story, nor a reason to live, if not validated by her male counterpart.
"When the male gaze is internalised, a dilemma is brought up to the foreground for most women - the dilemma of performing femininity. it is easy to always feel watched and carry the lens of a voyeur on your shoulder. Living under this forceful gaze makes one woman say to the other - I wanna be like you (the title of the song). Almost as if to say, I’d rather be like you. However, as the protagonist goes from being one confined stereotype to the next, she realises each are miserable and none liberated. She comes to a place where she relinquishes the gaze of the voyeur and surrenders only to her own. Living in alignment with how she fundamentally feels. As if to say, I’d rather be me”, shares Rhea.
Flipping through the roster of identities that are but a costume, the protagonist in the music video wears and disposes of these archetypes one by one. Shot in the style of 70's cinema, the music video employs satire to expose the pervasive nature of the male gaze and its insidious internalization, urging us to examine the roles we assume and break the age-old cycle of gendered perception.
Watch the music video below.