[Note: Every Friday on First Thoughts we host a discussion about some aspect of popular culture. Have a suggestion for a topic? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Since I was a boy I’ve been captivated by country music. But recently I’ve been dismayed by a disturbing trend in the genre’s music videos: holding people captive. Literally.
Intimations of violence have long been a lyrical feature of darker country songs. But recently, upbeat mid-tempo radio fare is frequently accompanied by visual imagery of the scorned lover kidnapping their ex (usually a man), tying them up, and either committing further violence or abandoning them (sometimes to die).
Consider the following examples:
Sugarland, “Stuck LIke Glue” (Currently ranked #3 on the Billboard Country Chart)
This video doesn’t try to hide the fact that Jennifer Nettles is a psychopathic stalker. But why is her weird bandmate helping to kidnap her ex-boyfriend?
Reba McEntire, “Turn On The Radio” (Currently #13)
Et tu, Reba? McEntire has always been one of the classier women in country music. So why does she need to tie up a guy and keep him locked in a warehouse on the wrong side of the tracks?
Jaron And The Long Road To Love, “Pray For You” (Peaked at #13)
In this video for one of the most loathsome songs to come along in a decade, the singer prays that his ex will suffer all sorts of harm. But in keeping with country’s squeamishness about glamorizing violence against woman, the male singer is the one who gets gagged, strapped with belts, and thrown into a tub full of water while the woman threatens to electrocute him.
Bomshel, “Just Fine” (Peaked at #53)
This poor two-timing sap gets drugged, robbed, tattooed, and dragged around town like he was in a remake of Weekend at Bernie’s before being abandoned in the boxcar of a train.
Toby Keith, “Too Little Too Late” (2006)
This video of Keith keeping his paramour tied up in the basement while he builds a brick wall to seal her in seems to violate the unwritten code that woman can’t get hurt in a country video unless she is able to exact revenge. But in the last few seconds, the twist restores the trope.
Johnny Cash, “Delia’s Gone” (2000)
Cash seems to have kicked off the trend a decade ago when he tied model Kate Moss to a chair (before gunning her down with a submachine gun). At least here, though, it fits the context and the lyrics. How did bondage and kidnapping go from this murder ballad to becoming a fad in lighthearted pop country videos?
Any examples I missed? Let me know in the comments section.