Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” or Hipster White Boy Hip-Hop
If you are at all aware of pop music then I’m sure you’ve heard Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop.” If not, allow me to direct you to the video here. The above still from the video has hopefully alerted you to the sea of hipsters surrounding Macklemore as he raps about his love of Goodwill. Cue 1992.
Don’t get me wrong. The song is incredibly catchy and I am going to assume Macklemore is trying to be a good person by heralding things like anti-capitalism or gay rights. That’s cool. I can also appreciate the various people of color in the thrift shop video as well as the fierce fat girl that makes an appearance. But that’s about where it ends.
Overall, the song and video bring up a number of class, gender, size and race issues. “Thrift Shop” is essentially about being able to “come up” on a bargain at your local Goodwill. Who doesn’t love that, right? Hard times for the 99% so get on over to Goodwill, right? Maybe my lower middle-class level of “poor” is too poor, but when you “only got $20 in my pocket,” you probably can’t afford “higher-end type of denim or shoes,” before or after you hit up your local thrift haven.
And for the brand haters, heralding non-brand name items and poking holes in the hypocrisy of high-end fashion has its merits but ultimately, the message is still deeply drenched in the capitalistic idea that more is better and that your looks determine your worth.
Also, while I am a big supporter of the political ramifications of creative reuse when it comes to fashion (i.e. buying used clothes), if you are a thrifter like me, you have probably noticed the up-creep of Goodwill and other thrift store prices, or the sudden appearance of special sections of significantly higher priced items (that are more comparable to an antique store instead of a thrift store). Thrift stores are retail businesses just like any other supplying goods. The more people that shop there, the higher they can raise their prices (more or less). So while thrift stores can be a great resource for people that can’t afford clothing at Walmart, Target, department stores, online retailers or most other clothing stores, by encouraging people who can afford to NOT shop there to shop there anyway, we are essentially phasing out the poorer class that NEEDS to shop there. With that in mind, looking for a come up is not so fucking awesome.
And that fierce fat girl I mentioned…
Why is she acting all “hard” while sandwiched between two “hard” black men? Why is she lip-syncing Wanz’ lyrics? He’s in the video so obviously this move was intentional. Just what message is that move portraying there? Macklemore is clearly aware of race, as noted in the lyric, “the people like ‘Damn, that’s a cold ass honky,'” but just how far does that awareness reach?
And to take that one step further, why is the fierce fat girl sandwiched between two black men (who don’t particularly look interested in her sexually), while Macklemore parades around with the skinny girls? Why is our fierce fat girl then portrayed sandwiched between two black women? Clearly, judging by the lyrics, Macklemore is all about the women (merely echoing traditional misogyny seen in hip-hop and rap – particularly with the multiple uses of the emasculating “bitch” and multiple visual and lyrical references to being surrounded by women) but clearly, judging by the video, that means thin women. If he is trying to sexualize her in some way by subverting the “sexy half-naked background dancer in a hip-hop video,” it’s not working. Why you would want to do that to begin with is also not working, for me anyway. I still have no idea what he was trying to portray by showcasing the fierce fat girl’s size and skin color but I can guess and that too is not fucking awesome.
So while I’ve heard many a mouth echo how subversive and great this song is, I’d encourage taking a second listen and look while thinking about the ramifications of what this song and video, especially given their popularity, are putting out there.
JANUARY 28, 2014 EDIT:
- That fierce fat girl is Sara Stapleton for all of you Google users that come here wanting to find out. She’s an actress.
- As of today, I am no longer approving any more bullshit racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive comments on this post. It is not about whether or not I agree with you. It’s about you coming to my blog and being an offensive asshole.
- Macklemore still sucks. I, nor you, do not need a white straight thin man telling us that it’s ok to be queer or poor or any other oppressed group that we belong to. Fuck that watered down privileged liberalism.