For my first post in centuries, I’m going to rant about how Foster the People addresses an issue I’ve been struggling with for a while.
In early 2014, indie/alternative band Foster the People released their second studio album, Supermodel. Much more focused than their debut album, Supermodel is a concept album that addresses common and heavy themes of negativity toward today’s consumer ideology and popular culture. Mark Foster described the album as dealing with “the ugly side of capitalism”, the theme that’s captured jarringly in their music video for the seventh track on the album, “Best Friend”.
Despite the song’s catchy, upbeat, and seemingly happy music, the lyrics tell a tragic story of substance abuse and consumption. Even then, the lyrics didn’t prepare fans for what they were presented with in the accompanying music video: a girl with monster teeth eating other girls.
The video features a supermodel that literally eats other supermodels in order to gain their attractive and enviable physical features. It starts with the protagonist—the girl who we hope to be the heroine, but who succumbs to societal pressure—passed out on a couch with a cigarette still clad between her fingers. She wakes up and begins the long and strenuous routine most girls are familiar with: applying makeup (which can take a while if you have someone to impress). The girl pops some pills (we aren’t told what kind, but I’m willing to bet they aren’t Advil) and joins fellow models to get dressed. After shooting envious looks at a flawless model, the girl heads to the bathroom and looks distressed and upset as she studies her reflection in the mirror. The flawless model walks in—perfectly placed hair contrasting beautifully with our “heroine’s” messy locks—and gets attacked. The girl eats the flawless model and gains her features. The video continues like this—the protagonist eating girls to gain their enviable legs, etc.—until she physically stretches her neck, makes her eyes massive, her waist tiny, and her cheekbones prominent. She ends up looking like an alien. The video ends with her walking the catwalk while the shocked paparazzi snap endless photos of her as she throws up a piece of clothing and passes out on the runway. The music video’s thesis is crystal clear: Society and pop culture should not be placing such unrealistic and virtually unattainable expectations on girls.
The music video plays out like a sort of horror movie—with a cast of models playing the demons and monsters. The entire time, we’re hoping that Mr. Hyde will turn back into Dr. Jekyll, yet we aren’t given that satisfaction. As a woman, I relate to the main girl. I sympathize with her because I’ve been in that situation—we all have—albeit probably (and hopefully) not to that extreme. I’ve been envious of people’s long, slim legs. I’ve been jealous of thigh gaps and perky, perfect boobs and flat tummies and long, Rapunzel-like hair—all features that modern pop culture has told me I should want and have, but why? The girl in the video is jaw-dropping to begin with, but like countless other beautiful and unique girls, she sadly succumbs to the pressure that society puts on women to achieve “the perfect body”.
The music video’s psychedelic and trippy visuals aren’t just for show; they get the point across—so strongly that the shocking and borderline horrific imagery seemingly smacks you in the face with the video’s thesis. The extreme and appalling comparison of the extent to which girls go in order to achieve a “perfect body”, with a beautiful model literally eating other girls is done so tastefully—no pun intended. The “Best Friend” music video grabs you by your shoulders and shakes you, yelling at you to open your eyes. Its unique and monstrous depiction of not only the modeling and fashion industries—but also modern society’s expectations as a whole—is empowering. It’s certainly loud enough to break through the silent and monotonous routine of impressionable girls getting bombarded by unrealistic expectations and consequently feeling less-than-enough.
After Mark Foster first listened to the album “Supermodel” in its entirety, he wrote a poem about consumption, with verses such as “…I ate it all; plastic, diamonds…” and “…but for beauty I will gladly feed my life into the mouths of rainbows.” That poem is featured on the album cover, placed so that it appears that the model is throwing it up. She’s throwing up the poem about consumption because she can’t keep it down anymore: the skewed values, the unrealistic expectations, and the metaphorical brainwash of girls that makes them feel constantly subordinate and insecure. Body image is a colossal public and social issue in today’s society, and Foster the People addresses it brilliantly. Their music video is unorthodox. It’s harsh. It’s loud. It has an extraordinary shock value to it—one that’s essential when it comes to a subject as prevalent and established in modern society as that of body image. Foster the People’s “Best Friend” video empowers women in the sense that it brings to light the absurdness of the expectations forced upon them by society, but in a way that’s indirect—without outright saying it.
In today’s society, music, and all that it encompasses—bands, genres, music videos, albums—is so influential in terms of defining yourself. Foster the People did a great job in not only depicting how nonsensical society’s standards are, but also how disastrous it can be if you lose yourself by trying to achieve those standards.