Friday Feminist Fuck You: Daily Mail on “Pretty Hurts”

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The Daily Mail majorly missed the point of Beyoncé’s new “Pretty Hurts” video, from her brand new surprise album. The song is an updated, race-conscious Beauty Myth: The Musical, highlighting the restrictive beauty standards that harm even those women who “win” ladyhood. But the Mail apparently didn’t get the memo, announcing, in a big bold headline, “Beyoncé shows off trim waist as she plays a pill-popping beauty queen in music video for Pretty Hurts off her just-released album.” The article then goes on to marvel how AMAZING it is that the brand new mom has shed that pregnancy weight to convincingly play a miserable pageant star.

I think there’s an interesting tension in the video between Bey as critic and participant, but that’s also sort of the point — as feminists, we can never critique these structures from the outside because we are all, to various degrees, participants in the pageant of femininity. Even when we try to reject these norms, they still define our efforts and our public personas: we can’t opt out (trust me, I’ve tried). But that’s not an invitation to undermine Beyoncé’s message by enacting the exact same objectification she critiques.

Video preview and transcript below.

[Verse 1]
Mama said, you’re a pretty girl
What’s in your head it doesn’t matter
Brush your hair, fix your teeth
What you wear is all that matters

Just another stage
Pageant the pain away
This time I’m gonna take the crown
Without falling down, down

Pretty hurts
Shine the light on whatever’s worse
Perfection is the disease of a nation
Pretty hurts
Shine the light on whatever’s worse
Tryna fix something
But you can’t fix what you can’t see
It’s the soul that needs the surgery

[Verse 2]
Blonder hair, flat chest
TV says bigger is better
South beach, sugar free
[?] says
Thinner is better


Ain’t no doctor or therapeutic that can take the pain away
The pain’s inside
And nobody frees you from your body
It’s the soul that needs surgery
It’s my soul that needs surgery
Plastic smiles and denial can only take you so far
And you break when the paper signs you in the dark
You left a shattered mirror
And the shards of a beautiful girl


When you’r alone all by yourself
And you’re lying in your bed
Reflection stares right into you
Are you happy with yourself
It’s just a way to masquerade
The illusion has been shed
Are you happy with yourself
Are you happy with yourself

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