Releasing a creepy, stalkerish video is not how you “get her back”

Last night, Zerlina tweeted the most important hashtag of the year to date: #stoprobinthicke2014.

Robin Thicke’s very public heartbreak and estrangement from his high school sweetheart and wife of 11 years, Paula Patton, continues to skeeve out a weary public. A video of his upcoming single “Get Her Back” from his new album, Paula–which has an eyebrow-raising and cringe-worthy tracklist–shows the singer bloody-browed and bare-chested with images of a woman favoring Patton drowning in water. There are flashes of face masks that border on erotic and nightmare. Aesthetically, the video appears to be a mashup of D’Angelo’s “Untitled” meets Rihanna’s “Roulette” and Jay Z’s “On To The Next One.” The video concludes with a text that reads, “This is just the beginning.” 


A lot of things about this video are unclear. Why is Thicke bloodied? What is the context of the text messages that flash across the screen? If anything, the ‘story’ presented here is very one-sided. Thicke seems to be presenting both a creepy-desperate-bold gesture to endear a woman back into his arms and a terrible attempt to win a public relations war–Patton has obliquely commented publicly about her separation from Thicke.

Yet, what is clear is that the video offers yet another terrible message about our culture’s idea of “acceptable” behavior to “get her back.” As Jessica writes today in the Guardian, “romanticizing the creepy and potentially harassing efforts of a man obsessed with this ex sends a dangerous message to young men about what ‘romance’ really is. Hint: it has nothing to do with haranguing and publicly shaming us back into a relationship.”

We may not ever know all the catalyst for Patton and Thicke separation and, honestly, the details don’t matter. However, in this album, Thicke has gone Full Stalker on his estranged wife. Do we need to collectively file for a protective order on behalf of Patton?

One in six women in the US have experienced stalking in their lifetime. The majority of victims are stalked by someone they know, and 66 percent of female victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner.

The crappiest part of this hot mess video is that the images reinforce the cultural norms that say this kind of harassment is actually romantic. Jessica also writes how these narratives fuel the misguided fantasy in film, television, and music that “the boy keeps trying to get the girl until she says yes.” What does he do when she says no? The message in these narratives is that no isn’t a real no. It means try harder! A very logical position from a man who crooned about blurring the lines of consent, taunting barely clothed women by saying, “I know you want it,” and was astonished to discover that many women were outraged.

The resulting behavior manifests in daily unrelenting street harassment in your neighborhood walk to the subway. Or it may end with a boy killing a girl who rejected his request for a prom date–or even a mass shooting. I want to believe that men and women in our culture can be discerning when presented with images like Thicke’s ill-advised “art” project. But we don’t live in that world and supporting work that reinforces stalking behavior doesn’t make anyone safe.

sm-bio Syreeta McFadden thinks Thicke should give Patton some space and listen to 808&Heartbreak in complete silence for a few weeks on how to do a ‘breakup’ album.

SYREETA MCFADDEN is a Brooklyn based writer, photographer and adjunct professor of English. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and Storyscape Journal. She is the managing editor of the online literary magazine, Union Station, and a co-curator of Poets in Unexpected Places. You can follow her on Twitter @reetamac.

Syreeta McFadden is a contributing opinion writer for The Guardian US and an editor of Union Station Magazine.

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