"What I need is a good defense"
The recent sales surge in Apple's year old album (Dance Fever, 1997) indicates that "Criminal" has hit a nerve with the record buying public. The question is--what nerve did it hit and in whom? If Madonna is declared a positive role model for adolescent girls because of her defiant, take-charge stance in her videos, then what can be said about Apple's influence on her fans and her peers? The images in "Criminal" represent a step back to the early "women-as-sexual-backdrop" origins of music video. Apple presents herself as a sexual victim and then invites the audience to take part in the assault. This video come-on is even more shocking when the viewer knows something of Apple's actual sexual history, which by now, thanks to MTV, has become a vital part of Apple's press package.
Of course all of this would be moot if "Criminal" wasn't effectively shot and edited. Romanek creates a dream-like, almost hypnotic effect in his video interpretation of a not particularly memorable song. And of course, Apple's gawky, adolescent sex appeal is a vital part of the equation. The question now is whether Apple will mature and use the career momentum supplied by "Criminal" to push for more positive images of herself and women in general in her future videos. If Apple continues to play on her video sex appeal to sell her music than she is likely doomed to a short and turbulent career.
page 4 of 4
Go to bibliography.
Get the complete lyrics for "Criminal"
and download a sound clip,
courtesy of the Fiona Apple Home Page at Epic.
Mark Zeltner received his Ph. D. in Communications from The University of Missouri-Columbia. He currently teaches Mass Communications at Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Wilson College, 1015 Philadelphia Avenue, Chambersburg, PA, 17201.