Maroon 5’s ‘Animals’: glamorizing predatory behavior

Emma Dahl

What are artists allowed to put in their music videos? Can they tell the story of unrequited love? A desperation to be noticed by their object of affection? Of course they can. Can they tell a story of a character who crosses a boundary and does terrible things in order to validate their obsessions? Yes. But is an artist allowed to glorify and glamorize malicious actions? Is it morally acceptable for a video producer to make stalking and preying on women sexy? The answer is a hard no.

Unfortunately, Maroon 5’s new video for “Animals” does just that. The lyrics to the song are terrible enough on their own: “Baby I’m preying on you tonight / Hunt you down eat you alive / Just like animals” and “Maybe you think that you can hide / I can smell your scent for miles.” It’s true that love can sometimes feel instinctual and that you can love someone with a wild ferocity; I think that’s what Maroon 5 was originally shooting for. But instead, the lyrics tell a story of ignored boundaries, of pursuing women when they really don’t want to be pursued.

Some lyrics are even reminiscent of “Blurred Lines,” the infamous rapey hit of last summer. Adam Levine croons that “No girl don’t lie / You can’t deny / The beast inside.” Actually, yes, she can deny it. She’s not lying. She has the right to say no to you and you have the responsibility to respect her choice, regardless of how animal-like you might feel at the moment.

The music video, unfortunately, is right in line with the inappropriateness of the lyrics. Lead singer Adam Levine plays a stalker, following a beautiful woman around town, watching her through her bedroom window, sneaking into her room to take pictures of her while she sleeps, and fantasizing about sleeping with her. Beyond that initial level of creepiness, there are also seriously violent undertones; Adam Levine is a butcher by day and dramatically rubs blood on his muscles in the meat freezer. There are disturbing scenes of him and a woman making out under a waterfall of blood.

The gargantuan problem with all of this is that the video producers made all of it sexy. They glamorize Adam Levine’s predatory behavior. They have him swinging around without his shirt off, showing off his muscles. There are intermittent fully nude sex scenes, portrayals of Adam Levine’s fantasies. They make it seem like the woman secretly wants it too, even though she rejects him (several times); she gives him coy looks, she seems regretful as her friend pulls her away from him at a bar.

Even more unfortunate than the subject matter of the video is the fact that lots of fans seem not to notice the disturbing message, or maybe they just chose to ignore it. A lot of people seem blinded by Adam Levine’s abs, or they just miss the point completely. Comments such as “God this video is so hot. Love the song” or even “love the part when he is watching her in the rain I think he is her guardian angel” make me seriously doubt how critically the video is being taken by viewers.

“Blurred Lines,” which experienced a major backlash last summer, was still wildly successful because it was so catchy. In an ideal world, listeners would be capable of looking beyond the catchiness of a melody and the sexiness of the music video and be able to see the song for what it is, but unfortunately this isn’t the case.

This is why I think we need more social responsibility in the music industry. Executives, directors and musicians that choose what makes it into music videos and lyrics need to be aware of the fact that their videos can be very influential. They will be seen by millions of people that children will have access to it. Scrolling through the YouTube comments makes it obvious that “Animals” is being absorbed as a hot and sexy music video, not as what it actually is: a perpetuation of rape culture. Yes, sex sells. But at what cost?

We’re human beings, not animals. We’ve evolved past that phase. We have respect for each other, and we have a responsibility to not create music and videos that glamorize violent and predatory behavior. We have a responsibility to be critical of such videos, to see beyond the scantily clad dancers and bright lights and see the underlying message. Violent predatory behavior is unfortunately still a part of our society. Creating videos like “Animals,” and for that matter watching them and seeing nothing wrong with them, only contributes to the problem.