The Revolution Apparently Was Televised
1991 was a much simpler year. We had just taken care of Sadamn and the Iraqis with the world celebrating our succesful multi-lateral invasion, a little movie called the Addams Family dominated the box office fueled by a much-loved MC Hammer song creatively titled "Addams Family Groove," and on television, a show called Home Improvement debuted and people soon discovered that there indeed was an audience for people who thought that Bob Villa needed a sitcom. And somewhere out in Los Angeles, a man called the Dude struggled with Jesus, white russians and a pair of nihilists who kept on mistaking him for "the other Lebowski." Simply put, it was a much simpler time in those pre-Internet days.
But more importantly, another landmark event happened in 1991, one infinitely more culturally relevant than a man who perhaps correctly entitled his show "Tool Time." 1991 marked the debut of the watershed rap song, "Baby Got Back," by then little known rapper, Sir Mix-A-Lot.
I don't need to do a history lesson for you guys. Provided one had a pulse it was was impossible not to be titillated by Mix-A-Lot's risque video that had MTV up in arms and pledging not to show it before 10:00 p.m. each night (these being the halcyon days when MTV actually showed music videos). The song snared a Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance, insane amounts of media attention and millions of album sales as Mix-A-Lot's album shot to the top of the charts despite the inescapable fact that its content could be explained by the two-word title: "Mack Daddy."
The video shown above, speaks for itself. It has a lot of "babies" who have a lot of "back" and not much else, other than shots of Sir Mix-A-Lot trying to pretend that he hadn't stolen Run from Run DMC's outfit and entire look. In many ways, the non-astute observer would instantly dismiss it as merely another crude music video focusing on the female posterior. Such critics are wrong. In fact, "Baby Got Back," was a milestone in the aesthetic tastes of the white man. What am I babbling about, you ask? Simply stated, prior to the video for "Baby Got Back," the white man had no concept of what most 20-somethings reared on hip-hop would refer to as, "ass."
Black culture had certainly had an appreciation for an ample female backside well prior to 1991. In fact, the tradition of black men celebrating "ass," began with the blues, at least as far back as Howlin Wolf's 1960 rendition of the song, "Backdoor Man," in which the inimitable Wolf declared his love for being a back door man, in which the men didn't know, but the little girls sure understood. Being merely an amateur fan of the blues, I'm sure there are dozens more of blues songs solely dedicated to girls' asses.
Yet while a curvy woman was a much-desired asset (pun intended) in the black community, this was not the case in white America, a fact evidenced by Mix-A-Lot's mention that when catching glimpse of a girl stacked like the one in his video, "even white boys had to shout." Indeed white boys didn't have to shout prior to 1991, as to that point the concept of prioritizing a girl's backside barely came into mind for white people. Sure, Al Bundy might've made a stray comment or two about a women having "nice buns," but this was qualitatively different from what Mix-A-Lot was talking about. Prior to 1991, men in white America seemed to be consumed by one thing: how skinny a woman could be while still maintaining large breasts (often facilitated by the help of silicone implants).
Still don't believe me. Then watch the famous video to the 1989 Robert Palmer hit, "Simply Irresistable," in which dozens of model-type women cavort in various seductive poses, showing off ample amounts of cleavage, yet very little "ass." These are the woman that Mix-A-Lot disdains, the ones that he sees when he's looking at a rock video watching "knock-kneed bimbos bimbos walking like hos." While Mix-A-Lot might want to keep his women looking like Flo-Jo, Palmer did not and neither did the rest of white people. After all, the video has about 12,000 cleavage shots and maybe two shots of the models' rears, shots that would not impress Mix-A-Lot or the average black man who wants his girl to "pack much back." Keep in mind, this video was widely celebrated in its time for the number of hot girls packed into each frame.
One can view Palmer's video as the epitome of white people's pre-Mix-A-Lot attitude towards "ass"as a cursory glance clearly reveals the minimized emphasis placed on the concept. Similar to Jackie Robinson opening the doors of baseball to people of all different races, so Sir Mix-A-Lot opened the doors of "back" to the white man. As millions of impressionable rap-loving white youths watched this video in their suburban homes, a revolution was in its incipient stages. The prior stick-figured ideal of beauty that had been venerated in white American culture for years was shattered by the impassioned declarations of a Seattle rapper who would follow up "Mack Daddy," with two even more poorly-titled albums called "Chief Boot Knocka," and "The Return of the Bump-A-Saurus," (which I imagine was not about a penchant for cocaine use).
You might be thinking, well just because Sir Mix-A-Lot had a song about "back" how can you be sure that all of White America was been converted to the merits of a fine posterior. After all, what about white America's seeming love of Paris Hilton? A fine point certainly, but one easily answered. On paper, Paris Hilton would seem to epitomize of white culture's celebration of rail-thin blondes with few curves but the truth is anything but. No self-respecting white person with taste finds Hilton attractive, her fame being generally the by-product of clueless journalists pandering to what they think the public finds interesting, vapid sorority girls who don't know any better and gay men who find her "fabulous." And I don't even need to mention what the average black man thinks of Hilton. As I have found from many an informal survey, most black men think that "Paris Hilton? She ain't fine. She's got no ass." And they're right too.
One needs to look to other iconic female figures of American culture to see the change that Sir-Mix-A-Lot wrought. Such curvy sex symbols as Beyonce, J-Lo and Jessica Alba seem to prove that both white and black America have converged in their admiration of "ass." Or take Britney Spears. Before she devoted her life to a diet of Cheetos and Red Bull, Spears was undeniably hot to all men on earth and seemingly embodied the new preferred body image ushered in during the Mix-A-Lot revolution. Or perhaps as a commenter of mine suggested, take a look at Vida Guerra (nsfw), perhaps the latest modern sex symbol to benefit from Mix-A-Lot's prophecy. It is these women that the modern caucasian male typically lusts after, certainly not Paris Hilton.
The media constantly tries to portray black and white relations in this nation as an ever-widening divide, but its nice to know that at least in some ways our two cultures are converging. And for that, we only have Sir-Mix-A-Lot to thank. That and red beans and rice. Right now, I can only imagine that Sir Mix-A-Lot is wearing a big smile while lounging in a palatial estate on Lake Washington, for he knows that while he may have become a punchline to some people, he won the war after all. Because in the America of 2006, we live in Sir-Mix-A-Lot's world. No longer are the bean-pole babe's in the magazines, "it," miss thing.