Is domesticity just a little girl’s fantasy?

This music video says it is.

It opens with audio from an alarmist, 50s-era PSA: “Is the sweetheart you married the husband you expected him to be?” This little opener sets a (unnecessarily) critical lens on what you’re about to view in the rest of the video.

First: An overly makeuped girl in pearls sets a lavish dinner for a male mannequin in a suit. Scenes like these are interspersed with scenes of newbie singer Kimbra, grooving awkwardly and blankly in front of shelves of Victorian dolls. (Oddly, Kimbra, who hails from New Zealand, looks like a cross between Molly Ringwald and such dolls.)

And next, just to add another level of creepiness: There are two girls in the video, one who seems to “have” the mannequin man and another who jealously observes – while caring for a baby that may be his? I thought the two were the same actress, until I saw their clear height difference later on.

OK, so Captain Obvious says: Clearly there’s a problem with the whole cult-of-domesticity fantasy, because it results in an idiot girl hoping on an empty plastic man with a mistress. This idea is not new. But on another level: A perfectly modern young woman (Kembra) is saying “I want to settle down,” but all she can seem to think of is an idiot girl being cheated on by a plastic man.

We smart, sassy young women tend to believe that we don’t want to settle down, that there’s a danger in putting all of our hopes in a man – because a good father/husband may not even exist (as in, he only exists in plastic) or  he may turn out to be a baby-daddy cheater. There’s a fear there, a fear of putting your hopes on somebody and then watching all those hopes burn. The Victorian dolls end up in flames, by the way, at the end of the video (as if the statement needed more overstating.) As for the 50s-era housewife dream, we girls of 2011 are too smart to pin our hopes on it – and besides, many of us don’t even want it. Or so we say.

But: What if we do? What if we want to be full-time moms and wives? If we do, are we left with an empty fantasy? Kembra’s music video seems to be saying: Yes indeed. What do you think?

–By Tara Cavanaugh

P.S. Kembra must be fond of turning fifties dreams on their head, as she does in this danceable chick-anthem that uses the same two girls from the “Settle Down” video. The modern-day dance-club beats with a fifties-innocent chorus will also leave you somehow unsettled.

5 thoughts on “Is domesticity just a little girl’s fantasy?

  1. I think you’re giving the song and the meaning too harsh a judgment. If you take a look at the lyrics alone, you do have a real cry for settling down: it is, after all, a romantic dream. Of course, it’s interspersed with little points of fear or cynicism (“Run from Angela Vickers/
    I saw her with you”) but if you follow that through, she seems to poke more fun at girls’ paranoia than men, telling them not to expect everything to be perfect, because the next two lines are : “Monday morning small talking on the avenue/She’s got a fancy car.”
    The PSA you pointed out is the key, especially the word “expected.” Settling down isn’t what people expect. And this is something you’ll surely agree upon: both men and women often enter marriage these days without really thinking about the consequences, having wildly different expectations than what is going to be even the best reality that greets them. It’s a small child that might sing “I wanna raise a child,” but it’s the adult who says “Let’s make our vows.” It’s all about marrying too young, too immature, and with your eyes closed.

    Also, it’s really unfair to harsh on the song itself. I think it’s incredibly well-done. That’s probably why I got so defensive. She meshes modern pop with an incredible voice, 50s choruses, and layers of jazz and soul. It’s beautiful and innovative and catchy without being plasticky (pun not intended.)

  2. Thank You. I like this post a lot because it is one of the first times I’ve heard a woman put it out there that, despite what society tells feminist women they should desire, there are many who really do want to settle down and pour themselves into family. It is like any risk we take in life, perhaps less risky really. We get to hand pick the man we put our hopes in, and if we’re smart about it, that can turn out quite well. There are less elements to control in turning a marriage out well then there are in climbing the corporate ladder. I think the reason so many women are unlucky in the love department is that they are not being thoughtful about the guy they pick. They are underestimating what it takes to make a marriage work…so of course they fail. Almost (and I emphasize almost here) everyone I know in my life that has been divorced (can I please emphasize almost again) I could see that one coming. It is legit to have the desire to pour into relationships because, let’s face it, we are uniquely built to be able to do this well. So, if we’re going to do it – let’s be smart about it.

  3. Feminism contributed to Society’s demise by demonizing WOMAN to glorify a being without a role in a quest to oust man from the dominating position. In the FEMINAZI struggle to achieve the aforementioned it aligned itself with the gay movement in the hopes all women would turn into dykes. Didn’t work, did it?

  4. Firstly, her name is Kimbra, not Kembra. I agree with A Male, I think you’re giving this song too harsh a judgement, and reading too much into it. I don’t think it’s a serious or as socially political as you seem to think it is, I think it’s just a story, and not Kimbra’s own story, but just a tale based on old-fashioned dreams and expectations. I love this song, and I love the video as well, and I think it’s just a bit of fun more than it is a social commentary or outdated domestic fantasy.

  5. I understood the story a little differently — you stated, “one who seems to “have” the mannequin man and another who jealously observes – while caring for a baby that may be his?” …. I think the girl with the baby is his wife. And I think she had the child she wanted but lost him in the process. Perhaps he isn’t cheating on her with Angela at first, but because the wife is paranoid or worried and pushes him into it, it actually happens, The husband runs off with Angela. … the wife is singing “keep him by my side,” not let him come to my side. And after she’s cleaned the house and is back at her dressing table putting on pearls (to look more like the likely mistress; to look more appealing to her husband) it flashes to a porcelain figurine that looks like a wedding cake topper. Reinforcing that this girl is the housewife not the jealous observer.

    But to what it says of society and domesticity? I think it says that marriage may not be what you expect and there may be hardships. Things can go wrong. But I don’t see it as saying it’s a empty fantasy for little girls.

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