So I’m sitting around the other day. . . waiting for my family to get ready to leave for a short trip in the car. I flip on the television in an effort to pass time and eliminate boredom. . . and my impatience. I hit the remote button that says “On Demand.” I scroll through to “music” thinking that I can catch a few videos. I’m intrigued by the “VH1 Classics” option and take the bait. I find myself scrolling through and watching “80’s Video Hits” . . . a trip down memory lane into those early years of music video. . . complete with all kinds of big hair on women and men alike.

After watching (and even giggling) at a few of the choices, I decide to watch the video for Tina Turner’s hit song, “Private Dancer.” Remember that one? I remember the song. . . it’s catchy. What I didn’t remember was the video. . . or the lyrics. . . or even the editorial bent of the song. I guess there’s something that the passing of time, the addition of some maturity (I hope!), and a good dose of cultural change does to the way you watch, listen to, and process stuff like this. Watching Turner sing “Private Dancer” was – dare I say – sadly moving as I thought about it in today’s cultural context.

The song – written by Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler – is sung from the perspective of a prostitute who makes her money giving lap dances. In today’s world of music and media (more on that in a minute) it would be reasonable to assume that a song of that type would lack any negative value judgments and perhaps even glorify fallen expressions of sexuality. But that’s not the case with “Private Dancer.” Just give the video a watch. . . and pay special attention to the empty, yearning, and redemption-hungry eyes, tone, posture, and words of Tina Turner. Look at her tears as the video comes to an end. Turner is making a loud statement that needs to be seen and heard.

And now that we are living in the year 2013 with a much-needed awareness of and growing sensitivity to the issue of sexual trafficking. . . wow! Sure, this isn’t a video about children, girls, teens, or women who are forced into this kind of life. Turner’s character has chosen this life. But the emptiness and enslavement is so very evident. Turner is showing and telling her viewers that there’s nothing at all that’s redemptive or good about this life.  Just consider the song’s lyrics:

Well the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don’t look at their faces
And you don’t ask their names
You don’t think of them as human
You don’t think of them at all
You keep your mind on the money
Keeping your eyes on the wall

I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
I’ll do what you want me to do
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do

I wanna make a million dollars
I wanna live out by the sea
Have a husband and some children
Yeah, I guess I want a family
All the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don’t look at their faces
And you don’t ask their names

Deutschhmarks or dollars
American Express will do nicely, thank you
Let me loosen up your collar
Tell me, do you wanna see me do the shimmy again?

After processing Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” again this morning, I noticed that Google was telling me that young R&B singer Chris Brown also has a song of the same title. Thinking that Brown may have covered Turner’s version, I gave it a listen. It’s not the same song. Rather, Chris Brown provides evidence of just how much how culture has changed (or perhaps, hasn’t!) in his misogynistic and deeply troubling lyrics:
Yeah I would like this dance little mama
I thought you’d never ask, I got a lotta cash
Especially enough for ya, yeah
’cause you’re the hottest thing up in this club
I can tell when you hit the stage, baby you gettin’ paid
You’re booty is a money magnet,
You… lookin’ like Jessica Rabbit,
Puttin’ these… other chicks in they casket, yeah

Here go a G stack, come sit on my lap
Now lemme tell you what I’m here for
Makin’ you fill this position
And baby girl you fit the description yeah

Private dancer, my private dancer
Said you gon’ be my private dancer
Just pack your things up ’cause your coming home wit me
My private dancer, my private dancer
You gon’ be my private dancer
Just pack your things up ’cause your coming home wit me

I can quadruple what you’re makin’
I’ll make your job description so clear
You ain’t gotta worry ’bout your boss, I already paid him off my dear
See I got a mansion in a Hampton’s in a club and a back bar tender
Dinner and a chef, what else do you really need
Its your show, where anything goes
You ain’t gotta worry , you can lose control
I – I – I be, I be in the strip club wit my hands up
Trickin’ like I’m flippin’ I be spinnin’ all my ends up
Even if I never leave my seat she make me stand up
See, that’s why I could never move to Atlanta
All about her bucks you would think she came from Tampa
She stay on that new shit no wonder why she pamper
Get it, she gon’ she gon’ let me hit it
I can’t wait til we alone ’cause I want your full attention
We can take this to my crib gotta stripper pole up in it
G-G-Girl you know I love it when you pop that shit for pimpin’
(Ha), my private dancer (Yeah), you the realest
Imma call ya franchise (Why), ’cause you could get the business

Sexual trafficking takes many forms, doesn’t it? And even when someone isn’t being held against their own will, they are still enslaved to sin and the destruction it brings. Any and all sexual trafficking is ugly. Just something to think about. . .

One thought on “It Was Prophetic. . . How A 28-Year-Old Music Video Brings Tears To The Eyes. . .

  1. Many years ago the tv show 20/20 had Barbara Walters interviewing about 4 prostitutes. Most told that they do it for drug money, etc. etc. I’ll never forget Barbara asking them what they were most afraid of. Most said getting killed but I’ll never forget one of them said she was most afraid of dying and going to hell. It really touched me and I have prayed that God will save her. I hope He has. That and your article is such a reminder of the emptiness with out the Lord.

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