But as D began to fall apart, the video would be the only thing many fans remembered. “The video was the line of demarcation,” says Harris. “It sent him spinning out of control.”…The trouble began right away, at the start of the Voodoo tour in L.A. “It was a week of warm-up gigs at House of Blues just to kick off the tour, draw some attention, break in the band,” says Alan Leeds, D’s tour manager then and now. “And from the beginning, it’s ‘Take it off!’ “…D’Angelo felt tortured, Questlove says, by the pressure to give the audience what it wanted. Worried that he didn’t look as cut as he did in the video, he’d delay shows to do stomach crunches. He’d often give in, peeling off his shirt, but he resented being reduced to that. Wasn’t he an artist? Couldn’t the audience hear the power of his music and value him for that?
To which Rosenberg adds:
when a man experiences, gets driven crazy by it, it’s not really “some Kate Moss shit” anymore, and it’s not complementary. So much of pop culture is like this. When a man experiences objectification, or stays at home with his kids, suddenly, this arena that women have been playing in for decades is a revelation. How does it feel, indeed?
She’s right, of course, and D’Angelo is hardly the only example of a dude freaking out when he finds himself hyper-sexualized in that way. He looks trim and fit in the GQ photos, but do you remember what he looked like when he was arrested a few years back? The Internet loved to make fun of him for getting fat.
A similar thing happened to Elvis, of course, and to Brando. Jim Morrison, too. Two other dudes who were sexualized the way that we, as a society, sexualize women. Or, if they don’t put on a lot of weight, they do other things to mess with the way they look. They take on roles that reward them for looking unattractive, maybe, or they grow stupid beards, like Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, if they’re able to let these things roll off their backs a bit. But it happens a lot, in any case, to men who are treated the way that women are — as objects, whose sexuality and appearance are public property.
Which is fascinating, in a way. Because so much of the rhetoric from dudes who talk about the way women are objectified is that they’d love it if they were sexualized in the same way. And it sounds like a dumb hypothetical, something that has no real connection to reality, because there’s no real equivalence between the way society does (or even can) treat men and the way it treats women.
Except, kinda, there is — and the way the men who do get treated that way tend to do whatever it takes to get out from under it. That’s probably worth considering, fellas, the next time you try to make that argument.