Badu Defends Nudity In Video Made By JFK Site
12:00 AM CDT on Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Erykah Badu appears naked in her new music video, but what people are talking about is the background scenery.
In the five-and-a-half-minute video – which instantly went viral Monday on YouTube – the Dallas-born entertainer strips down with Dealey Plaza as a backdrop.
At the edited-in sound of a rifle shot, she falls to the ground with a jerk, within feet of where President John F. Kennedy was shot.
"I don't understand how someone who lives here, who is a resident of this city, could do such a thing," said Lindalyn Adams, a longtime civic volunteer who is credited with rescuing Dealey Plaza from neglect and exploitation in the 1980s.
John Crawford, president of the nonprofit Downtown Dallas, added: "It's in poor taste and poor judgment, in my opinion."
Badu said in an interview Monday that the video for "Window Seat" was a "protest" and "about liberating yourself."
She said she chose Dealey Plaza as the backdrop because "the grassy knoll was the most monumental place in Dallas," and she compared the criticism she expected to receive to Kennedy's murder.
"I tied it in a way that compared tha assassination to the character assassination one would go through after showing his or her self completely," she said. "That's exactly the action I wanted to display."
Not everyone expressed outrage.
"This simply is a trivial issue that comes at a time when the city is facing so many more important issues," said Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, whose district includes Dealey Plaza.
A few noticed that the publicity conveniently coincided with the release of Badu's new album, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, on which the song appears.
Music critics note that Badu thrives on artistic and personal individualism. The 39-year-old singer has a history of making concept R&B albums that freely express her political, societal, philosophical and emotional thoughts.
Officials at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza issued a two-sentence statement saying that it had no involvement with the video and had no comment.
An official statement by the city of Dallas, however, noted that the video had been filmed without proper permits, and a spokeswoman for the Police Department said that Badu could have been arrested for indecent exposure and disorderly conduct, a Class B misdemeanor.
She wasn't charged – and almost certainly won't be, said Senior Cpl. Janice Crowther.
For one thing, no witness on what appeared to be an unusually crowded Dealey Plaza has come forward to complain, she said.
And because it is possible through filmmaking technique to fake a background, there is no proof the video was actually filmed in Dallas, Crowther said.
For those reasons, some have questioned whether the background was shot separately and Badu's disrobing filmed in a studio and then superimposed. But the singer said there was no trickery involved.
The video was shot in one take about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 13, she said. She had walked through the plaza the previous day to set up the shot and arranged for the videographer to meet her on Houston Street.
"It was straight guerrilla cam. ... I told the cameraman that I would meet him there and when he saw me pull up, he started," she recalled.
She described herself as "petrified" and fearful of arrest.
But she said many of the people around her seemed not to notice.
Crowther said that had a complaint been filed, the charges may have been even more serious because the video shows children in the background.
Badu said she has no regrets about making the video.
Asked about the presence of minors, Badu said that when she saw them, "I tried to telepathically communicate my good intent to them. That's all I could do, and I hoped they wouldn't be traumatized."
Staff writer Mario Tarradell contributed to this report.