Joe Jonas, Riz Ahmed among 'boys' flipping stereotypes in Charlie XCX music video
Feminist singer-songwriter challenges female roles, directs video including Canadians Chromeo and Mac DeMarco
The first scene of the music video for UK pop star Charli XCX's new single Boys features DNCE singer Joe Jonas, wearing only a robe, sitting down to seductively devour a towering stack of pancakes.
Jonas' eyes are locked with the camera while he eats, occasionally licking maple syrup off his lips.
It might look like Jonas is making a breakfast food appear strangely suggestive and that's the point, according to Charli XCX, whose real name is Charlotte Aitchison.
"The whole idea behind my video was to avert the male gaze," Aitchison, 24, said in an interview with Australia's Junkee Media. She co-directed the video, asking male cast members to do "the sexy things that girls are normally doing."
See You Again singer Charlie Puth has a classic car-washing scene reminiscent of Jessica Simpson in These Boots Were Made for Walking.
"It's funny how surprising it is when men are sexualized," said Toronto filmmaker Chandler Levack. "People don't understand that women also want to see attractive men being adorable."
The video features a string of famous male artists, all in situations which are not stereotypically masculine. Instead, the stars of the video are shown off as playful, flirty, vulnerable, and often overtly sexualized as women often are.
Olympic swimmer Tom Daley gets caught in the shower. Star Wars' Riz Ahmed cuddles a pink teddy bear. Electronic producer Diplo, plays with a litter of puppies, sans shirt. And Instagram personality The Fat Jew pours champagne over himself in a wet T-shirt.
There are recognizable Canadian faces as well. Vancouver-born Mac DeMarco plays a shirtless guitar solo.
Last year's Polaris Prize winner, Montreal hip-hop producer Kaytranada, remains cool as ever under a shower of confetti. And funk duo Chromeo, from Montreal, has a pillow fight straight out of a slumber party.
Thinking bout boys w/ <a href="https://twitter.com/charli_xcx">@charli_xcx</a> 👬 <a href="https://t.co/YFIP02hSwn">pic.twitter.com/YFIP02hSwn</a>—@Chromeo
"For the joke to be on boys as a gender, for us, is a healthy thing," Dave-1, one half of Chromeo, told CBC News.
The singer said that in the past, Chromeo has been criticized for objectifying women in their stage set-up, which features a keyboard standing on a pair of women's legs.
Dave-1 said that while objectification was never their intention, the backlash was a learning opportunity.
"We have to take those criticisms into account," said the singer. "That kind of self-examination is what Charli XCX promotes."
Diversity behind the lens
Music video and film director Eva Michon said there can be a point in videos where diversity becomes "fashionable" and "the cause gets lost."
While she supports the stars of the Boys video for challenging gender norms, Michon said it's Charli XCX's role as director that "is the most important thing."
Levack agrees. With the singer as director, the perspective of the video allows for a rare glimpse inside "the female gaze."
The filmmaker said the video, which quickly racked up millions of views after it was posted online, is also "empowering for men to understand how women look at them."
thank u to all the angels!! thank u to all the boys!! 4 mill views in less than 48 hours! this is crazy! i love u all! this means so much! 💕 <a href="https://t.co/XF03E8eJ2u">pic.twitter.com/XF03E8eJ2u</a>—@charli_xcx
Charli XCX has spoken up about sexism in the music industry before. In 2015, the singer released Charli XCX: The F-Word And Me, a BBC documentary about being a feminist pop star.
The singer said she was proud of the video and saluted the men who participated.