In the early 80s, The Tubes released “She’s a Beauty” (lyrics here), a song in which a man is selling other men time to look at and talk to a beautiful woman through glass. The customer is promised a look inside “another world” in which “you can talk to a pretty girl.” He’s admonished not to “touch the merchandise”, but reassured he will get “every penny’s worth” but “it will cost you a dollar first.”
I’m leaving out some irrelevant visuals for this.
The video begins with a shot of a wall painted to say “Ride the Beauty” in old-fashioned carnival lettering. The camera pans and we see the rest of the mural: a woman in a bikini and high heels, holding a bar like water-skiers use to be pulled along behind the boat. The camera eventually shows us her face: it’s absolutely emotionless.
A crowd mills outside a tent. Fee Waybill steps through the tent flap, dressed as a carnival showman, and sings the first verse of the song to us. He moves to the other end of the wall, and a little cart moves along a track and through a tent flap. The cart contains a woman with a hood over her head and a very long dark gray pony tail sticking straight up and out from it,and a smaller person, perhaps a child. The woman stiffly lowers a bar into place in front of the smaller person, the way a safety bar is lowered to hold people in on a roller coaster ride. We see them from behind at this point.
Now we see them riding along from the front. It’s an excited white boy bouncing in the lap of a mature white woman (yeah, really) dressed as a dominatrix – black hood, silver mask, black gloves, a black corset. She is expressionless and robotic. She turns to the camera once, and the movement is stiff. Her eyes never blink. She pulls the bar in against the boy’s chest, forcing him back against her, and the cart lurches to a faster speed.
Two white women appear, dancing in sync in silver leotards, until the dom’s cart drives between them. The band appears and performs for the boy in the cart, who is still happily bouncing/dancing in the dom’s lap. The band performs for a while. Then the dom drives the cart through a huge upturned drum skin.
We see a little white girl with frizzy reddish hair in a pink tutu dancing ballet. She turns and the camera moves to a trapeze artist who looks like this girl as a young woman. She’s in a sparkly silver leotard. The dom drives the cart past all this and through some huge stage speakers.
They enter a place with a big cage and several cave women with frizzed hair and wearing skins. The featured woman here is black: the others are white. The boy is clearly scared as the women encroach on them – even when they do so from inside their cage. He tries to get away, but the dom holds him relentlessly in place with that bar. These women have a more sexualized dance style than others we’ve seen. The lyric “step outside your world” accompanies the black cave woman opening the door to her cage and stepping outside, after the dom and the boy have driven on.
Next we see a white woman in a green mermaid costume languishing on a platform, running one hand over her costume. She sees the camera and glares directly at is (us) briefly, then goes back to her languishing.
Cut to a rather suggestive shot of the trapeze artist’s backside as she performs. This transitions into an image of her spinning rapidly from a strap under the back of her head.
The dom drives the boy out of the carnival, and we see now that he’s an old, withered, frightened-looking man.
This video has some problematic aspects – for example, the main cave woman being black is a race fail, I think – but I do believe it might be making a point: consumption consumes the consumer. What do you think?