By Yume Rashid
The internet has been collectively reacting to the circulation of a viral video, “Potty Mouthed Princess,” produced by the clothing brand, FCKH8 for some time now. The reason for this particular firestorm? The video consists of a quartet of adorable, dolled-up little girls swearing profusely in the name of feminism, spewing familiar factoids concerning the wage gap and the prevalence of sexual assault.
As a young woman, one can imagine the number of times the clip has been lauded and liked on my newsfeed. What most can’t imagine however is my general unamusement with the entire video and its subsequent hype.
Before fingers are pointed at and disingenuous labels are affixed to my virtual forehead, I will confess I am begrudgingly impressed by the actual production of the video. The individual responsible for the conception of this production, Mike Kon, successfully employed the tried and true “provocation for publicity” advertising model, and surprise – it worked! It truly is a 2 minute, 25 second slick marketing clip that’s managed to meld progressive politics and profit very (I’d conclude) successfully. And at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters to a for-profit clothing company like FCKH8.
Those very motives however are what is truly irksome about the video. There’s nothing wrong with a little capitalistic endeavor; rather it’s the fact that so many of the very people who are obsessed with the clip don’t recognize that it truly is a profit-making ply. It’s not some bold political statement. It’s not even a pure appeal for charity. It’s an advertisement carefully targeted at young Millennials that are willing to pay $37 (of which only $5 goes to “charity”) for an “activist” T-shirt from a clothing brand called “New Wave.” Who doesn’t want to feel like an activist young person defeating the bastions of sexism in America after watching a video of little girls swearing and purchasing a t-shirt to display the direction of their moral compass?
They are even making a profit off of altruistic people by selling shirts about the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri. One can only be grateful a “viral video” about racism in America wasn’t produced and promoted by FCKH8…
The most unsettling part of this video is the implication of what is occurring off screen. The fact that it is primarily an advertisement only drives home the fact that a casting director actually sought out young girls that were offered up by their parents and told to memorize a script that, obscenity aside, makes them “parrot out” dubiously sourced facts about sexism and sexual assault. Even if these little girls’ lines were scripted, there are undoubtedly adults somewhere (that are raising or teaching young girls aged five or seven that they may be the 1 out of 5 girls that “will be assaulted” or that they will grow up earning 77 cents on the dollar).
Let’s not even explore the detrimental and disrespectful consequences of raising a child with that mindset. All parents or influential adults undoubtedly impart some of their views onto impressionable youngsters, but no one will deny that the most successful method of imparting knowledge is teaching a child how to think, rather than what to think – and especially not hand-feeding them statistics pulled from the most alarming source a company could find or phrases like “I don’t need a penis to get paid.”
Perhaps the only truly consequential effect of this video is that it’s yet another thing to be associated with a modern conception (and controversial) of ‘feminism in the future’. In the microcosm of a young, progressive 18-22 year old community that openly embraces contentious concepts like SlutWalk, this video and its message may be seen as the next big thing. But the moment someone steps out of that bubble, the difficulty of trying to sell a movement that increasingly relies on more provocation becomes apparent. Case in point, “potty mouthed princesses” (and a little prince) cussing the camera out, contains nothing of substance–rather shock value.
As entertaining as it is, this video fails to leave the impression of a higher purpose–most viral videos don’t. And accordingly it’s not worth taking a production by a company with a history and agenda like FCKH8’s too seriously as a means of social commentary. One could effectively argue that “Potty Mouthed Princesses” is more about the profit than the princess.