The first music I remember hearing was Chuck Berry. I had no idea what he looked like, as my Mom’s 45s had no sleeves, and I had never seen him on TV. All I had was his incredible music, but that was enough for me. That also goes for Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and a few others from the 50s and 60s. I knew what Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who looked like, but I had never seen them perform; it was all about the music.
I was born in the 1970s, but I have always considered those artists just as much mine as my parents’. At the same time, I am part of the MTV generation, so videos were an awesome new way to watch our favorite performers. I was very much an 80s girl, even though I never stopped loving the bands that came before. For those of us in my generation, the music we had will always be linked to music videos. Yes, MTV helped kill popular music, at least, it deformed it into the hot, stinking pile of mess that it is today. But those videos we loved and memorized and emulated were so fresh and fascinating and necessary to us, and I am grateful for them.
ZZ Top were around for many years before MTV. Their sound in the 70s was heavier and bluesier, and though they evolved a little in the 80s they kept hold of their roots. But the raunchy lyrics they were so very good at were perfect for the children of MTV! And they did make some fucking great videos. “Legs” was always my favorite, though I look at it now as sending the wrong message. Still, I lerve the slutty 80s fashions it so prominently features!
I recently watched a LOGO documentary about GLOW, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. I hadn’t thought about that show in years! My sisters and I watched it every week, and it really was great fun to remember all that awesomeness. Two of my favorite characters were Hollywood and Vine, because they were bad girls who wore slutty clothes and stole stuff from the audience as they walked to the wrestling ring. YES!!! As I watch the “Legs” video again, I am reminded of how much I loved the slutty clothes the girls wear. I was only in 6th grade when this video came out, but I was deep into my Madonna phase then so I wanted to provoke people. Naturally, my parents would never allow me to wear garter belts, leather skirts, or cropped, off-shoulder shirts to school. But in my fantasies, those were my everyday clothes!
The “Legs” video tells the story of Plain Jane who works at a shoe store for a bitch and an asshole. She goes to pick up the bitch’s lunch at a burger place, but the bikers and other bad news bears who hang out there are hassling her at every step she takes. But the cook, who is also bullied by his asshole coworkers, has a boner for Plain Jane. He rushes over to the counter to try to take her order, but the scroungy fucks he works with push him out of the way. When she’s finally handed the bag with her boss’s food in it, she accidentally leaves behind her glasses. While running through the parking lot and trying to avoid further harassment, a piece of cake on a plate flies out of her bag and lands on the ground, the cake still securely attached to the plate as it rests on the concrete. Impressive.
Her Prince Charming notices a coworker playing with Plain Jane’s librarianesque glasses and runs after her. (This is the scene where we see those awesome furry guitars that spin! What the hell was that? we all asked each other in 1984.) In the meantime, her boss notices the missing cake and scolds her, while the asshole she works with is flirting with a leather pants-clad cougar who is trying on shoes; he proceeds to step on her hand as Plain Jane assists him. She goes to the stock room to find a pair of shoes, and in runs Prince Charming, hoping that returning her glasses will lead to some sexy fun time. He throws the cake at the boss, who digs in right away, and then he finds Plain Jane provocatively standing on a ladder in the back room. They make eyes at each other once he returns her glasses, but what he was hoping would turn into a porno makeout session is interrupted by the boss lady. He’s thrown out of the store, only to be rescued by the Eliminator girls who pull up in the famous red ZZ Top hot rod, a sweet-ass chopped 1933 Ford.
And here’s where the real fun begins. These bad ass babes strut their barely-clothed asses into Yolanda’s Shoe Salon and fuck shit up! ZZ Top are there for some reason, and they present Plain Jane with the keys to the Eliminator, which seems to be the exact vehicle she needs to get in touch with her inner skank. After putting Yolanda and the other asshole in their places, the Eliminator girls abscond with Plain Jane and start to work their magic on her. So here’s where the problem is for me as I deconstruct this all these years later: Prince Charming already likes Plain Jane, so there’s no reason to tart her up to get his attention. In so many movies, not just from the 80s but from every decade (Grease, for one), girls are transformed from frumpy to streetwalker to attract the guy they want. The Eliminator girls take Plain Jane to the hair salon and then clothes shopping, where she tries on a variety of scandalous outfits. The one she winds up wearing actually isn’t terribly whoreish, but it is very short. And she wears the little white fold-down socks with pantyhose and pumps. Very 80s. I never liked the outfit, because I was never a girly girl. I was more hard core in my 11-year-old taste, and preferred the 1984 version of slut perfectly portrayed by these would-be coke-dealer-girlfriends-cum-Mary-Poppins in the video. I loved those fierce white boots, the leather jacket, and the fishnets they wore! Oh, how I longed to be so sexy!
Once Plain Jane changes her outfit and hair and makeup, of course, her confidence soars. She adopts the slut strut of the Eliminator girls and walks her ass right back to the shoe shop where they are now kissing her ass, and then she makes her way to the burger joint. She flirts with all those scumbags who harassed her before, she pushes them around, and she makes the other women jealous. Then Prince Charming sees her, jumps over the counter on which she is sitting, and helps her down. You can see they are in love! He doesn’t seem to notice her new look, I suspect because he already wanted to put it in her. They hop into the back of someone’s dune buggy and ride off into the sunset.
As sexist as this video might seem today, I loved it and wanted to be in it! I try to look at everything in context, but there’s no getting around the message that women can use their looks to feel confident and get what they want. I’m not saying there’s no truth to that, because I know that I started feeling a lot more confident about myself in general when I started liking my appearance (though it was gay men who first told me I was attractive and funny, not straight guys). But relying on your looks is a problem. You need more than that to get through life.
That said, I fucking love this video, and will always have special place in my heart for those Eliminator girls for rocking the 80s fashion and inspiring me to be a slutty, confident woman!