Panic! over Panic! at the Disco’s ‘Girls/Girls/Boys’

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Panic! at the Disco’s fourth studio album, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die, came out in 2013 to good reviews. The rest of the album was no doubt overshadowed for many by the music video for one of its singles, ‘Girls/Girls/Boys’. The song has a breezy take on female bisexuality. It’s catchy, there’s a good beat, and there’s an acceptably pro-queer stance in the ‘Love is not a choice’ refrain. The music video features a seemingly naked Brendon Urie standing in front of a black backdrop as the camera moves around him in a near-exact replica of D’Angelo’s famous ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel?)’ video from 2000.

One of the things that made the ‘Girls/Girls/Boys’ video so good when it was released was that it was so simple, so removed from the spectacle of most music videos. The viewer can only focus on Urie’s body since there’s nothing else for them to focus on. It’s one of the rare videos that sexualizes a man and puts him under the same magnifying glass women have been under for years—and for once it wasn’t a Marina and the Diamonds video. There is a sense of nervous intimacy, as though it is just Urie and the viewer in the room together. In a sense, the video is a one-sided conversation, asking the viewer to choose between Urie and the other girl.

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A ‘Director’s Cut’ of the video was released in late July. I won’t lie—I was hoping that the director’s cut would deliver the actual nudity teased at in the first video. Instead of the video being a straight-forward one-on-one performance, Urie is joined by two attractive, lingerie-clad girls in the last minute who proceed to grope him and make out with each other.

And with that, a well-intentioned, well-designed music video went off the rails.

There’s this idea in western culture that female bisexuality is more socially acceptable than male bisexuality. Perhaps this is because female sexuality is more routinely paraded out in the media. Fluid female sexuality—at least from a voyeuristic purpose—seems more ‘natural’ to heterosexual men. It is part of the ‘mysterious’ nature of women so many lazy writers waxed romantic over. Pornography that features any scenario where women outnumber men and where the women have sex with each other in addition to the men is not ‘bisexual’ porn; it is ‘straight’ porn. Pornography only becomes ‘bisexual’ when men start doing things with other men. In this way, the ‘ick’ factor so many straight men manifest when they think about queer sex is negated when it’s two women getting it on together.

After the two models appear, Urie seems to fight to regain the viewer’s attention as he gropes between them. He pushes himself between them, wanting to join in, but by the end of the video he’s almost climbing out from under them and trying to escape their lustful clutches so that he isn’t consumed by their sexual appetites. While he’s singing a song that should be about the acceptance of bisexuality, is it really so wrong that he should get to experience every straight guy’s fantasy?

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Consider what might have happened if the song had been called ‘Boys/Girls/Boys’? Would the frank nature of being torn between a boy and a girl take on a new dynamic if the song were about a boy having to choose rather than a girl?

Of course it would.

With the new video, the song loses its intimacy and joins the spectacle of other forgettable music videos. The mystique is gone, and with it, whatever meaning the song could’ve had.