The images are disturbing: a creepy looking, blood-spattered Adam Levine stalking his real-life wife, Behati Prinsloo, who plays the object of his obsession in Maroon 5's just-released "Animals" video. Some call it art, others have decried the video for glorifying stalking and violence against women. So we're taking a deeper look at the clip, the lyrics, and the implications of its unsettling imagery.
In the Samuel Bayer-directed clip, Levine plays a man who photographs, follows and daydreams about being with Prinsloo, who seems unaware of his presence and ignores his come-ons in a bar. Levine is seen lurking around Prinsloo, curling up next to her sleeping body in bed and bathing with her in a shower of blood. The end of the clip reveals that Levine's been watching and photographing her from afar and fantasizing about the gory, bloody sex scene. It ends chillingly with Levine standing outside in a dark storm, watching from the outside of her home.
"Baby, I'm preying on you tonight / Hunt you down eat you alive... Maybe you think that you can hide / I can smell your scent from miles / Just like animals," Levine sings in his signature falsetto. The group is clearly using the idea of animals as a musical metaphor for primitive desire. But coupled with the video's stalker imagery, it's not hard to see why their message can be perceived as a violent game of cat and mouse where the female object of Levine's desire is threatened, endangered, and powerless.
The dark imagery has drawn harsh criticism from the sexual assault support group RAINN, which deemed its message "dangerous."
"Maroon 5's video for 'Animals' is a dangerous depiction of a stalker's fantasy — and no one should ever confuse the criminal act of stalking with romance," RAINN's Katherine Hull Fliflet said in a statement on Wednesday. "The trivialization of these serious crimes, like stalking, should have no place in the entertainment industry."
Songs and movies about dangerous obsession have been a staple in Hollywood for decades, from "Fatal Attraction" and "Crush" to Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Possess Your Heart," the Police's "Every Breath You Take," Eminem's "Stan" and, well, Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved." It's an artist's prerogative to avoid self-censorship and express themselves and their music in a way that's true to their art. But they should also not be surprised when there's backlash over imagery or lyrics that evoke or trigger pain and fear in some listeners.
Sure, the video mirrors the song's lyrical subject matter ("Yeah, you can start over, you can run free/ You can find other fish in the sea/ You can pretend it's meant to be/ But you can't stay away from me") and Levine -- who is no stranger to being judged on his looks -- is himself, literally, portrayed as a piece of meat hanging from a hook. But in depicting a scenario where his character "gets the girl" (whether in fantasy or in real life), the "Animals" video sends a not-so ambiguous message about the serious nature of stalking and sexual violence.
Of course there is never an "okay" time to glorify domestic violence. Ever. But especially in light of the backlash to the new CBS series "Stalker," the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal that has rocked the NFL and the video footage of a man following missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, at the very least, the video's release appears especially ill-timed.
"I just don't see the point of it," said Brian Pinero, director of digital services for Love Is Respect, an organization that seeks to help build healthy relationships. "It's like the Ray Rice thing, where we knew domestic violence was horrible before that, but that visual image of him picking up [his now wife] and dragging her out of the elevator... or that visual image of a butcher [in the Maroon 5 video] gives us a starting place to how disgusting that is, that she's not longer a person, but a piece of meat. It's almost playing into this as a fetish. You're removing the human identity."
A spokesperson for Maroon 5 could not be reached for comment at press time.
What do you think about Maroon 5's "Animals" video? Tell us in the comments below.