In the 1970s, with the development of equal rights movement, popular music was enriched by a number of songs, which sought to de-construct androcentrism. ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” belongs to “feminist” music and underlies the resistance and protest against male domination. First of all, in order to create a conceptual framework, it is necessary to present two renowned theorists of media and entertainment – Barbara Tepa Lupack and Theodor Adorno. Adorno, who is generally categorical in his judgment of mainstreaming and adjustment of music to the needs of the majority, writes that modern entertainment is a mere teaser, or illusion that veils the reality: “By repeatedly exposing the objects of desire, breasts in a clinging sweater or the naked torso of the athletic hero, it only stimulates the unsublimated forepleasure which habitual deprivation has long since reduced to a masochistic semblance” (Horkheimer and Adorno, 2001, p.1231).
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Barbara Tepa Lupack, in her turn, refers in her work to Laura Mulvey, who specifies that such image is intended mainly for male audience, i.e. film and music production are andro-oriented and thus satisfy the aesthetic needs of the gender majority. Although Mulvey focuses mainly on film studies, Lupack argues that the leisure industry, including music, either directly or indirectly appears one-sided and masculine. The scholar reviews Mulvey’s idea of spectatorship, which from the Freudian viewpoint means scopophilia, or pleasure of looking at others’ bodies, regarded as erotic objects. Such eavesdropping is also possible in music, given that songs construct comprehensive pictures of erotic nakedness, bodily love and temporary affection (Lupack, 1994, p. 3).
“Dancing Queen”, on the other hand, creates a different context, which rather points to the independence and authenticity of young women rather than male domination, suggested by the authors. First of all, it is necessary to look more carefully at the quartet in order to identify the unisex features in the performers. In particular, all artists in the band, regardless of gender, are long-haired and have even quite similar hairstyles; furthermore, some pictures show that women have very natural rather than bright make-up so that the social constructs of sexes are approached in ABBA. It is widely known that the performer’s appearance is the first message the song conveys, so ABBA’s profile points to the construction of the image of “disco men and women” who come to the party with a common purpose, but feel quite independent at the same time.
The poem underlying the song depicts a young girl, who appears to be skillful in dancing so that she is referred to as a “Dancing Queen”. Whereas the disco queen does not lose her “monarchic” qualities, the “dancing kings” might be changed according to her wish: “You come in to look for a king/ anybody could be that guy/Night is young and the music’s high/With a bit of rock music everything is fine” (ABBA, “Dancing Queen”, 1975). In this song, the girl is definitely a decision-maker, entitled to find and select dancing partners for herself, but it does not seem that the certain young man attracted her attention for a long time: “You’re a teaser, you turn ‘em on/ Leave them burning and then you’re gone/Looking out for another, anyone will do/ You’re in the mood for a dance” (ABBA, “Dancing Queen”, 1975). In fact, the classical dancing program of any party implies that males invite females to a dance after selecting a suitable partner, so the protagonist of the song goes beyond her gender role and acquires masculine features that allow her to successfully establish interpersonal distance and impose her own limits on her interactions with men. The girl is determined and courageous enough, given that she spends no more than one dance with a man and leaves her partner as the melody ends, in spite of his protests.
ABBA. Dancing Queen, 1975.
Lupack, Barbara Tepa. “Vision/Re-vision: Adapting Contemporary American Fiction by Women to Film”. In Streetwalking on a Ruined Map. Cultural Theory and the City Films of Elvira Notari, Princeton, 1994, 1-44.
Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T. “Dialectics of Enlightenment”. In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. University of Oklahoma Press, 2001. 1220-1240.
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