Dissecting ‘Animals’ without knives

By Gabriella Scibetta

Nudity, sex, blood and a catchy beat are what viewers retain from Maroon 5’s music video for their new single, “Animals.”

Between clips of lead singer Adam Levine dancing shirtless inside of a meat locker, the music video exposes issues in society such as violence, stalking, rape and sexual assault.

The Women’s Center and the Student Health Center took a stand to analyze the deeper issues in the video. Lyrics include lines like “Baby, I’m preying on you tonight” and “hunt you down, eat you alive” referring to the singer’s love interest.


The video was released Sept. 29, has reached about 50 million views on YouTube and sparked controversy nationwide. Participants at the discussion called the video gruesome, dark and creepy.

Benjamin Smith, a senior studying communications from Chicago, hosted a discussion about the music video.

In the music video, Levine is shown stalking a woman by following her home, standing outside her bedroom in the rain and taking pictures of her while she is sleeping.

“I looked at the Kia hamster commercial and heard the song through that,” Smith said. “I was critical about that commercial, and decided that this isn’t just a conversation I should be having just amongst my colleagues but something I think the campus should be involved in.”

Amber McKinley, a senior from Chicago studying social work, said sex was a huge aspect of the video.

“They use sex appeal in the video to make these issues seem ok,” McKinley said. “Like his shirt being off, blood running down their bodies and her being completely naked.”

She said sexuality is in a music video is something people don’t think twice about.


Smith said many of the issues the song portrays are actually things we experience everyday. He said society considers stalking and street harassment being on different levels but both of those actions are unacceptable.

Gregory Maddox, a sociology professor, said socialization is a large element of what we interpret from music videos and media like this. He said music videos can greatly affect what people think is permissible in society.

“There were people who watched this video and didn’t understand the ramifications. They just assumed that they were in a loving, boyfriend/girlfriend relationship,” Maddox said. “One of the things that make sexual assault particularly difficult is the concept of consent, and that is as much of an important thing on a college campus as the idea of what makes sexual assault.”

Antonio Spikes, a graduate student from Vidalia, Ga., studying communications, said Levine’s acts in the video could be interpreted in different ways.

“Instead of casting [Levine] as a stalker or a creepy guy, he can be seen as someone who is in love and is doing these types of acts out of love,” he said. “Characters who are positioned as someone who is creepy is a problem because it makes it seem like the only types of men who would do things like this are creeps, and it doesn’t talk about how guys who often do things like this are normal, everyday guys.”

Spikes said his reaction to the video and the song are different. He said people don’t listen to the harmful lyrics because the beat is catchy but the actions in the video are more powerful.

Spikes also said Maroon 5 was reflecting what some people think is natural.

“What I find interesting in this video is the symbolism of the animal, and how it naturalizes this behavior,” Spikes said. “When we think animals, we think of them as representatives of naturally made things, and it makes the case that it is normal for guys to do this, and we have to accept it.”

The center held the same type of event last year for the controversial song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. That discussion was about the song’s commentary about consent with a sexual partner.

Smith said songs like “Blurred Lines” and “Animals” can do a lot more damage than people believe.

“A lot of times when we think about violence, we think of it in a physical context: Domestic violence can only be done through physical force and brutality,” Smith said. “But in reality, that’s not the only way people can be harmed.”

He said society must dispel the myth that violence is just a physical aspect, and there is a variety of ways people are harmed.

Smith said one of the non-violent issues is the amount of jokes that flood social media and Internet sites.

For example, the “rape sloth” meme, a photo of a sloth hanging from a tree with a wicked grin on his face, has been used to make jokes and puns about rape.

A variety of parodies made of the sloth photo have become popular on social media along with the “Jada pose” meme. This meme is a photo of a girl who was passed out on the ground after being sexually assaulted. Nationwide, people have been mimicking the position she was in in the photo.

Smith said being sexually assaulted is usually about power, and those who get sexually assaulted get stripped of their power.

“At times when women are sexually assaulted, they feel like power has been stripped away from them, and even men who have been sexually assaulted, power is stripped away from them,” he said. “One of the ways we can help people regain some of that power is by giving them resources and giving them options to choose how they want to proceed within their lives.”

Spikes said, while doing his graduate research he noticed how important power is to masculinity.

He said men base masculinity with power, control and dominance. He said his research shows if a male is not trying to do these three things, they are instantly thought of as unmanly.

“A lot of men lose who they are based upon these traditional roles that society says they should be,” Spikes said. “Women become victims because of men trying to be men. In order for us to create a better society, and make sure these issues are deterred, it starts with everybody.”

Smith said it is important people remember to not be bystanders in situations like the one portrayed in the music video, and more education about these issues will create a more productive society.

Maddox said one of the best awareness campaigns he saw made a point by telling men to avoid turning into someone who does not stop without consent.

“The more we see videos that objectify, the more we see sexual stereotypes in music videos or on TV shows or in advertising, the more permission we seem to take,” he said. “Depending on what we were taught and how we were brought up, reflect on the decisions we make when it comes to observing behaviors such as the ones in the music videos.”

Gabriella Scibetta can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter gscibetta_DE.