In an interview about his song “Just The Way You Are,” Bruno Mars assumes that all women crave compliments about their beauty. Even though he states in another interview that he “wasn’t thinking of anything deep or poetic” when writing his lyrics, I have not written about pop music in forever, so I will dedicate this post to deconstructing my dislike for “Just The Way You Are,” because the song makes female worth synonymous with physical appearance, and it implies that women should find self-acceptance through men, instead of themselves.
All humans should feel confident and safe within their own skins, and we should use our physical appearance as a self-esteem booster if we wish. However, unlike Mars’s lyrics imply, there is more to women – and men – than just the way they look. He states that “you’re amazing just the way you are,” but his compliments only focus on the woman’s “eyes [that] make the stars look like they’re not shinin’,” her “hair [that] falls perfectly without her trying” and her “smile [that makes] the whole world [stop and stare] for a while.” He addresses her eyes, her hair, her smile, and her face – what happened to her compassion? Her work ethic? Her athleticism? What about her personality? While this song creates a surface-level message of body positivity, it fails to delve deeper into how we should value ourselves for more than how we look, because contrary to what Mars assumes, perhaps women want to feel good about things other than just their beauty.
Why do some men think that women can only find their self-worth if we give it to them? Just like One Direction’s song “What Makes You Beautiful,” “Just The Way You Are” implies that women’s insecurity contributes to their beauty. While the lyrics sound well-intentioned, the music video shows this patriarchal standard to an extreme: the entire video fixates on a woman who acts coy and shy, while Bruno Mars draws her, serenades her, and plays the piano for her. Toward the end of the music video, the woman shakes her head while smiling, as if she still cannot believe what Mars sings to her – the video portrays her lack of confidence in a positive light. Why is it so hard to praise women who are aware of their attractiveness and who are actually able to articulate how much they love themselves, without a man whispering the reasons in her ear? If pop music strives to empower, we should examine songs like these with a keener eye, because empowerment should not just come from others – it should also arrive from within the self.
As a male, I do not want to assume what women want. But, as someone who cares about his little cousin who’s entering the seventh grade in a few months, I feel that we should take a step back and think about what we hear on the radio sometimes. If my little cousin hears “Just The Way You Are,” I want to remind her that although she should feel proud of her appearance, she should also appreciate her advanced reading ability, her penchant for board games, and her artistic talent. If she listens to “Just The Way You Are,” I will tell her that she should always value and love herself – no matter what I or any other guy thinks.
What do you guys think “Just The Way You Are”? Agree or disagree with my take? Are there any other songs or artists this post reminds you of? I know that my standards might be a little high, but Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally” and John Legend’s “All Of Me” better articulate the idea of complete, selfless acceptance than “Just The Way You Are.” On a side note, if you want to read my thoughts on Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Adam by Ariel Schrag, or Landline by Rainbow Rowell, you can do so here, here, and here respectively. Hope you are all have a wonderful week!