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The Black Medusa: the appropriation of classical mythology in Azealia Banks’ Ice Princess (2015) music video

 

Gina Bevan. Cardiff University. Wales

 

The Black Medusa: the appropriation of classical mythology in Azealia Banks’ Ice Princess (2015) music video

Gina Bevan. Cardiff University. Wales.

ginabevan@hotmail.co.uk

The focus of this presentation is to understand the appropriation of Medusa by black females. It is US rapper Azealia Bank’s music video Ice Princess (2015) which shall be the focus. The video is one of the most prominent examples of a black woman in 21st century popular culture embodying Medusa. In this video the black female musician appears, strikingly, as a white Medusa. There are many examples of Medusa as black on ancient black figure pottery, therefore Azealia Bank’s decision to paint herself white and present a white Medusa is worthy of discussion for it reveals a racial commentary. Through an analysis of her video it emerges that Banks is taking a classical figure to make a commentary on being a black female in modern America. Banks takes two figures from fiction, Medusa and the Snow Queen, to form her white Ice Princess. The theme of the mirror plays a significant part in these two stories which shall be discussed in the presentation in relation to psychoanalysis and what this means for the construction of black female identity. The theme of the mirror enhances the notion that Azealia is presenting her Medusa self, a figure who is ostracised in her own myth to the outskirts of Greek civilization and is deemed grotesque. Medusa as a monstrous other from Greek mythology is ripe for reclaiming by people of colour living in western societies, which marginalises black people and projects strong stereotypes onto black females in particular. The presentation shall demonstrate that Medusa has been appropriated by Afro-American Azealia to reveal western and, more directly American, concerns surrounding black gender and sexuality. Essentially, I am arguing Azealia Banks views herself as Medusa because of her blackness.

Bibliography

Allen, C. (1998). Black Women Intellectuals. New York: Garland.

Banks, A. (2015) Ice Princess. [video] Directed by WWM.

Cixous, H. (1975) “The Laugh of the Medusa” in The Medusa Reader ed. by Garber, J. and Vickers, N, J. New York: Routledge. Pp 133-134.

Freud, S. (1922) “Medusa’s Head” in The Medusa Reader ed. by Garber, M. and Vickers, N. (2003). New York: Routledge. Pp 84-86.

Garber, M. and Vickers, N. (2003). The Medusa Reader. New York: Routledge

Vernant, J. (1993). Mortals and Immortals. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Websites

Atheel, E. (2016). Movement and Stories of Lost Dreams: Alexis Peskine at Dak’Art 2016 Biennale. [online] OkayAfrica. Available at: http://www.okayafrica.com/culture-2/art/alexis-peskine-dakart-2016-biennale/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2016].

Gaestal, A. (2016). Alexis Peskine. [online] nataal.com. Available at: http://nataal.com/alexis-peskine/ [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].

Vilchez, J. (2012). Cixous and Irigaray. [online] BCC Feminist Philosophy. Available at: https://bccfeministphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/week-8-cixous-and-irigaray/ [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].

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