"Talk Bernie to Me": Political (and Sexual) Authority in an Unofficial Bernie Sanders Campaign Song
by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak — Georgia College
May 09, 2016 – 15:15
During the 2008 election, Obama Girl positioned her namesake candidate as an object of both political and romantic desire; in 2016, Sasha Inez and Molly Dworsky (aka “boobsforbernie2016”) similarly locate the Vermont senator as a worthy object of the female gaze as they reclaim the masculine utterance “talk dirty to me” as a rallying cry for Sanders’ feminist-friendly agenda in “Talk Bernie to Me.”
“America the Beautiful” reverberates in the background as the visuals float from a waving flag to rollicking waves, fireworks, and the Statue of Liberty. The robed colossus fades into a pair of legs clad in black stockings and red heels that peep out from a voting booth (Dworsky). An abrupt shift to synthesized beats à la EDM underscores the transition from patriotic to sexual imagery. As the song proper begins, Inez writhes by the pool and sings of her love for country and her urge for the candidate who has “a point of view” that will turn her on. Both women parody female stereotypes typically displayed for the feast of the male gaze—the scarfed exotic dancer (against a desert backdrop), the vixen, the dominatrix, and the pool baby—only to flout them (Dworksy within the song and Inez in the closing). The Bernie-voting vixen assumes the persona of Lady Liberty. No longer a dismembered sexual object, she herself becomes the iconic figure who, with “masculine” swagger, raps about the freedoms afforded by Sanders. Lady Liberty becomes a desiring subject, but her desire is for a man who will “fill her wage gap.” “In the land of the free, talk Bernie to me,” she sings. As the word “dirty” becomes “Bernie,” the women take on positions of both sexual and political authority.
“America the Beautiful” returns as the final credits roll and Inez appears again, but this time the veneer is stripped away. Barefaced and in plain clothes, she faces the camera and lectures the viewer on the importance of political engagement. By bookending the video with these serious junctures, the duo acknowledges the video’s performative nature, and its ultimate function as a tool to raise awareness (as well as titillate). This song is one of several Sanders-inspired offerings on YouTube that feature women appropriating and rearticulating the tropes of popular culture, the visual logic of music videos, and cliché sexual banter in order to promulgate third-wave feminist perspectives on the Sanders campaign.