In 1992, an oracle appeared in a pork pie hat, four-finger ring, and leather jacket. Standing athwart a derriere, shouting “baby got back,” Sir Mix-a-Lot, as the oracle was known, gave us a glimpse of the future. A future in which the valley girl from Mix-a-Lot’s video sees a booty, round and pronounced, and says, not “gross,” but “gorgeous.”
Alas, the good sir may have failed to fully predict just how much the prodigious posteriors would come to be embraced; to foresee the extent to which society would go for full-on bootyphilia. And though the booty has yet to break the Internet, perhaps the Internet has broken the booty.
With that, Amy Schumer has delivered a crushing blow to the big booty trend. This trend, while awesome, can logically go no further than the direction she has taken it in “Milk Milk Lemonade.”
This is sad for those of us who grew up in the days of biker shorts, for those of us Sir Mix-a-Lot provided a voice. Even Freddie Mercury, singer of “Fat Bottomed Girls,” who once said, “The bigger the better; in everything” would have to admit that things have gotten out of hand. To wit:
How did this happen? How could bootyphilia spiral so out of control? It may have started when America became Brazil, a nation known for preferring “a fuller bottom.” Except America isn’t that Brazil. It’s more this Brazil—a dystopian bureaucratic nightmare in which we’re crushed by a bloated state and massive surveillance.
In that Brazil, our current America, a larger butt offers protection against bad times, against injury. It’s a psychological symbol of our desire for a soft cushion to ease the blows rained upon us by a rapidly changing economy and a world in turmoil. It’s a bracing reminder that I hope you didn’t take any of the preceding words in this paragraph seriously.
The Meaning of Booty
Back on planet earth, away from such a scorching-hot take, we are more like Brazil than we once were, if not yet a full-blown rendition of the Terry Gilliam film. Witness Andressa Soares, aka the Watermelon Woman, in all her Sir-Mix-a-Lot-pleasing glory. We’ve reached an epoch where she would be just as at home in America as she is twerking at Carnival. We should’ve expected this. Partly because of science, partly because a nice badonkadonk is just a fantastic thing, and partly because history is cyclical. (If there’s a topic on which we can trust Wikipedia, it’s probably the posterior.)
The female buttocks have been a symbol of fertility and beauty since early human history. Statues created as early as 24,000 BCE, such as the Venus of Willendorf, have exaggerated buttocks, hips, and thighs.
The erotic beauty of the female buttocks was important to the ancient Greeks, thought to have built such statues as Venus Kallipygos (although only a possible Roman copy survives), that emphasize the buttocks. Bare buttocks were also considered erotic in Ming China, where they were often compared to the bright full moon. Many artists pose models to emphasize the buttocks.
But on a pop-culture level, as Schumer has shown, something has gone wrong since the Oracle explained his personal approach to herpetology, specifically with regard to the mating habits of anacondas. Back then, we were set on a path of goodness and rightness. Since then, though, things have gone south. Here is a brief musical journey from the good to the ridiculous, starting in 1989 with LL Cool J and “Big Ole Butt.”
In 1999, Mos Def offered a paean to the rear with “Ms. Fat Booty.”
As recently as 2001, things were still good with Destiny’s Child and “Bootylicious.”
Solo Beyoncé continued shaking her money-maker with “Check On It” in 2005, and it was still good and joyful thing.
Illustrating the crossover appeal of the booty, Trace Adkins even got in on the act with “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” Milk-fed country girls got ass, too, and that should be celebrated.
But it was also in 2005 when things started getting ridiculous. Witness the Black Eyed Peas and the unfortunately titled “My Humps.”
Then in 2007, Flo Rida came forth with “Low” and a discussion of apple-bottomed jeans. While not terrible, it was an omen of things to come.
2014, as we’ll see in a moment, seems to be the moment when things really got out of hand, no pun intended. In 2013, Major Lazer, unlike Flo Rida’s relatively mild omen, offered a horrifying glimpse of the future with “Bubble Butt.”
Which brings us to 2014. Who can forget Meaghan Trainor is “All About That Bass”?
Or that Jennifer Lopez released “Booty” not only with Iggy Azalea, as shown above, but also with Pitbull?
Thus we come full circle. Nicki Minaj not only sampled the Oracle, she named the song “Anaconda.” Whether she consulted with Mix-a-Lot the herpetologist is unclear.
Yikes. No, just no. As James Poulos put it back when Kim Kardashian was breaking the Internet, “I think the untold story of Kim’s butt may be that it’s actually de-sexualizing ‘ass.’ Ass for ass’s sake. Kim Kantdashian.” Which is a tragedy. The question, now, is can we recover? Can we return to the ideal of Venus, the joy of Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker”?
If Spinal Tap has taught us anything, we can. We can soldier forth and remember that ass doesn’t exist for its own sake; that it still exhilarates and inspires us. So carry on, my fellow students of Mix-a-Lot. Society may collapse, but our beloved booty will survive.