Pharrell Williams unveiled his music video for "It Girl" on Sept. 30 and somehow nobody noticed that it was insanely creepy. Nobody, that is, until this Wednesday when the New Yorker pointed out that the video, a cartoon featuring overtly sexualized young girls, is actually a form of Japanese anime most commonly known as cartoons for a very specific audience: pedophiles.
The video is in the style of "Lolicon," a form of Japanese anime named after the English phrase "Lolita complex," itself named after the most famous work about pedophilia in the Western canon. It's a largely underground art form that began in 1970 as a pornographic parody of Japan's popular manga. It took the vague sexuality hinted in manga's depictions of young female characters and made it way more explicit, but it was driven underground in 1989 after the Japanese press blamed a string of child murders on the killer's fascination with the art form.
"It's almost never discussed in polite society," the New Yorker's Matt Alt wrote. "Indeed, the very term is something of a four-letter word in Japanese, virtually synonymous with pedophilia."
Williams was clearly aware of this. The artist who animated "It Girl," a man who goes by the mysterious pseudonym Mr., is a legend in the lolicon community who acknowledges his own sexual preference. He took up the work as a way to ensure his fate would not be that of the 1989's serial murderer.
"I'm releasing my fantasy world through my work, instead of acting it out in real life," he told Hint Mag in 2007.
It's difficult to see the video as anything other than creepy after learning of its origins, and it's absurd that Williams actually chose to pair this video with such an explicitly sexual song. In the , he sings "When you bite on my lip / And hold my hand, and moan again, I'ma hold that ass" while spying on a young cartoon girl from the bushes. These moments of awkard sexual tension are interspersed with disorientingly colorful, pixelated video game dream sequences, which were what most music publications fixated on in covering the video's release.
No one bothered to articulate the video's inescapable creepiness until now. But it's insanely creepy.
It's poor timing, too, since the singer is still reeling from the "Blurred Lines" controversy, which Robin Thicke recently admitted was almost entirely Williams' doing. "Hunter," by the current coach on The Voice. also attracted its fair share of sexual predator criticisms. The nascent pedophilia in "It Girl" really just rounds out a terribly unflattering trio.