Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Backup Dancers From Hell: Culture Club - “Karma Chameleon”

Well, we start out with an opening title of “Mississippi-1870”, and right away you know this is going to be a very realistic video because there were so many opportunities for drag queens back in that day. We’re staring at a river, but I have my doubts if it’s the Mississippi because it only looks about 10-feet wide and ain’t no riverboat gonna get up in that.

The camera pans back and we have an elaborately staged scene with lots of extras dashing about, apparently preparing for the arrival of the questionable riverboat. Everybody’s wearing period clothing, so they’re going for realism, but the fact that the band members still have their modern-day haircuts sort of throws things off a bit. Nice touch with the old guy playing the harmonica, just as we hear that instrument on the soundtrack, but it’s very clear that gramps had never seen a harmonica before he walked on the set.

Then, lo and behold, the camera runs across Boy George, dressed in an outfit that is not from any period, perched uncomfortably on top of what might be a tarp-covered Buick. He starts singing as the camera zooms in, and Boy makes sure that he artfully turns his head so we can see he did his own makeup, apparently using a watercolor set.

We see some guy in a top hat (oh wait, all the guys are in top hats, except for the poor folks lugging steamer trunks around for no apparent reason). Anyway, this guy is nimbly working the crowd, discreetly stealing gold and jewels from the clueless people who are just trying to look attractive and ignore the fact that mosquitoes are eating them alive and that brown rivers smell very bad in the summer. There’s one lady who was probably the original inspiration for the phrase “she could eat an apple through a fence”. Her dress is pretty, though, so she’ll be fine.

Boy George does a nice feminine move with his fingerless-gloved hand, which causes everybody to think “hey, we got us a drag queen on that there Buick, let’s go closer!” So they do, marching up to surround Boy, who was obviously born for the spotlight, even if that spotlight is a kerosene lamp held by an urchin wearing a potato sack. Folks are all jigging a bit to the mesmerizing beat, including some out-of-place showgirls who got fired in Tupelo, probably because they have dead parrots in their hair, and are looking for jobs.

Brief close-up on one of the showgirls, who makes it very obvious that she doesn’t really like the song, but she’s going to whip her skirt around anyway. Cut to Natalie Cole and Lyle Lovett clapping their hands, then two blonde-headed boys shoving a body in a wicker basket. (Was that last bit a subtle reference to Boy duct-taping his manly bits before a show?)

Another shot of the guy who can’t play the harmonica, followed by the other band members grooving while standing near one of the showgirls, who might just be Joan Collins. Then lots of shots of extras proving that they know the words to the chorus and/or not realizing that the camera is on them and doing stupid stuff. Meanwhile, evil top hat man is snatching jewels left and right as his victims stare at Boy George and his mesmerizing performance.

Oh, and there’s one guy in a straw cowboy hat that is clearly listening to a different song, and a little girl kicking her legs in musical abandonment, her tiny feet, which probably should have stayed under her dress, clad in those “jelly shoes” which won’t even be invented for another 100 years or so. Then again, neither will Boy George’s glitter makeup.

And more shots of the crowd in a religious fervor over Boy’s dreadlock drag and hand choreography. It’s starting to get a little boring, so thank God the damn riverboat finally pulls up. Everybody is very excited about the arrival, with the chorus girls waving what looks like the national flag of Ghana over their heads.

Then people start loading onto the boat, with an extended shot of that one irritated show girl who is still not happy to be here, stomping along with a pout and getting her flag dirty. Oh, look, there’s another unhappy woman, in a yellow dress and glaring at her man like he ain’t gettin’ nothin’ for dinner. Why are these people so angry? They get to go on a ride now, and no longer have to watch a British pop star sing the same four words over and over while flipping his braids and turning to face cameras that aren’t really there.

Anyway, the ship sets off, and we now have a poker game going on. The other band members are playing, as well as evil Top Hat man, while several ladies in pretty hats pretend to be completely interested in the action. Boy George is apparently not allowed to play, and is, in fact, forced to stand outside the room and look in a window while playing the harmonica. (Guess they finally fired that first guy and Boy is picking up some extra money.) I don’t know why they are making Boy-Girl stand out there, but it IS 1870, so there may have been some compliance issues.

The poker game is fairly uninteresting (how many shots of playing cards can a person stand?), so we’re actually happy when evil Top Hat Man finally wins, even if he cheated. The band members are not so thrilled, however, with one of them even smoking a cigar to show his displeasure.

Very quick shot of one of the ladies making a startled expression. (You may even have to pause the video to see the women on both sides of her casting glances that one shouldn’t eat the broccoli casserole if they can’t handle the after affects.) Then lots of folks are realizing that personal items have been snatched away, and the angry crowd races off to seek revenge on evil Top Hat Man.

And this revenge means making the man take off his stylish jacket and then walk the gangplank. He hits the water, and this puts everyone in a very festive mood. The chorus girls jump on top of the cabin and do a nice routine, showing us their frilly panties. Then everybody else decides, in a very progressive move for 19th century rural Mississippi, that if the nice drag queen can’t come inside, we’ll just go out there and join him on the deck. And so they do, with the first known gay pride riverboat parade taking place as they sail down the river and the song fades…

Red, gold and green, people. Say it with me. A hundred times.


Click Here to Watch this Video on YouTube.

No comments:

Post a Comment