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An Open Letter to Jenny Lewis

Dear Jenny,

We go way back. Back to the days when you and Blake were more than just band mates. Back to the days before "Portions for Foxes" was used in that episode of The O.C. when Marissa skipped school to drive to L.A. with her soon-to-be girlfriend Alex. Even before you sang with the Postal Service on Give Up. I've been there through it all and now I've just got to let you know that I'm really, really disappointed. You can probably guess why, but just in case you need to have you memory jogged, please watch (and listen) to this:

Ugh. Really Jenny? You thought your fans would be down with an awesome Rilo Kiley song being used in a Carl's Jr. ad? Come on.

Even though you never outright said it, I always thought of you as a feminist. You appear confident, tough and totally in charge of your sexuality. Even if you don't identify as a feminist, I thought you'd at least have the wherewithal to correctly identify Carl's Jr. as a socially unconscious corporation with despicable and offensive commercial advertisements and consequently respond accordingly when asked to license your song to them. Yes, I know you are not the sole decision maker in the band, but I'd be willing to bet you have quite a bit of leverage as the front woman and I'm pretty confident you could have vetoed the use of "Moneymaker" in the ad.

I hate to say it, but I think this event marks a significant turning point in our relationship. I didn't mind too much when you approved your music to be used on Grey's Anatomy, Weeds or even Nip/Tuck, but this time you've gone too far.  You just jumped the shark, feministicly speaking.

 

Your former #1 fan,

Malori

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Comments

39 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Here here, Malori! Jenny,

Here here, Malori! Jenny, c'mon! Least of all, don't use one of your pornier songs with Rilo Kiley ("The Moneymaker") to underscore an ickily suggestive Carl's Jr. ad. This one with Audrina Patridge is almost as bad as the Paris Hilton one!

Wow.

Time to finally peel that faded Rilo Kiley sticker off my car. This ad is disgusting! Yeah, I'm a vegan, but I can't see a difference in how this ad treats the burger and the woman's body - as objects for consumption. As the ad says, "More than just a piece of meat."

Not Her Fault

It's the record labels, not the bands that decide how music is used. "The Moneymaker" was released on the album Under the Blacklight, which was released by Warner Bros. Jenny Lewis could have fought against this all she wanted, but it comes down to who owns the rights to the song. If they had released the album under a smaller, independently owned label, I think this song would not have shown up on such a horribly offensive commercial.

Remember when the Beatles' song "Revolution" was used for a Nike ad? That's because Michael Jackson bought the rights to the entire catalog of Beatles songs, and it was up to him how to use the music. I'm pretty sure that Paul McCartney was furious when the commercial aired but ultimately it wasn't his decision.

I hope you don't go burning all your Rilo Kiley albums. Maybe you should boycott Warner Bros. instead.

she could have avoided

she could have avoided signing to warner brothers.

i never really liked rilo kiley, but i had a crush on her when she was an actor.

uhm feminist ideals AREN'T recession proof

You know what, let's face it. At the end of the day, we all have bills to pay and food to put on the table. I don't see the need to harsh her mellow.

Feminist ideas CAN BE recession proof!

Just because I don't have a lot of disposable money right now, it does not mean that I go throwing it away on crap the misogynist chain/box store advertising biz is shoving down my throat. Hell ... I have actually SAVED SOME $$$ by not buying into their persistent sexism. If it's all they are offering me, I do without.

As for putting food on the table, I shop wisely, locally. It's only expensive when you are broke becasue you have bought too much crap that you don't need. Too many bills? Some of them may be for the crap you can do without. In this computer age, do you really need horribly over-priced cable TV that shoves the misogynist "reality" programming down your soul? A land-line telephone? Those are oh-so 1970-something! My TV is my computer. It is far more entertaining than a lot of the crap cable TV is throwing at me 24/7. My only phone is my cell and I definitely am "wearing" that 24/7!

Again, if I don't need it, I don't buy it. Yes, I still have bills to pay and put food on the table, But once those are taken care of, I just don't throw away what little $ I have left on crap. I save the rest to hopefully spend on better things ... like maybe the "Bitchmart!"

Personally, I think it's

Personally, I think it's pretty fucking backwards and stupid of you to totally reign against Jenny for the use of her music, which she may or may not have had any control over anyway. But more than that, if she does want to do that, just as the girl in the video may just want to show off her body. Is it not the choice of a woman to act freely, just as men have the option to act freely?

Basically, what I'm trying to say is this: by saying Jenny should behave in a certain way, because she is a woman and therefore should be a feminist (least of all, because of her social position), then you are as bad as the misogynists that buy into sexualised media campaigns. She, nor any woman, should feel bound by gender stereotypes on either side of the fence. People are people, and until we start trying to move towards that kind of thinking, there will be no change for the better.

as someone loosely connected to the entertainment world ...

... I agree. It probably wasn't Lewis' decision herself to submit to this consistent "t&a" (tits and ass - once a common phrase said in the 1970s in referring to such ads) garbage the music and advertising biz are churning out right now. Ask Amanda Palmer, who had a fit with the corporate, testosterone-laden Roadrunner Records (also Slipknot's and the horribly mysogynist Nickelback's label) last year when they rejected her belly dancing video because she didn't have the body of ... say ... Audrina Patridge ...

It's indeed Warner Bros. out to keep them profits rolling in at a time when most major record co. profits are at all-time lows.

In the music biz right now, licensing is the "moneymaker" (pardon the pun) ...

This isn't actually quite correct.

The Beatles song Revolution was in the Nike ad illegally. Michael Jackson owned the publishing rights, which isn't the same as owning the recording. So he could have licensed the song -- just not the Beatles' recording of it. To get the Beatles recording, they had to go to Capitol, who gave their permission. Except that it wasn't actually theirs to give, because the Beatles still had some control of their masters, and they won the lawsuit and the commercial was pulled.

My Beatles obsession aside, how is this relevant to the question at hand? Because even if the band doesn't own their publishing rights, chances are that unless they got a really, really bad record deal, they have at least some sort of control over the masters. I mean, it's not a cover in the commercial, right?

Also, most writers have a lot more control over their publishing rights these days than they did back in the 60s. The Beatles got royally screwed. So there's that, too.

Still

The ad is terrible . But i still respect and admire Jenny Lewis ... I think she didnt wanna do this either.

Really WTF is wrong with

Really WTF is wrong with these fast food companies? Are they seriously selling more food because of these campaigns they run. Let's celebrate the superficiality of America by elevating a spoiled rich girl, whose parents bought her fake boobs and a softcore porno shoot to show them off for her 18th birthday. A girl and I stress the word girl, who was on a show so terribly scripted and egregiously vile, that we're still suffering from the damage they did to an entire generation of vapid teens

Sounds like someone's

Sounds like someone's bitter.

Seriously, you could do without the insulting of Audrina. So what if she has fake boobs and has wealthy parents? What's it to you? And so what that she took some topless photos? Again, what's it to you? She's a very pretty girl and it was her choice. Hell, if I looked like her, I'd have topless photos taken of me. And so what that she chose to do this commercial? And so what that The Hills sucks as a show? It's MTV, what do you expect?

All I see in your post is pure bitterness. Leave the poor *woman* alone. She's happy and making a living. Why do you feel the need to bash her for not living up to your standards? Some women like showing off their bodies.

I am just so sick of women bashing other women for their lifestyle choices. That makes us look so bad.

I agree with you that it's

I agree with you that it's inappropriate and unhelpful to make cruel comments about other women's bodies, but your comment involves lot of negativity too. Why the hell is it not okay for someone to bash this woman for having fake boobs but it's fine for you to suggest that only a certain kind of body type is appropriate for topless photos ("Hell, if I looked like her, I'd have topless photos taken of me"). Why go around spouting so much negativity about yourself? None of us live in a vacuum. Every body-negative comment you make affects girls and women around you. Being hostile about your own body is not very different from being hostile about another person's body.

Towards the end, your comment wreaks of "Oh don't be so angry or the menz will think we're bitchy", especially the "That makes us look so bad" part. Women are not a uniform group who all "look bad" when one woman says something problematic. That's pretty reductive. I agree that the commenter you responded to had no place to insult another woman's body. But maybe instead of accusing her of bitterness (a pretty common silencing strategy), you could try opening up a dialogue in order to understand where her anger comes from. We live in a world where a woman's worth is often determined by how much her body conforms to a really narrow standard. How about we fight against this instead of tearing ourselves and each other apart?

I find it interesting that

I find it interesting that more girls seem to be dissing the fact that Jenny let this song be used for that ad than the the people who made the ad itself. Unfortunately, it seems like women tend to be harsher on themselves, than on men.

Check it:

Kelsey's taken on Carl's Jr. before! And, Malori points out the reality of "Carl's Jr. as a socially unconscious corporation with despicable and offensive commercial advertisements". Their grossness is acknowledged.

but then why isn't there any

but then why isn't there any expectation here that Blake, Jason, or Pierre should be offended by "a socially unconscious corporation with despicable and offensive commercial advertisements"? I'm upset equally at the whole band (and their label, etc.) for allowing this, not just Jenny

Eh. Still love Rilo Kiley,

Eh. Still love Rilo Kiley, they'll never jump the Shark to me. But what do I know? I am own of those fans that found them through the very tv shows you snidely metioned.

To be fair, it probably had less to do with her than it had to do with her recrd label.

I'm no expert, but...

I am pretty sure that as long as a band owns the rights to their own songs (which can happen even when they're signed to a record label) they have control over how those songs are used. Plus, if Rilo Kiley has any type of a relationship with Warner Bros. (which they likely do), they could have put their foot down on this ad.

Sure, people need money, and when a band I like licenses their music to a cheesy television show or a commercial for nail clippers or something, I understand. But Carl's Jr?!? Audrina?!? It's hard to get more offensive than that, especially for a strong woman like Jenny Lewis.

As a Rilo Kiley fan myself, I'm with Malori on this one. Major disappointment.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

I met Jenny Lewis the other

I met Jenny Lewis the other day. I doubt she had much to do with this.

I just can't hate Jenny Lewis

She's amazing and I still love her. Just saw her at Bonnaroo and she kicked it with a mostly female crew. Amazing bandleader, awesome musician, and my first crush - she was in the Nintendo movie! Carl's Jr. is stupid and they make stupid food and sexist commercials. But I'd like to think this happened because some evil entity took advantage of the fact the she is on a tight and exhausting schedule of kicking ass constantly - they probably slid a form under her fingers whilst she was on a 2 second respite.

under the wack light

Did you even listen to Under The Blacklight? The disappointment in Rilo Kiley's relationship with feminist ideals didn't start here... that song isn't corrupted by association, it's a flagship element of what's practically a concept record about the presumed soullessness of sex work (and/or sexy work, by virtue of analogy). It's a very problematic album when it comes to gender issues, and very disappointing coming from that group.

Produced by the Dr Dre acolyte who also ruined Fiona Apple's last record... it kinda killed my love for the band.

I agree with you about UTB,

I agree with you about UTB, but Extraordinary Machine is a frikkin' work of genius...

Extraordinary Machine

I think the songwriting is wonderful, and I probably would have been more or less satisfied with the record if I hadn't heard the original Jon-Brion-produced version that Ms Apple (as I understand it) leaked in protest when Epic/Sony shelved it and insisted it be remixed before they would back its release. As it is, I feel that what came out is a distressingly pale imitation of what the record might have been (and, indeed, was).

But yeah, the quality remaining in what was released is due to the excellent writing and whatever traces of Brion's touch lingered. Under The Blacklight, sadly, had neither of those advantages to prop it up.

Why should anyone feel betrayed?

The problem was assuming Jenny Lewis was some kind of feminist heroine to begin with. Why, because she is in some indie band? "Portions for Foxes" is as blatant in its use of sex as any Ciara or Christina Aguilera song, just aimed at a different demographic. Play some folky country songs and wear a cardigan and everyone thinks you're "on their side", it's ridiculous, it's empty signification.

The add is gross but there's no reason to be surprised.

blatant

And what's anti- or non-feminist about blatant use of sex? Sex is frequently a feminist platform.

Over the course of their four (or so?) albums prior to Under The Blacklight, Jenny Lewis's songs with Rilo Kiley have almost always broken out of what is expected of women singers; especially country singers. There's a little bit of heartbreak, as might fall into any life, but there are also a great number of songs with non-trivial political and/or social messages ("It's A Hit"), plus those that illustrate perspectives on the workplace ("Plane Crash In C"), mental health ("A Better Son/Daughter," "The Good That Won't Come Out," "A Man/Me/Then Jim"), self-determination ("With Arms Outstretched." "Go Ahead"), and then sure, "Does He Love You" is a bit of a hurtin' country number about a complicated relationship but it's so agonizingly human and sophisticated in its reservation of judgement that you just can't write it off as another chick for hire, singing about feelings.

A powerful woman artist who exists almost completely outside of the prescribed box of what is traditionally reserved as the province of women's art is, as you put it, "some kind of feminist heroine." Even if her work does occasionally acknowledge that sex is part of what happens in the world between people.

Carls Jr is Yucky.

I hope Jenny Lewis doesn't like Carls Jr, Audrina Patridge or wedgie camera shots in real life.

Carl's Jr. wants to sell

Carl's Jr. wants to sell gut-busting, heart-killing cheeseburgers.

Jenny Lewis wants to sell songs.

Audrina Patridge wants to sell herself.

And you're up in arms over the one who's selling the song? Methinks your angst is misplaced.

Your expectations should have been tempered after she sang about giving blowjobs and sold her songs to the O.C. and Nip/Tuck. She is not now, nor has she ever been, a social crusader.

I wrote a quick blog entry

I wrote a quick blog entry about the same commercial last night. If you want to take a look to see what I thought about it, please feel free. Also note that I am a male feminist so my perspective may not be as thorough as Malori Maloney's. Please be kind to me as I just started this blog and am still trying to establish a voice. Thanks!

http://amoralfixation.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/more-than-just-a-piece-of...

Even though you never

Even though you never outright said it, I always thought of you as a feminist.

And now you're upset because the actual Jenny Lewis has failed to live up to the image you projected onto her.

How rude of her.

Also so very disappointed...

I never would have imagined that I would end up equating Jenny Lewis with degrading advertising...I am so very disappointed.

Jenny w PS

I totally agree with the author that it was awesome when Jenny Lewis sang with the Postal Service! I don't like this ad, but that Postal Service song will always be fondly remembered by me, too! I am glad it got a shout out from the author!

Moneymaker

One thing: this is not actually an "awesome Rilo Kiley song." The ad is pretty gross, but let's face it, the song kind of sucks.

I'm sorry, but how is this

I'm sorry, but how is this fair/not slightly ridiculous? I understand what you're saying, but please don't confuse your hate for Carl Jr's sleazy ad campaign with hate toward JLew. Advertising works this way more often than we'd like to admit. Is it worth getting upset over? Moreover, it does nothing to make me doubt her strength as a woman- in fact, it really says nothing about her as a person at all. (Has it affected her ability to make awesome music?) Also keeping in mind there are 3 other band members, who- if one were to take issue- would be capable of putting their foot down at any time as well. Rilo love vibes to the world.

easy gang... take it easy

I won't harp on this ... but - it's tough out there these days for musicians and songwriters to make money.
Selling the rights to our songs for commercials and TV/Film placement is a way for us to suppliment our income and TRY to make an honest living.

Unfortunately, we dont' have full artistic control of the adds that our songs are used for.
A publisher says "hey - we can get your song in a Carl's Jr. add and it pays X amount". The songwriter has no say over who's in the add or what type of sauce spills all over them.

Are we to track down the cameramen, writers, lighting designers, etc.. and tell them that they are evil people too?
Your problem is with Carl's Jr. for having an attractive model advertising their product. Blog about them.

100 % agreed. As a gal who

100 % agreed. As a gal who has worked in film/tv placement, I know for a fact that often the artist has no legal right to say "no" to that placement unless it was specifically stated in their contract "this song may not be used in any way to sell or promote [product A.]" which is highly unlikely, especially when dealing with an artist who isn't, say, the Rolling Stones or U2. (In terms of mega-stardom.)

I also feel, as an obsessive Jenny Lewis fan, that her first problem with this ad would probably be the fact that it is selling meat... she is a vegetarian, after all. So, maybe we should cut her a little slack, and realize that this may have been out of her control, and more people in the world have heard her kick-ass music as a by-product of this mess! That can't be a bad thing.

Who cares?

Why are you complaining about this when Rilo Kiley cast actual porn stars for the official music video for Moneymaker?

It's a bikini model eating an obesity inducing burger. Are you all offended when you walk on the beach and see a girl in a bikini eating lunch?

As for the licencing of the song, it was pretty clear Jenny was unhappy with just about everything that went into making "Under the Blacklight"... so that tells me she very little say in it.

I think the song choice is

I think the song choice is rather ironic. Moneymaker is about prostitutes in LA and, overall, the entire concept behind Under the Blacklight is showing the negative aspects of LA in all its ridiculous fame, fake handshakes and sex scene. I could only think Rilo Kiley would be laughing with this song in the video because I know the first time I ever saw this commercial I laughed at how dumb Carl Jr. was for putting this song in their ad because the song mocks everything this video exploits. I mean, did anyone bother reading the lyrics at all!!?

This article is both

This article is both unpatriotic and anti-feminist. Jenny Lewis has gone from being a child product for the man to being an adult who forces the man to give her money. SHE IS A SUCCESSFUL WOMAN. To diss her for making money is so un-capitalist and anti-American. Good for her! She deserves more $. For all the times I have seen her play, I am proud to give her my flow. Over and over. I am proud of my Jenny Lewis t-shirts & cds & LPs. This ad is so friggin hot too! I am proud of her for having Audrina in it. I am a female vegetarian, who upon watching this, immediately imagined myself sandwiched in between Jenny, Audrina & a tofu protein burger dripping all over all of us. This video is the hot sauce.

Plus, not once at a show have I ever heard her tell the audience that she is our role model. Who cares! She is a vegetarian who drinks beer, sells her music and keeps company with a younger dude. Good on her.

p.s. I go back with Jenny longer than you. I saw her live at the taping of Mr. Belvedere in the 80's. Jenny is still my hero. xo!

I'm late to this party,

I'm late to this party, but...

When an artist signs with a record label, the record label owns their masters. End of discussion. The artist keeps the publishing (if they're smart,) but the record label can do whatever the hell they want with the masters. This almost always applies, even with small indie labels. I think it's a bit over the top to suggest that a recording artist not sign with a major label because of the possibility that the major label might sell their music for use in an offensive commercial.

The irony, to me, is that the song is a scathing critique of the porn industry. It seems that having it in a commercial like this one only furthers the social commentary of the song.