Terese Persson
Erykah Badu – Bag Lady

The video is about how we people are walking around with problems and worries all our lives and they are symbolised as bags in the video. The ladies are dressed in different colours showing individuality and how they have different problems. It ends with that the ladies have enough of there bags and trying to get rid of them. They manage to lose most of the bags but get black at the same time symbolising a loss of individuality, some problems are ok to have that is what makes us human and they get the colours back and less bags and that’s how the video ends.

Now a deeper analyse (scene by scene)

The video starts out with flashing close ups of Erykah Badu and her friends faces and upper body’s (like a very short presentation of the different ladies). They are all carrying a different colour of clothes showing individuality, they are very feminine and everyone is wearing a matching hat. Erykah is carrying bright red and the other ladies bright blue, green, yellow and lilac the background is light blue, giving the feeling of a sky. They all shortly form a close group together with Erykah in the middle closest to the camera. Now there is a text that starts running in the top of the screen reading “a poemeography by e Badu” Erykah briefly looks up on it like she could see the text. All the ladies look very harmonised and calm, but at the same time unsatisfied with the situation bending the heads slowly back and forward and give glints with there eyes, kind of like they are looking for something. Erykah looks up in the sky showing that the space they are in now is to narrow. She pushes one arm up and one down struggling to make more space for the ladies and in a short moment the picture gets black and white and smaller a sign that it is hard to get more space, but she manages in the end to make the picture bigger.

There is now a change of scenery from the studio to an outdoor scene. The ladies are walking in the middle of a calm city street lined with cars on both sides. They are not at all concerned about that there might come cars driving down the street. It looks like a good neighbourhood with big green trees lining the street and the weather also seams to be good. They are walking with the same fluent coordinated moments, dangling and carrying bags in matching colours to their clothes. They are all wearing tight fitting dresses that finish around the knees (accept for one), some have boots and some bare legs and all dresses are without arms. This is a scene showing how they are walking down the road of their lives. That they are walking in the middle of the street is a sign of freedom that you can do what you want and that you are in need of space.

Then there is a quick cut and now they are all sitting in a classroom behind school desks. They are in an American classroom, which is shown by the American flag hanging in the background. The background (school board) is matching the colours that the ladies are wearing. They all do a coordinated move with there arms, as they are trying to show that they do not really understand what the teacher means. In this scene the bags are on the floor besides the desks. When looking closely they all having their feats pointing inwards, a sign of insecurity. The camera is sliding slowly from one side and stops when it comes to the middle and then the scene is cut. This scenery is showing the ladies when they are younger and even at that age are they carrying bags. School is symbolising a threat against young people’s individuality it tries to make everyone fit the same form.

Now they are shortly back in the studio scene.

The next scene shows the women in the church. They are all sitting in a line facing the camera doing more coordinated moves, this time with more energy waiving there bags up in the air first one and then the other, they are also changing which leg the are having crossed. Erykah is sitting once again in the middle keeping the pace with a tambourine. The ladies on the right side are first looking to the left and then right, the ladies on the other side are doing the opposite and Erykah is doing the same. They now look more relaxed and happy when they are in the church, like their problems are not as much trouble when they are there. Their dresses are now covering their legs a little bit more now, one is wearing stretch tights in matching colour.

Now Erykah is alone in the church stretching out one hand to the camera, the fingers are spread and the hand palm is facing down, she looks like she is reaching out for something and at the same time she looks very powerful, because of the camera angle that films so that the hand get the focus and the hand palm is shadowed. She gives the impression of being a female priest.Then she is shown from the hip up standing a bit further away from the camera in between to church windows. From the two windows, light is shining throw and light the set up, other wise it would be pitch dark in the church. She cools her self down harmonized with a fan that she waives to the beat of the music; also here she carries a bag, but these time a smaller one on her wrist. The red colour that she is dressed in looks very powerful this time.

Now there is a key scene, it starts with a close up on the purple lady, she is sitting in some kind of beauty salon, but it looks kind of scruffy when you see the brown couch in the background. She is reading a white book that she is holding up in front of her face. On the cover of the book it says “real skinny real fast”. She looks very insecure, you can tell from her eyes when she is looking over to the other woman’s book next to her without moving her head. The camera keeps moving to the right and shows the green lady reading a pink book which says “quick thick hair”. This lady is wearing a lime green some kind of bathing hat, which covers all of her hair. She also looks insecure and glances first to her right and then to her left. Then moving further to the right showing Erykah also holding up a book that covers half of her face. She is still wearing red and her book is the coloured of yellow. On the cover it is written “sober now” and then she is also showing a little book that she is also reading which she is holding up above the other book covering hole of her face. On the cover of the little book it says “how to lie”. She does not look at the other women but very shortly straight into the camera. The camera keeps turning to the right and now the camera is showing the yellow lady reading a purple book called “get over him yesterday written by Roxy”. The author I do not know who it is, maybe a famous American that has had a loot of man trouble. The lady is first glancing over to Erykah and then to the lady on her left. The next lady is dressed in blue with a green book, looking on the lady on her right. On her book it says “instant beauty”. This rolling scene is showing the ladies reading about their different problems they are having which they are symbolising by carrying in their bags in the other scenes. You can tell that they do not want anyone else to know about their problems because they are all hiding there faces a bit behind their books and are also glancing over to the other ladies to see that they do not see what they are reading. All of them are carrying the same hats but the lady reading about her hair is having the kind of bathing hat just to really enhance that she has hair problems. In this scene the background is very neutral brown, it looks a bit like a room that is no more in use, the colour of the walls are coming down and the decoration consists of a dark brown sofa and some big old pots, but from the way the lady’s are sitting it makes you think of a beauty salon, cause they are all lined up. This is also a scene that is stereotyping showing that ladies read a lot about their troubles, trying to get a quick solution to their problems.

Next scene is the same as the one in the beginning showing the ladies in a group with Erykah in the front all singing against a light blue background. It is showing them from the waist up. First they are all singing and looking in to the camera and then they have a coordinated move when they all are going to look to their right and then their left. But the move is not so coordinated after all, because you can se that some of the ladies forget to do it, and just turn their heads a little bit, Erykah notice this and gives a big smile.

In the next scene are they performing behind microphones in a front of a brown apartment block, it looks old and not many seams to live there and the building is in use of a renovation. This could be a scene set in the Bronx in New York giving the feeling that this is a place where many people have a loot of problems and are carrying many “bags”. The ladies are once again standing out a lot from the background with their colourful clothes. They are now having many bags that are hanging on the microphone stand and also are carried by them. This time they are all wiggling their hips to the beat of the music. Erykah is lifting one arm and pointing to the right showing that the bag lady is going to miss the buss and pointing to the bus station’s direction. Erykah is this time not only carrying red clothes; she also has a sweater showing the name Che and a face underneath the red sweater. Che Guevara was a communist revolutionary from South America. This is another sign that shows there are problems in the world and that she is supporting the revolution.

Now there is a clip when they are walking up the church stairs, first the camera is shooting the legs only because they are in close-up walking from the camera with is placed in the beginning of the stairs. The camera does not move, but when the ladies have gone up for the stairs and turned around you can see the whole bodies. They are walking up for the stairs moving their hips sensually and they all stop at the same step and turn quit quickly around. Now they start dancing with their sun fans again coordinated and waiving it up and down in the sky as well as clapping to the beat against it. In this shoot the sun is shining down on them, giving a feeling of a very nice day. As before when they were in the church they look a bit more relaxed. No one is showing their knees, that is not allowed in some churches.

The next key scene is now. It is showing five doors in different happy colours all with a number on it, two and a half, twenty-nine, seven, zero and thirteen. I do not really know what all the number are standing for, but thirteen is the number of bad luck and two and a half is not a whole number so that must also mean that something is missing and I never seen zero on a door before. There are black doormats with a white word on in front of every door; I can not see what is standing on the different mats only the first one, which reads step. The doors are opening and the ladies are stepping out with bags closing the doors rapidly behind them. They are leaving the right hands resting on the doors, leaning a bit, showing they want to keep the doors closed. But all the doors are opening again giving all the ladies a big extra bag to carry and then quickly the doors are closing again. They are all looking sad, angry and lonely, when they are putting on their new bags looking back on the closed doors while walking away from the doors or walking in front of the doors. This scene is showing how they are being kicked out from their men’s lives because they are having to much trouble with them selves and through this experience they get even more problems to carry. The doors do not have the same colour as the women showing that the relationships are not working out and that they are too different from their men. The bags they received this time have black fabric patches a sign that they tried to solve the problems but it did no work having to cover the hole with a piece of black fabric.

They are now back in front of the shabby building singing, but this time they do not have any microphones. This time Erykah is pointing to the camera waiving her finger to show the man’s side of the relationship pointing at the lady and say you are crowding my space. Some of the other women are also lifting a finger as a warning. Before the scene ends they all put up the hands in front of them, but just for a very short moment.

Now back to the scene with the light blue background. They are al singing. This is a short scene.

There is now a cut back to the scene showing before starting where they have the hands in the air in front of them. They are again looking to different directions, when Erykah is looking in one direction the others are looking to the opposite direction.

In the next scene they are sitting in a line in church being filmed from the shoulder up. They are filmed with the purple lady closest to the camera and then all the other one in a line behind facing the camera with their right cheek. They are now waiving the sun fans again to the beat and singing. Then Erykah are turning her head facing the camera. It looks like they are cooling them selves down.

Next key scene, now they are sitting in a bar being served a drink with matching colour to their clothes. They are one after one turning around facing the camera and drinking from the glass throw a straw, looking a bit sad. This time is Erykah the last one that is being showed in the camera. The camera are first in close up and then changing to shooting the whole surrounding. Now you see the ladies sitting on metal bar chairs taking up the whole bar area. The setting is white and the bar is pink with a sign behind it saying soul food. Behind the bar there is a man standing polishing the bar disk, it was he that served the drinks, but he is just in the back ground of the scene, the ladies are in the centre. Then suddenly Erykah is turning around holding a brown paper bag she got from the bar with a black skull on it. The other ladies are doing the same. This scene is showing how they are trying to fix their problem easily with a soul food drink, but the drink is served buy a man and there is no quick fix to their problems and especially not from a man showed by the paper bags. Brown paper bags are often a symbol for something you want to hide, for example alcoholics on the street are carrying their alcohol in such a bag.

Erykah is no standing alone with her arms stretched out in the dark church with the windows behind her, bending her head back facing the selling like she wants to get in contact with god. She looks to be in pain.

There is a quick clip when they are walking down the street, not singing but looking a bit angry and this time not carrying any bags.

Back to the church are they once again sitting on a line on a church bench waiving their sun fans and bending dramatically back and forward showing they are in a lot of pain. It also looks very womanly and sensual; once again everything is done to the beat. This scene is showing that the ladies are having so much trouble now that they can not stand it any more, searching for help in the house off comfort the church. Before they have always looked more relaxed in the church but not this time, no they are just trying to get help, they had enough of their problems.

In the next scene they are all squeezing them selves in to an elevator, it gets very crowded with all the bags. Erykah is opening the elevator door and steps also in with all her bags. They are pushing and moving to get some space in the overcrowded elevator. In the elevator there is also a man standing in the back, he looks very uncomfortable with all the ladies and the bags. It seems like the elevator is taking them downwards, Erykah opens the elevator door and the light quickly flashes and a short time the screen is black and white. They are now all of them standing neatly in two lines (even the man) looking up to a bright flashing light. Then they are standing neatly facing the right wall of the elevator all of them quickly turning their heads to face the camera. This scene shows that they are finely feed up with there bag with problems and are ready for a big change, a life without all the bags. It also shows that it was not an easy thing having to go in to an elevator, that did not give them enough room for all of their bags. Then we could also see when the big change happened demonstrated with the flashing light.

The next scene is showing the ladies after the transformation. They are each sitting on chairs (wearing same black tight clothing and trainers) against a clean white background. They are supporting their arms towards their legs with their faces, facing down in to the floor. Briefly you see all of them in a line with some space between the chairs, but the camera is quickly narrowing down the focus to Erykah sitting in the middle. When the camera is close to her face, she lifts it up and looks in to the camera, with a tricky face expression, the word bag lady written in big green letters is popping up on the screen growing bigger and bigger until it fades out. The camera shows all the ladies on their chairs facing the camera with a coloured bag underneath each one. The bags are the only thing that is having a bright colour otherwise everything is black and white. From the right side an oval sign is sliding in with a pink background and yellow letters saying “starring”. The ladies are now moving their hands to support their heads and quickly changing the pose to look to the right putting the knees together with their hands in between stretching their backs. Now you can also se that they all have the hair covered by a black shawl in the same way.

Next there is a scene with small children sitting against the white background. They are all wearing the same colour of clothes as the ladies and are supposed to represent them when they were young. The kids already have bags which they are playing with. The yellow dressed kid stands up and walks quickly towards the camera with the bag. She leans forward and put her hands into the floor and looks closely into the camera and gives a big smile.

Back to the older ladies, they are now fetching their bags from underneath the chairs, all of them are standing up and the lady with the yellow bags runs to the camera and throws her bag around and makes a pose while smiling. There is a yellow text coming up that says “nickel bag lady” and then she runs to the side to make room for the next lady. In between there is a short cut to the elevator scene. The next lady is the purple one also making a pose as the other ones are running around in the background; her text reads “booty bag lady”. Now a short cut to the scene with the light blue background. Next is green lady to do the same thing, she is called “paper bag lady”. This time a short cut to the scene with the ladies sitting in church. The blue lady comes now; her text is saying “punching bag lady”. This time the cut is from the street scene. Finally it is Erykah’s time to do the posing and her text says “baby bag mama” This scene are showing us the lady with just one bag and black clothes, they have lost most of there trouble but they also lost there colours and their real identity, what makes them special.

In the next scene they are back in the school which you can tell from the text on the American flag in the background. Erykah is looking unsatisfied and holds up a white sign with too black written on it in big black letters. The other ladies are agreeing and make poses to show that. This means loosing all your problems is also not only good; the problems (bags) are also making you to who you are, so back with colour. This is also giving a hint to the schools that are not teaching the children to be individuals enough.

Back to them performing in front of the ruff building, this time they are looking a bit happier and relaxed.

Then it is back to the shoot with the kids who are sitting on the floor and then reaches up to fetch their individual bag’s that is given to them from above they look happy and curious of the new colourful bags.

Now again a performance shoot in font of the house.

Next scene they are all sitting around an older woman dressed in white on the stairs to the church. They are all singing. The Older ladies with white clothes represent the old and the wise. You can see that all the younger ladies are looking up to her. The colour of white stands for clean and wise and harmonised.

Then performances shoot against light blue background. Erykah is snapping with her fingers and then taking up the other hand moving it with her hand palm facing the camera from one side to the other.

Next scene is Erykah standing with two men behind her against the blue background. The men are waiving and moving to the beat of the mucis and are looking very cool. They are both wearing black and have longer hair fixed in dreadlocks. One of them is wearing a hat and a beard. I think they are people that have worked with Erykah and it has noting to do with the storyline of the video. It is just as a presentation of them in the video as a way of saying thanks.

In the next scene there are 7 men standing against the light blue background, I think they also are a part of the crew. They all look very cool standing still and not smiling just standing and trying to look cool in opposite to the to other guys from the clip before who were smiling. It looks like everyone is having long hair in dreadlocks or plaited and one is wearing a hat and one is wearing a yellow hood or something. The majority is wearing shirts without sleeves. They are dressed in white and colour. They are doing some kind of a hand sign, with a closed fist to the camera. I do not know what it stands for but it has probably a big meaning on the rap scene because all of this signs have. The guy with the yellow hood, is also doing a sign, to me it looks like the sign for love.

The next scene is a face shoot of a lady singing against the light blue background, she has a big red hat on and straitened hair, she also looks a bit older. She is maybe a good friend to Erykah, and she is important because she is alone in the shoot and she is in close up.

Now they are performing in front of the building again. Erykah is doing a sign with her hands that looks like she is sowing some seeds in her hand and then she is gently snapping with her hands like a sign that the seeds are growing. It is like she is saying sow new seeds and you will se they are going to grow.

The next scene looks also to be in the ruff neighbourhood with a big crowd of people dancing and waiving with their hands in the air to the mucis. They are standing and sitting on and in front of a green house. They all look happy and sings with to the lyric showing they also know that some of the bags you are carrying also makes you to the unique person you are. The scene looks very happy also thanks to all the colours the people are wearing and it looks kind of like a block party. You can also see the bag ladies heads from behind, they are performing in front of the crowd jumping and stretching one hand in the air.

Last scene is Erykah with her I guess daughter (Erykah was named baby bag mama and wearing the same colour). It is a face shoot and Erykah is holding the girl whit her arm so the heads are on the same level. The daughter is wearing red as her mother and is dressed in a sweater with a hood on that is on her head and a red knitted hat underneath. They are booth smiling and Erykah shows the little girl how to do the v-sign (peace sign) and she manage to do it just like her mother and that is the end of the video.

Colour and clothes
The colours in the video are very bright and colourful; they play a big role in showing the different individualities of the five ladies which are playing the lead roles in this video. The ladies are all dressing very elegant and womanly not showing too much skin and not playing on nakedness, they what to be seen as graceful women. They also dress to show that they belong together because it is the same style on their clothes, just a different cut and colour. The clothes are tight but it is just to show the form of a women. Erykah is almost in every scene wearing the African head wrap she usually carries, it makes her look powerful.

The movements in the video are oft symbolic (some time religious) and very gentle and harmonised, it gives the video a very comfortable calmness to it. The movements of the ladies are also bringing the story forward and are letting the observer know about their feelings of fear and happiness.

The backgrounds in the video also play a big role. The streets are a sign for space and freedom to walk in the middle of them. The church scenes show the comfort the women are looking for. The backgrounds help to tell the story of the ladies, but they are in the same time rather neutral, leaving the focus on the ladies.

Body shoots
The body scene’s are really neutral and are not going in to detail on anything else then the faces. The shoots is representing all the women as individuals, giving them all scenes alone but it always ends up with Erykah in the middle or taking the lead position. The ladies are often forming a group and Erykah is always in the middle and closest to the camera.

The Lead characters in the video are played buy the five ladies with Erykah as the leading star. Men are not playing a big part in the video only in the background representing with problems that the ladies have. Men are also being represented by doors and that is also a sign that they are not playing a big part as characters. There is no close body contact between the ladies and the men in the video. In the end of the video more people are introduced, but they have not so much to do with the story line more being presented as friends and working partners. At the very end Erykah is presenting her daughter and there close relationship and the love between mother and daughter. One thing to notice in this video is that there are only coloured people in it, but this is quite common in r and b videos or rap videos showing communities with only coloured people.

There are two kinds of scenes the story scenes and the performance scenes.

The video is stereotyping in the scene when the women are reading from there “women bibles”. Women are known for reading about there problems.

Key scenes
The first key scene is 0.53 minutes in to the video. The ladies are sitting in a line reading their “women bibles” about their problems, looking very insecure. This is the first scene really showing they have problems.

Second key scene is 1.38 minutes in to the video. The ladies are stepping out of doors and closing them behind them. The doors symbolises men, and how they do not want anything more to do with the ladies, giving them at the same time more problems to carry, symbolised by bags.

Third key scene starts at 2.20. The ladies are now being served soul food in a bar, trying to solve their problems in an easy way, drinking soul food served by a man. The scene also shows that there is no quick fix to problems and they all hold up a brown paper bag symbolising this.

Fourth key scene is 2.42 minutes in to the video. Here the ladies are sitting in the church showing how bad they are feeling about all of their problems, bending back and forward in complaints, trying to get comfort from god.

The fifth key scene comes straight after the fourth 2.48 minutes in to the video. Here they are all squeezing in to an elevator with all their bags. This time they are doing something radical to fix their problems (bags).

The sixth key scene is directly after the fifth at 2.59. The ladies have now lost most of their problems and are now dressed in the same black tight clothes and sneakers; they lost most of their colours. They are presenting them selves as different “bag ladies” while dancing.

Last key scene is 3.32 minutes in to the video. Erykah is holding a sign that is reading too black. This is to show that still after losing most of their problems she is after all not satisfied, because they also lost their individuality on the way. The other ladies are also agreeing by posing behind Erykah.