Each Saturday in What Memes Mean, Alan Noble questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.
Although “Baby Got Book” was first posted on YouTube in 2007, it still occasionally gets posted and sent around the Internet. The lyrics are witty (“it looks like one of those large ones, with plenty of space margins”), DJ WhiteBoy (the artist) has a gold chain that reads KJV, and it is a parody of a song about a man who is attracted to women with large butts. Wait, what?
Before we can talk about this specific video, I need to say a word or two about musical parody. In general, what makes a musical parody funny is the disparity between the original and the parody. The more dissimilar, the more humorous. For example, you can think of Weird Al Yankovic’s classic “Amish Paradise.”
It is hard to imagine a more dissimilar context for a gangster’s Paradise than an Amish community. So, what makes Weird Al’s song so funny is not merely the fact that he is describing an exaggerated version of Amish life, but that the original song was a gritty portrayal of life in a gang. In other words, it would be hard to find this video humorous if you did not know what it was making fun of.
Now, let us consider “Baby Got Book.” What is the original content and context that is contrasted in this song? What is so dissimilar? What makes it so funny?
“Baby Got Book” is a parody of “Baby Got Back,” a song about a man who has a butt fetish. In the song, he describes how he becomes sexually aroused at the sight of a woman with a large butt. He also describes in various ways how he would like to sleep with these women and the great joy he takes in viewing them. So, what is funny in “Baby Got Book” is that we have replaced a sexual butt fetish with a Bible fetish.
In the original song, Sir Mix-A-Lot raps, “when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face you get sprung.”
In DJ WhiteBoy’s parody, these lyrics are changed to: “When a girl walks in with a KJV and a book mark in Proverbs you get stoked.”
Sir Mix-A-Lot: “My homeboys tried to warn me, but that butt you got makes me so horny.”
DJ WhiteBoy: “My minister tried to console me, but that Book you got makes (“M-m-me so holy”)”
The Bible replaces a large butt. Instead of sexual arousal at the sight of a large butt in his face, he is “stoked” because a girl has a KJV Bible with a bookmark in Proverbs. And instead of a butt making you horny, the Bible makes you holy. And these are some of the less explicit comparisons.
It is a good, healthy, and humbling thing to make fun of our own Christian culture. It reminds us that our Bible fetish (an inordinate focus on the translation and physical appearance of a Bible), which many Christians do have, is trivial and a distraction. But, if this poking fun takes the form of a song that draws a comparison between butts and Bibles, and horniness and holiness, and sexual arousal and excitement about a Bible, is this humor really appropriate? If the exact thing that makes “Baby Got Book” so funny is that a butt fetish and a Bible fetish are so dissimilar, then is this really edifying? Is this really honoring to the word of God? Is this merely making fun of our Christian culture, or does it also necessarily implicate the word of God in its mockery?