Was Warrant’s ‘Cherry Pie’ Video as Sexist as It Seemed?
When Warrant released their second album, Cherry Pie, on Sept. 11, 1990, the full impact of the title track’s new video had yet to be felt.
It wasn’t difficult to figure out what the song was about; the promo clip made it even more obvious, with real cherry pies being used to represent the parts of actress Bobbie Brown that singer Jani Lane wanted access to. One network banned it for being “offensively sexist,” and many critics went on to call it one of the worst videos ever made.
“Cherry Pie” was a song Lane wrote in 15 minutes, after the band’s label demanded one more song for a record Warrant thought they had finished. The track's inspiration, Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” was also a last-minute addition to that group's Hysteria LP. Both would go on to become strip-club favorites. But things weren't that clear-cut. Lane’s lyrics were said to be an indirect jibe at the label exec who insisted on the change, meaning there was more to the words than just sexual innuendo. Similarly, video director Jeff Stein wanted to do more than simply present Brown as an object of desire.
“It was a parody,” he told Yahoo! Entertainment.”If people don't get that it's a parody, I don’t know, is that on me or on them? I mean, it's so over-the-top, how could anyone would think it was anything but a spoof of other hair-metal videos, you know? If people think it was sexist, it was only sexist as a parody of sexism. … I never wanted a woman to be uncomfortable on my set. I’m not saying that because it’s PC now or whatever. That’s the truth.”
Stein said Brown "was perfect for that role, and she was a good sport. … Now, some people would say Bobbie is very objectified, but to me, she's in the middle of this pop-art kind of world. And I'm not saying that to get myself off the hook for any reason. I just didn't think of it like that. The women that were in my videos, they were acting in it. They were really a part of it. They weren't an object in it.”
Watch Warrant's ‘Cherry Pie’ Video
The director – who also worked with the Who, Frank Zappa, Huey Lewis, Billy Idol and others – did own up that a scene with the fire hose was “phallic,” even though he didn't see it that way at the time. “All they were doing was spraying her with water — like, it was fun, and she was having fun," he recalled. "But the way he was holding it, I think ended up looking phallic. I just realized that now!”
Regardless, the label thought it was a “home run." "It had an unbelievable impact," Stein noted. "It was one of those that you made it and showed it to people and you knew you had gotten it right — maybe almost more so than any other video I did! … I was a hero for a day.”
Brown and Lane (who died in 2011) started dating soon after the video shoot and were then married for two years. She later said she resented being labeled a “video vixen” because of “Cherry Pie.”
“There was a time when I would go, ‘Oh, God, not that again,’” she told People. “I had done so many other things beyond just being in a music video, and yet I was just the ‘Cherry Pie’ girl. It was bullshit, I thought. But the older I got, the more I embraced it. The reality is that this is how most people know me. This is why most people are interested in me. … And it was never a negative experience in my life, so there’s no need to have negative feelings towards it. I don’t need to make it a negative experience. … I’m totally okay with it today.”
A year after Warrant released Cherry Pie, Nirvana’s debut Nevermind arrived, and music and culture experienced a massive shift. Decades later, with even more social changes, Stein accepted the video - which has racked up more than 50 million YouTube views - "would never even come out today. I’d be tarred and feathered and run out on a rail if they ever showed it!”