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Finally, a music video for English Majors

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader


In a world with so many music videos looking like porn, there comes along something that makes you go, “what the @*#$!” but not in a “I can't believe I'm seeing so many half-naked women” way, but, “whoa, this is really different” way.

That video is Childish Gambino's “This is America.” I'd heard about it, but finally decided to watch it for myself. For the permanent English major deep inside me, the video is a “stew.” That's my term for referring to a work that has so much going on that I have to listen or watch it several times to unearth everything that's going on. “This is America” may not make a lot of sense to most people, but frankly, I'm not surprised. One has to be a little bit aware and (GASP!) educated to sort things out.

People have made fun of the video, but I thought it was refreshing. For those of you who haven't seen it yet, (as of this writing, it has 205,068,650 views, excluding my most recent viewing for this video) the overwhelming theme is violence. At first, it doesn't seem that way. Donald “Childish Gambino” Glover starts out the video dancing, as a barefoot African-American man sits in a chair playing a guitar. The music that plays sounds like African acapella singers, as Glover dances his way over to the man. Shit gets real as Glover slowly pulls a gun from behind his back and shoots the guitarist in the head. Glover takes his time shooting, and it's disturbing in a way I can't describe. You want to tell the guitarist to run, but you know it's pointless. The body is pulled away by young African-American children who look like they are wearing school uniforms. In a scene that's repeated, Glover hands off the gun to another youngster, holding a red cloth.

The video appears to have been filmed in a warehouse/prison. The lighting looks like it's natural daylight, which could be seen as a metaphor—everything is happening in broad daylight—so nothing is being hidden.

The next scene is a church choir getting shot, as someone off-camera tosses Glover an assault-type rifle. Again, the gun is carefully placed on a red cloth, held by a youngster. As chaos reigns in the background (including Death, riding a pale horse) the small group of uniformed schoolchildren smile and dance behind Glover. Could this be another metaphor? America distracted by singing and dancing (The Voice, Dancing with the Stars) while the violence continues?

One of the final shots of the video is Glover dancing atop a car, as the camera pulls back to reveal a line of older cars, perhaps indicating that America is not moving forward, but is instead reverting to the old days, which weren't so good if you weren't white.

The final shot is a scared Glover, running with a horrified look on his face, as others follow behind him. Is he running for his life? Is this a “Get Out” reference? The lighting here is dark, indicating that things are perhaps a bit sinister right now. Previously, Glover was dancing around, looking like he was having a pretty good time.

I've watched this video three times as I write this column, and it seems like there's something going on every single second of the video. That's why viewing it once is impossible, if you are trying to make sense out of it. As someone interested in photography, I find this video addictive. I don't understand everything about this video, but I find it visually addictive. More so than the average music video, which seems to be porn, in my opinion. I just wish the makers would admit it.

It's pleasant and refreshing to watch a video that seems to be making people pay attention. People may mock it, but more people are watching it trying to figure it out, and I love art that does that.

And THAT, is what all the fuss is about.

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