M.I.A. has a Punishment Park-style music video.
April 26, 2010 9:57 AM   Subscribe

MIA's new video for "Born Free." (Vimeo; NSFW)

Directed by Romain Gavras, the son of Costa-Gavras (YouTube). Romain Gavras has directed other amusing music videos, such as The Last Shadow Puppets' "The Age of the Understatement" (Vimeo). Further, he co-founded the Kourtrajmé production collective in 1994, along with Kim Chapiron (YouTube; language NSFW), the director of the sleazy French flick Sheitan (YouTube; NSFW).
posted by Sticherbeast (116 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Explanation of what the video contains at this link, which contains spoilers.
posted by zarq at 10:00 AM on April 26, 2010


Ooh, I hope it has a lion in it.
posted by box at 10:00 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obviously produced in France.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 10:01 AM on April 26, 2010


The apple does not fall far from the tree, indeed.
posted by cazoo at 10:04 AM on April 26, 2010


Dig it. The Ghost Rider sample makes me happy.
posted by threetoed at 10:05 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, the last decade has been really hard on you Americans... What a brutal bit of "entertainment".
posted by KokuRyu at 10:12 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


NSFW

Arulpragasamic?
posted by delmoi at 10:13 AM on April 26, 2010


OMG was this inspired by South Park?

Don't let the gingers get ahold of Moha--- I mean, Santa Claus.
posted by fungible at 10:13 AM on April 26, 2010


Wow, that was more than I expected. Gavras's take on Justice's Stress was also...evocative.
posted by Adam_S at 10:15 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


More like directed by M. Night Shyamalan, amirite?
posted by GuyZero at 10:15 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gavras' filmed violence for Justice, previously.
posted by progosk at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2010


Wow, the last decade has been really hard on you Americans...

Neither MIA nor Romain Gavras are American. And Americans don't get too bent out of shape about redheads. :)
posted by JohnFredra at 10:17 AM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Subtle.
posted by seventyfour at 10:17 AM on April 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


this is one thing i dislike about today's music scene - if you don't have much of a tune, you can still drape it in an expensive, provocative video and get by
posted by pyramid termite at 10:20 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks, but that video stutters incessantly for me and is pretty unwatchable. I guess I'll wait till someone posts it elsewhere...
posted by unwordy at 10:24 AM on April 26, 2010


(pipped by Adam_S)
posted by progosk at 10:25 AM on April 26, 2010


Romain Gavras has directed other amusing music videos,

"Amusing" isn't quite the word.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:26 AM on April 26, 2010


Yes, a couple of naked people are shown when the stormtroopers bust in on them, but noncombatants are beaten, shot, and blown up. It's that kind of NSFW.
posted by pracowity at 10:27 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to note that Costa-Gavras has a daughter who made the excellent, Blame it on Fidel.

I can think of another filmmaker with a son named Roman who directs music videos and a daughter who makes feature films...oh shoot, what was his name again?
posted by cazoo at 10:30 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Turned HD setting "off"= problem solved
posted by unwordy at 10:32 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy's name is Romain, not Roman. Close, though.
posted by unwordy at 10:34 AM on April 26, 2010


Apparently in other countries "Gingers" is a real term. Take this Australian PSA as a particularly weird example. (Except you can't actually view it, since the youtube everyone embedded has been removed) And here's an article on the BBC website about "Ginger discrimination" from 2007.

I'd never heard them being a 'group' before seeing that southpark episode. (I'd always thought of red hair as being just another hair color, like blond, brunette, or black)
posted by delmoi at 10:34 AM on April 26, 2010


First thing I thought of, once I saw the bus.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:37 AM on April 26, 2010


Neither MIA nor Romain Gavras are American. And Americans don't get too bent out of shape about redheads. :)

Shoulders. Flags. Notice them.

Gotta admit, I was all 'OMG South Park' too.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:37 AM on April 26, 2010


I'd be glad to shelter the Doctor's new companion in my attic. Lily Cole, too.
posted by codswallop at 10:38 AM on April 26, 2010


(Also, I got a heavy vibe of "Coming soon to the XBox 360 and Playstation 3 from Rockstar Games.")
posted by Sys Rq at 10:42 AM on April 26, 2010


I was disappointed. First, I thought the song was a ripoff of the rock-house industrial sound that was big three years ago. Then I thought the video was reminicent of Stress. Yep, same director, same ideas, more stupid jacket symbolism.

Stress was sweet. This was Stress 2 without the danger to the viewer (via the cameraman) and with extra superficial social commentary.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 10:42 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was proud of myself for guessing the ginger twist.

But the tune wasn't particularly good. Bucky Done Gun and Paper Planes were far better.
posted by djgh at 10:43 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wanted to like it, but it just comes across as more half-baked militant-left posturing from MIA to remain interesting/relevant and sell some records. I've yet to hear or see anything politically substantive from her.
posted by naju at 10:44 AM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I always love how when art criticizes life, the art draws a bigger controversy, than the thing that it's criticizing in real life.
posted by yeloson at 10:49 AM on April 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


What? Where was the music part of that music video? M.I.A. saying "b-b-b-b-born free" over and over again is not a song.
posted by k8lin at 10:53 AM on April 26, 2010


That was painful to watch, not how I wanted to start off my morning. Well shot though, I suppose.
posted by cell divide at 10:54 AM on April 26, 2010


All that video did for me was make me want to revisit Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:58 AM on April 26, 2010


First they came for Carrot Top, and I thanked them.

Clint Howard got a special exemption for his 'natural correction' via baldness.

Then they came for Robert Redford and Ron Howard, and then I got mad.

But seriously, the 'ginger' thing is mostly a Europe and UK/Commonwealth thing, no? I remember very little hair-color-based harassment to my cousin and other red-headed friends, who all grew up in the 70's-80's in the Midwest. It seems to have died out with the "No Dogs or Irish" days of the 19th-early 20th century here. I had a Canadian friend that remembered being taught by his English grandmother that the gingers were all devil-kind and not to be trusted, but when I saw the first South Park episode about gingers, it seemed odd that I never came across it in the US.
posted by chambers at 11:02 AM on April 26, 2010


Weird. I just saw this, last night, as a screensaver someone left on my PC.
posted by adipocere at 11:02 AM on April 26, 2010


Certainly the concept was far too overt and the execution heavy handed, but I liked it regardless. Despite the near constant debate over how force is employed since the launch of the 'global war on terror,' I am not convinced that most people take into consideration the reality of what it entails. Which is one reason so many justifications for violence/militarism can be swallowed so uncritically by so many. Clearly, that reality is unknowable without direct experience, so once again art is a useful means of trying to convey a facet of that. And a piece of pop like this can be an effective vehicle for reminding people that no matter the justification for such action, the reality is that people (some innocent) will take abuse, beatings, and bullets. I prefer the presentation of violence here (even with all the aesthetic flaws) to the flashy Tarantino-style lulz of recent Lady Gaga. At least the graphic violence seems to have a relationship to the real violence countless nameless, faceless individuals suffer every day in the name of something (exactly what is the matter for all of us to decide as moral beings). At least MIA will make an expensive epic of a music video that isn't in the end just one long product placement for an expensive cell phone.
posted by barrett caulk at 11:08 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Catherine Tate's version predates South Park.
posted by Human Flesh at 11:09 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, the last decade has been really hard on you Americans... What a brutal bit of "entertainment". -KokuRyu

Neither MIA nor Romain Gavras are American. And Americans don't get too bent out of shape about redheads. :) -John Fedra

Shoulders. Flags. Notice them. -SysReq


Koku implied that the US was the country of origin of the video. It's not; the creative forces behind the video aren't American, and one-half of the political target of the video (anti-redhead sentiment) isn't an American phenomenon either (the other target, militarization and the police state, certainly is American, which was why the video was set in the US). Flags have to do with the setting, not the country of origin.
posted by incessant at 11:14 AM on April 26, 2010


I think the song stands on its own, if only because it's essentially a cover of Suicide's "Ghost Rider."
posted by l2p at 11:16 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks Human Flesh - I've spent the last few minutes to remember Catherine Tate's name so I could find that video online. It was the first time I even heard the phrase Ginger used that way.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:16 AM on April 26, 2010


It might sound more like a song without the sound effects from the video.

---
The rest of this is kind of spoilerish, if you haven't seen the video, watch it first.

I think how good this movie is depends on if you view the video as a commentary on U.S. immigration policies, or ethnic cleansing in general. When I first saw the video I figured it was basically replacing Mexicans with gingers, so you have a raid like Operation Wagon Train where 13 hundred Mexicans were rounded up on the job, and sent back to Mexico (leaving children abandoned, btw) This was in 2006.

But if you look at it that way, the ending seems really hyperbolic.

On the other hand, if you take it as a commentary on "ethnic cleansing" in general, where we switch things to an unlikely scenario overall -- having it happen in the U.S. to gingers -- it makes more sense. The response the viewer has to this is going to be different then if we saw the same video with generic "brown people"

Keep in mind, M.I.A actually witnessed things just like this little girl in Sri Lanka with her mother. She told the story on Bill maher's show. Basically, she was on a bus with her mother, trying to get to the airport. But the bus was stopped by gunmen who took all the men off the bus and shot them.

(The interview had been on youtube, and now this is the SECOND removed video I wanted to link in this thread.)
posted by delmoi at 11:25 AM on April 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


MIA on Bill Maher.
posted by phaedon at 11:28 AM on April 26, 2010


Slack-a-gogo, I noticed after I posted the link that Mister Moofoo linked to that Catherine Tate clip before I did. I also should have written that her ginger skit predated South Park's ginger episode, not South Park itself.
posted by Human Flesh at 11:30 AM on April 26, 2010


Koku implied that the US was the country of origin of the video. It's not; the creative forces behind the video aren't American, and one-half of the political target of the video (anti-redhead sentiment) isn't an American phenomenon either (the other target, militarization and the police state, certainly is American, which was why the video was set in the US). Flags have to do with the setting, not the country of origin.

Yes, I was mistaken - sorry to any American MeFites who were put off by my snotty comment. Anyway, I have a hard time understanding why the linked Video has any redeeming artistic value.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:31 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh and what the fuck, I'll keep going:

Since the intended audience appears to be citizens of the United States of America (not the most concise designation, but won't result in a MeTa!), the use of redheads is a defensible choice for the allegory attempted. It takes what is an innocuous trait and places it in a context of Other-ness. The viewer is asked to imagine and hopefully empathize with people who become targets of organized campaigns of force based on traits beyond their control. Skin color, language, hair color . . . . Which is something for citizens of my country to think about when they wonder why insurgencies in countries like Iraq or Afghanistan seem so resilient when the state line is 'We are clearly there to help these people.' Or closer to home: what many legal residents of Arizona will likely be dealing with now. This video is a propaganda piece conceived and constructed for a mass audience. It is by necessity a blunt rhetorical instrument. As someone who is predisposed to analysis/interpretation it may not be the most gratifying viewing for me, but that doesn't dilute its power as a tool of communication.
posted by barrett caulk at 11:31 AM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, I have a bit of a crush on the artist in question, so . . . .
posted by barrett caulk at 11:31 AM on April 26, 2010


The only reason gingers aren't considered a separate race is because there's no nation or geographical region that's inhabited solely by gingers.
posted by Human Flesh at 11:34 AM on April 26, 2010


This Ginger hunt looks rather fun. Where do I sign up?
posted by ryoshu at 11:42 AM on April 26, 2010


Bucky Done Gun and Paper Planes were far better.
yeah. this was not. And the video was like, totally done by someone with half an idea and good production.

I really liked her first album, now, I don't know her name. I DON'T KNOW HER NAME, MAN, LIKE SHE'S TOTALLY SOLD OUT AND....

yeah, it's not worth all that.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:53 AM on April 26, 2010


I have a hard time understanding why the linked Video has any redeeming artistic value.

Uh, well. It's well shot and composed. I think it's partly about illustrating ethnic cleansing by showing it happening to unexpected groups in the U.S. People may be desensitized to seeing it happen, either news or dramatized when it happens to third worlders. It also seems like it might be somewhat tongue in cheek as well, but it's hard to tell.

And watching it for the first time, without knowing how it ends or what was happening, it was very tense and dramatic. IMO.
posted by delmoi at 11:59 AM on April 26, 2010


I thought for the longest time, reading British and Scottish fiction, that "gingers" and people who were "ginger-haired" must be blonde, because that's what color ground ginger is, and whole ginger is just sort of drab tan.

How the fuck do you get a connection between ginger and redheads? You might as well call them allspice or cheeseburgers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:02 PM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was hoping for man horsies.
posted by oddman at 12:07 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sure the actions depicted in the video might seem a bit harsh, but those guys were members of the deadly terrorist network known as Team Coco.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 12:16 PM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would have appreciated some kind of FLYING BODY PARTS and DEAD CHILD warning. It was a good video, just incredibly painful to watch.
posted by pecknpah at 12:17 PM on April 26, 2010


I like the tune...

Reminds me of Atari Teenage Riot.
posted by Pendragon at 12:20 PM on April 26, 2010


I would have appreciated some kind of FLYING BODY PARTS and DEAD CHILD warning. It was a good video, just incredibly painful to watch.

posted by pecknpah at 12:17 PM on April 26 [+] [!]

Eponysterical! (first time for me!)
posted by barrett caulk at 12:27 PM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Uh, I think the whole redhead thing was just a metaphor.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:40 PM on April 26, 2010


OK, this video annoys me. I get the redhead thing is a metaphor, even without Rod Serling strolling out and explaining it to me. But a metaphor for what? Or whom?

The simplistic claim is it's a metaphor for US treatment of minorities. Maybe Latinos or African-Americans here in the US? Except, no, we don't have paramilitary groups forcing minorities to run across minefields for sport. And I don't believe we ever will. Even in our worst periods of institutionalized racial violence, you don't have anything this violent at more than a local level in the last 100 years. The video doesn't really work as a metaphor for our inappropriate violence against Afghanis or Iraqis, either, since it doesn't relate to the complicated military security situation in those places.

The video does work as pure RAWR agitprop. It makes me mad. (And a little thrilled, like an action movie!). But as much as I like M.I.A.'s music and good leftist politics, she never seems to say anything. I'm left thinking she highlights redheads because her previously trendy terrorist organization was finally dismantled. Funny, she never worked child soldiers into her imagery.

In the end we have great filmmaking, an OK song, and a lot of sound and fury. Signifying? Not so much.
posted by Nelson at 1:30 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lame pseudo-radicalism about as subtle (and nuanced) as a sledgehammer.

Oh yeah, and the songs sucks too. Yes, we get it, you're "angry."
posted by elder18 at 2:07 PM on April 26, 2010


How the fuck do you get a connection between ginger and redheads?

Further, 'redheads' don't even have red hair. It is orange! And obviously orange.

'Carrot top' also doesnt work, as the top of a carrot is green.
posted by Sprocket at 2:21 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't forgive the slothy pacing, especially when it merely "culminates" (read: doesn't) on a cul-de-sac of action that, at that point, you suddenly realize, hasn't developed or elevated a millimeter in 9+ minutes since four fuckin' seconds in.

The theme is accessible and important: we all can see what she is saying, but storyboard some action that actually goes anywhere.

"Oh! they're blowing up now. ... okay, still blowing up... still... and... oh.
it's--? Really? Jesus."

and how can it not go without saying that fat naked people fucking = universal "don't" ?
posted by herbplarfegan at 2:21 PM on April 26, 2010


I'm sorry, herb, I genuinely didn't realize it bothered you so much. Next time, I'll leave on the Crocs and the fedora.
posted by box at 2:33 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


and how can it not go without saying that fat naked people fucking = universal "don't" ?

Universal to whom?
posted by zarq at 2:34 PM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Lame pseudo-radicalism about as subtle (and nuanced) as a sledgehammer

If both the past history of M.I.A. and the director are anything to go by, subtlety is probably not what they're aiming at.
posted by Adam_S at 2:56 PM on April 26, 2010


I'm always somewhat befuddled by the reaction M.I.A. evokes. On the one hand, she's probably most critically revered solo female artist of the past 10 years, but on the other hand, she's constantly torn down for speaking up about her experiences. She's someone who's experienced brutal oppression first hand. She experienced the Sri Lankan civil war as a child (she left Sri Lanka in 1986 as a 10 year old). Her father has been absent in her life because of the civil war. I know very little about the conflict in Sri Lanka, but I do know enough to understand that a lot of M.I.A.'s music is a distillation of her experiences. Her first album is named for her father and her second for her mother. These are very personal albums. Yet she gets criticized for commenting on the civil war in her art. It's the defining event of her people, it's torn asunder her family, and it's shaped the reaction to her music from the very beginning. Her person is intimately tied up in the conflict. What else is she supposed to speak about?
posted by Kattullus at 3:20 PM on April 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


What else is she supposed to speak about?

The critic's life I guess.
posted by GuyZero at 3:25 PM on April 26, 2010


What else is she supposed to speak about?

Redheads getting beaten up by US paramilitary forces?

I've got no objection to her talking about Sri Lanka, I just object to the simplistic radical chic of it. It's like she's wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt, only instead of a harmless 40-year dead revolutionary she's invoking terrorists who were actively forcing children to fight wars for them. It bears a little closer examination.

Then again I've got no right to tell her how to process her Tamil heritage. I certainly don't know enough about the situation to pass judgement. Maybe her background creates a legitimate artistic desire for nihilism. I actually like that same violent nihilism in Romain-Gavras' other video, for Justice/Stress, but I can relate better to the banlieue issue in Paris. What really bugs me about M.I.A. is her music doesn't seem to encourage much thought, just name-checks vague radical imagery in pursuit of a pop music career. Fortunately, her music's pretty great.

It's not really fair to her career to solely highlight the Sri Lanka stuff. Some of her music is about the international dance party scene. Some of it is about other third-world minorities, like the awesome song "Mango Pickle Down River".
posted by Nelson at 3:42 PM on April 26, 2010


She could've got some Visas done for these guys if they'd waited.
posted by doublehappy at 3:58 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nelson: It's not really fair to her career to solely highlight the Sri Lanka stuff. Some of her music is about the international dance party scene. Some of it is about other third-world minorities, like the awesome song "Mango Pickle Down River".

You're absolutely right. I didn't mean to reduce M.I.A. to her ethnicity, but reading over my somewhat intemperate comment I see that I did just that. To rephrase what I was saying slightly better: What I object to is people who deny her background. M.I.A. has known the kind of oppression that the people who criticize her politics don't know or understand.

And personally I feel that when one digs into her politics a little, they're neither simplistic nor violent.
posted by Kattullus at 4:04 PM on April 26, 2010


We'd better start disarming the gingers now before they catch on.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:38 PM on April 26, 2010


I'm with barrett caulk on this one, I think it's a good effort and a nice little video. The treatment of gingers here doesn't have to map one to one on to something the U.S. is doing in order for the images and story to be resonant and relevant; art doesn't work that way.

It's heavy-handed, but so was that Health thing from last week where the serial killer gets stabbed in the nuts. Between the two this one has a lot more depth, and I'm happy as hell that video-watching kids may be exposed to this alongside "Telephone".
posted by chaff at 4:55 PM on April 26, 2010


'Carrot top' also doesnt work, as the top of a carrot is green.

The term originates from Australia where the carrot grows upside down.
posted by zippy at 5:44 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


M.I.A. talks shit about Lady Gaga.
posted by idiopath at 5:45 PM on April 26, 2010


M.I.A. talks shit about Lady Gaga.

Eh, really more of a mild (and entirely accurate) critique than the attack the writer of the article would like us to read into it.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:20 PM on April 26, 2010


It seems like M.I.A. wasn't going for a specific metaphor, but was referencing a few conflicts. Notice the wall mural saying Our Day Will Come? The keffiyehs? She was probably referencing the militarization of our border as well, but this was not a specific complaint about American policies. It's more about the general persecution of "Others", and the patterns that takes around the world.

And you know what? I don't need subtle, and I don't need her views to be more substantive. If M.I.A. were a brilliant political theorist, and that showed in her work, that would be awesome. But she's not, and I don't expect it from her. This was a broad metaphor against worldwide injustices, and that's a cool thing for an artist to do. And now that I'm reading about her past, it seems like a pretty natural thing to do too.
posted by myelin sheath at 6:33 PM on April 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


M.I.A. has known the kind of oppression that the people who criticize her politics don't know or understand.

That doesn't make her more likely to be right. The politics she expresses in her art are not just what she knows through her experience; she transfers her experience of oppression to entirely different sets of circumstances. In some ways, her experiences may lead her astray, in that in any given situation, she's trying to determine which side is riding the bus to the airport and which side is pulling the men off the bus to kill them. Sometimes, the answer is "neither."
posted by palliser at 6:39 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somehow I think if the those guys went after giant, red-haired Viking-like men instead of skinny little boys they'd be getting those batons shoved up their asses.
posted by bwg at 6:51 PM on April 26, 2010


I think Ron Weaselly gets blown up in this.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 8:03 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


But have you ever tried to listen to her speak? She has nothing to say. Or might, but cannot. Listen to MIA and imagine all the production gone so only her words are left. It is pretty hollow. Not that lyrics are the sole measure of music, but I get the impression she is not responsible for much of the production either. Though maybe I'm wrong.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:27 PM on April 26, 2010


I was under the impression that she's very deeply involved in production. I remember reading how she did the beats for Arular on an old Roland or something (satisfying my curiosity on preview: wikipedia says it was a 505), so I'd be surprised if she's completely handed over the production aspect to her DJ collaborators. I don't have articles or interviews to back that up that opinion, but it would still surprise me.

M.I.A.'s cool. As soon as I'm done listening to this new The Fall album, I'm going to give Piracy Funds Terrorism a listen again for old time's sake.
posted by threetoed at 9:09 PM on April 26, 2010


M.I.A. has known the kind of oppression that the people who criticize her politics don't know or understand.

That doesn't make her more likely to be right.


No, but it does give context to a music video obviously drawn from her own experiences.
posted by bradbane at 9:16 PM on April 26, 2010


What experience? Being oppressed for being a redhead? Being beaten by US paramilitary? Her friends being forced to run across a minefield?
posted by Nelson at 9:26 PM on April 26, 2010


Sure, bradbane, but my reading of the original point was that she's somehow above criticism from people who just don't get oppression like she does. I agree that her art ought very much to be read in light of her personal experiences, as from my perspective, as I said above, it's quite possible that her personal experiences distort her perceptions in a way that make her art more valuable as personal narrative and less valuable as political commentary.
posted by palliser at 9:29 PM on April 26, 2010


"Oh yeah, and the songs sucks too. Yes, we get it, you're "angry."

If only your wit were half as good as her song.
posted by klangklangston at 10:20 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


What I like about this is that it isn't coherent—it's a big ol' semiotics bomb, with a million different signifiers. I think that's more interesting than a straight metaphoric read, that the video frustrates your sense of being able to map this directly to any given political struggle.

The song, well, I like M.I.A.'s voice, I like echo, I like that her words were often buried in the mix (because she writes some of the world's most tortured earnest rhymes), and that I could just sing "Ghost rider motorcycle heee-roe" over it when I wanted to. A little underwhelmed by that part, but the sum here is more than the parts.
posted by klangklangston at 10:23 PM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


The more I listen to this song, the more I like it. The "b-b-b-b-b-born, born, born free" chorus bit ethereally repeating over that kickass Ghost Rider line is going to be stuck in my head for days.

Really looking forward to this album.
posted by threetoed at 10:34 PM on April 26, 2010


The simplistic claim is it's a metaphor for US treatment of minorities. Maybe Latinos or African-Americans here in the US? Except, no, we don't have paramilitary groups forcing minorities to run across minefields for sport. And I don't believe we ever will. Even in our worst periods of institutionalized racial violence, you don't have anything this violent at more than a local level in the last 100 years. The video doesn't really work as a metaphor for our inappropriate violence against Afghanis or Iraqis, either, since it doesn't relate to the complicated military security situation in those places.
Well, do you think it's possible that it could be a representation of ethnic clensing in other countries? Switched from, say, oppression of Tamils in Sri Lanka to oppression of Gingers in the U.S?

(Also the "It's complicated" thing is a pretty hollow defense of the U.S. actions in Iraq. We invaded the country for no reason and hundreds of thousands of people died. That certainly wouldn't seem complicated to the people living there, and who got slaughtered by all the ethnic strife around '06)
I'm left thinking she highlights redheads because her previously trendy terrorist organization was finally dismantled.
Yes, Trendy. It's a well known fact that M.I.A just hung out in sri lanka watching her fellow Tamils get slaughtered as a little girl in order to boost her street cred.

I think people bitching about this video are just uncomfortable about thinking about all the horrible things in the world that are happening, not necessarily in the U.S. and obviously not to gingers. If you don't care about those things, then the video would really just be neutral, or enjoyable as an action movie, (or as slapstick comedy, frankly).

But the people complaining about this actually are bothered, and are angry about being bothered.
What experience? Being oppressed for being a redhead? Being beaten by US paramilitary? Her friends being forced to run across a minefield?
HOLY CRAP IT'S CALLED A METAPHOR. Are you really that literal minded?
posted by delmoi at 1:07 AM on April 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


Oh, and

Her friends being forced to run across a minefield?

No, seeing her friends pulled off a bus and shot in the head.
posted by delmoi at 1:09 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


What experience? Being oppressed for being a redhead? Being beaten by US paramilitary? Her friends being forced to run across a minefield?

Hi! I'm a redhead so I have complete authority to speak on this subject! Not really, but come on man. I am not oppressed, but there but for the grace of God go I because I'm a serious fucking minority as far as numbers go (numbers don't go very far these days). The shit that happens in that video? People do that kind of shit to other people. Google "Lynndie England" if you want to know what I'm talking about. It's damn easy to dehumanize people that don't look like you.

This video had a point worth making and I admire MIA for that. It wasn't much of a song, but maybe it was since it paired with these images really fucking well.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:02 AM on April 27, 2010


threetoed: I remember reading how she did the beats for Arular on an old Roland or something , so I'd be surprised if she's completely handed over the production aspect to her DJ collaborators.

At the risk of furthering a rumour that may not be true, there has been a bit of a controversy surrounding production on her first two records. (Essentially, that they're Diplo & Switch albums that M.I.A. raps over). She obviously paints a different picture.

That said, it does seem likely to me that this video is Gavras's baby, given the similarity with his past work.
posted by Adam_S at 8:38 AM on April 27, 2010


If this video were Benny Hill-ified, it would be A Clockwork Orange.
posted by zippy at 9:06 AM on April 27, 2010


I don't know about 'minority', but 'ginger' or 'ginn-ger minger' is a slur in the UK.

See here

I could not be bothered to watch the video, mind.
posted by mippy at 10:28 AM on April 27, 2010


I think people bitching about this video are just uncomfortable about thinking about all the horrible things in the world that are happening

Bingo.

I suspect a fair amount of the folks who are "shocked" weren't listening to her lyrics this whole time. I mean, she gave us a song about being tortured... Now they're "shocked" that they can't just listen to the beat and sing along without the context.
posted by yeloson at 11:57 AM on April 27, 2010


Actually, I'm frustrated she doesn't go deeper into the Tamil situation (either literally or with metaphor, it doesn't matter to me). She is the most visible global mouthpiece for that particular issue. She has a unique way to enlighten us and provide cutting insight into that part of her life, to change our minds and make us care, yet I'm not really getting that from her lyrics or videos (she didn't even seem all that engaged during her conversation with Bill Maher, when the entire focus was Sri Lanka.) I personally feel like this video could have come from Rage Against the Machine or Green Day without any alteration whatsoever, and most of you probably wouldn't care half as much. But hey, it doesn't feel right to criticize her so much. I do like her music and she has a hell of a persona.
posted by naju at 12:12 PM on April 27, 2010


Oh, here's the song without the video, or the video's sound effects. It's pretty good.
posted by delmoi at 12:40 PM on April 27, 2010


The song itself is kinda "o hai guys remmber Primal Scream" with a big ol' dollop of couldn't even be bothered to fuck with the Suicide sample.

Still, I'ma fuck yeah on that video. If that was MTV, I'd watch it.
posted by klangklangston at 1:36 PM on April 27, 2010


>I think people bitching about this video are just uncomfortable about thinking about all the horrible things in the world that are happening

Bingo.

I suspect a fair amount of the folks who are "shocked" weren't listening to her lyrics this whole time. I mean, she gave us a song about being tortured... Now they're "shocked" that they can't just listen to the beat and sing along without the context.


You two are so hardcore. It's a good thing you know what the truth is and won't let the rest of us sheeple get off easy.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:35 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think people bitching about this video are just uncomfortable about thinking about all the horrible things in the world that are happening

Charming. I'm sorry, but I still think the video is the semiotic equivalent of a hot mess. It depends on visual cues as cliches in making its point: The American flags, the desert-sand coloring, the people being threatened while naked/in coitus, the keffiyeh, the "Danger, Mines" sign, the flying limbs. In the end, it strikes me as a lot of sensationalism, with not a lot of articulation. "Bad things are bad," it says.

Take the gingers, for instance. "Ginger" is clearly a stand-in for ethnicity. But "ginger" is presented as an arbitrary signifier: i.e., ethnicity as ahistorical and without social construction. As such, it presents ethnic conflicts as interchangeable, as grounded in whim, and as not requiring any location, time, or culture-specific understanding. Not good.

I guess my complaint is that, to me, the video seems "uncomfortale thinking about all the horrible things in the world" on a level any more particular than "all the horrible things in the world." Sri Lanka is not Palestine is not Iraq is not Guantanamo is not racial discrimination is not land mine clearance is not genocide is not police brutality. The video made a whole lot of utterances about serious, important, life-and-death shit, and didn't elaborate on a single one of them.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:19 PM on April 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty of sick of her and her musical pastiches actually. GCSE level cartoon agit prop black and white politics + lots and lots of self love. Just another publicity stunt.
posted by The Salaryman at 5:19 AM on April 28, 2010


From a very pretty, moderately talented and very lucky person.
posted by The Salaryman at 5:21 AM on April 28, 2010


I'd given up on this thread, but thanks to evidenceofabsence for explaining my frustration with this video better than I could.

delmoi's right, I am uncomfortable about thinking about all the horrible things in the world that are happening. But I feel an obligation to think about those things, particularly the horrible things that are done by my government. And when I think about the injustice in, say, Iraq, I try to form coherent thoughts about it. All I get from this video is violence and an upsetting metaphor that doesn't seem to signify anything other than anger. Which, fair enough, is legitimate artistic expression. It just doesn't add much to the conversation. I think I would have liked this video better when I was 20 and protesting in the streets with committed anarchists. Now it just gives me a headache.

I'll say this: the video direction is fantastic. Looking forward to seeing what Romain-Gavras does in the future.
posted by Nelson at 8:19 AM on April 28, 2010


Take the gingers, for instance. "Ginger" is clearly a stand-in for ethnicity. But "ginger" is presented as an arbitrary signifier: i.e., ethnicity as ahistorical and without social construction. As such, it presents ethnic conflicts as interchangeable, as grounded in whim, and as not requiring any location, time, or culture-specific understanding. Not good.
Why not? Are you saying that ethic cleansing campaigns are not totally arbitrary and senseless? They're actually sensible and we just have to understand the unique cultural POV of the killers?

Whatever. The point is that for the individuals who are actually in the situation, it essentially is arbitrary, it's not like they're guilty of anything, they didn't do anything. You seem to be excusing the mindset that says ethnic cleansing only happens to "certain" people; it's not something we need to worry about on a global scale. Since it will never happen to Gingers, showing it happening to gingers is a bad idea.

It's a fairly stupid argument, IMO.

---

I think the idea that people should just sit around having tea and crumpets and discussing these issues in a high minded fashion, while avoiding anything that might make people feel something viscerally is misguided. The people in these situations don't really have a choice.

---

Finally, if you don't feel like the video has a 'message', it's still tense and dramatic and entertaining.
posted by delmoi at 4:51 PM on April 28, 2010


Ethnic cleansing campaigns are, almost by definition, the opposite of arbitrary. They don't just happen out of nowhere. They are often systematic, involving pre-planning, vertical orchestration for political gain, as well as horizontal collaboration at a local level. And yeah, I think it's useful to try to understand the cultural or political contexts that give rise to specific instances of ethnic cleansing or violence. Or, say, what motivates people toward violence. Usually, if you want to change something, it helps to understand it first.

As goes ethnic cleansing as "global": The ethnic cleansing campaigns in, say, Bosnia and Rwanda were very different, and are all too often lumped together because they happened in a similar timeframe. To me, too much detail is lost when you consider them as two data points in a sea of conflicts.

Finally, the video did not make me feel. To me, it was not tense or dramatic or entertaining, but ham-handed and sloppy and sensationalistic, in a distancing, unrealistic, Michael Bay kind of way. I think it could have been a lot more poignant if, instead of throwing together a bunch of random elements, it had focused on something that was inconveniently—and viscerally—real.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:17 PM on April 28, 2010


Ethnic cleansing campaigns are, almost by definition, the opposite of arbitrary.
They're morally arbitrary, in that there's no moral or ethical reason for them to happen.
They are often systematic, involving pre-planning, vertical orchestration for political gain, as well as horizontal collaboration at a local level.
That has nothing to do with weather or not they "arbitrary". That's like saying hurricanes aren't arbitrary because it all has to do with the history of temperature and pressure in various locations. The net effect is essentially arbitrary, and everything humans do involves planning and communications in some way.
I think it could have been a lot more poignant if, instead of throwing together a bunch of random elements, it had focused on something that was inconveniently—and viscerally—real.
Well, go out and make your own movie then. It's not the directors fault you can't deal with a metaphor. I think the idea that the video would have been good if it had shown brown people getting blown up instead of redheads is pretty ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 7:18 PM on April 28, 2010


Egh. And where did I suggest that it should show brown people being blown up? That sounds a whole lot more like "the mindset that says ethnic cleansing only happens to 'certain' people," than anything I've said. Hell, of the two conflicts I mentioned, one was European.

Serious. What's up with the ad hominem stuff, the hyperbole, and the editorializing? Are you really suggesting that anyone who doesn't like a certain music video is, by default, a reprehensible, xenophobic milquetoast? Really?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:10 PM on April 28, 2010


a reprehensible, xenophobic milquetoast? Really?

What?

You seemed to be saying the video was bad because it featured a fictional scenario instead of a real one. I think using a fictional or metaphoric scenario works well because it re-contextualizes the horror from happening to the "other" to people that viewers in the west are more likely to identify with, or at least not people they are used to seeing oppressed.

You also seem to be complaining that the video tries to portray the horror of ethnic cleansing without first explaining why they happen in a 4 minute music video, which seems like a strength.

Anyway, I just think the people who are all "The video sucks GRARR" are just uncomfortable with the images but just don't want to admit it. That hardly makes anyone a 'xenophobe'
posted by delmoi at 8:26 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not just about the ethnic cleansing; that was an example. My original point was that the video draws on or refers to several fistfuls of real-world scenarios, but reduces them to cliches and divorces them from reality, without exploring any one. Sure, it has metaphors: many, and highly mixed. I don't think it makes sense to do that in 9 minutes. That was all.

Anyhow, I've hijacked this thread enough. Off to my delicious tea, crumpets, and unfeeling.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:45 PM on April 28, 2010


Take the gingers, for instance. "Ginger" is clearly a stand-in for ethnicity. But "ginger" is presented as an arbitrary signifier

nope. "gingers" are white people. that's not arbitrary.
posted by eustatic at 8:47 PM on April 28, 2010


I think people bitching about this video are just uncomfortable about thinking about all the horrible things in the world that are happening, not necessarily in the U.S. and obviously not to gingers. If you don't care about those things, then the video would really just be neutral, or enjoyable as an action movie, (or as slapstick comedy, frankly).

But the people complaining about this actually are bothered, and are angry about being bothered.


This is stated perhaps a bit broadly but I think it's generally spot-on. I was definitely bothered by the vid. All depictions of violence bother me, particularly when children are victimized, shot in the head at close-range. That kind of shit bothers the hell out of me. But no, I'm not complaining. I believe I need to be bothered occasionally, shaken from my comfortable western world complacency. And if it takes a pop star (and her team) to do it (ultimately in the name of selling records, etc), well then so be it. Keep on bothering me.

As for the SONG, it worked for me, a nice raw, modern soundtrack that grew as it cycled through its drones and repetitions, and ERUPTIONS. Yes, it reminded me of Suicide, of Sonic Youth, of Ministry ... but I've also never heard anything quite like it. Just like I've never seen/felt anything quite like the whole package.

Go MIA.
posted by philip-random at 10:08 AM on April 29, 2010


umm, Sonic Youth slipped in there when I meant to say Primal Scream.
posted by philip-random at 10:25 AM on April 29, 2010


this song is stuck in my head. success, MIA.
posted by eustatic at 12:32 PM on April 29, 2010


M.I.A. Kid Explains Gun to the Head in Video
posted by homunculus at 9:05 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The simplistic claim is it's a metaphor for US treatment of minorities. Maybe Latinos or African-Americans here in the US? Except, no, we don't have paramilitary groups forcing minorities to run across minefields for sport. And I don't believe we ever will.

You can Google My Lai, if you like, but I see you're referring only to actions occurring within the US itself. But then I seem to recall some fairly horrendous cases of police abuse, particularly of (mostly) young black men, in various cities: San Francisco, New York, Texas. For me, if anything, this video was actually pretty sanitized, if what it's trying to represent is a a sort of distilled essence of the process of ethnic cleansing/hunting terrorists/genocide, while using redheads as a stand in for-- well, for anyone, really. This is what war is, and every war has its atrocities, its outrages, its crimes, because that is its nature. You want kids running across minefields? Have you read Persepolis? That's what the Iranian Army got boys to volunteer to do during the Iran/Iraq war, by telling them that they would be martyred and sent straight to heaven from the front lines. They sent them out ahead of the troops to clear our the mine fields: no force necessary, and it was nothing more than sheer evil calculation. You don't have to look very far to find the terrible history of what human beings have dealt out to other human beings, and it does no good to pretend that our own societies and countries and guiltless in this. War is always the same, and it's good to be reminded of it when we hear about "operations" and "the surge" and various kinds of official language hiding the actual nature of what is going on: the boot on the door, the terrified children, the husband dragged out the door never to return. A data point: I once shared a long bus ride with a door-gunner who had done a couple of tours of Iraq and was in a terribly agitated state about being sent back. He talked to me non-stop the entire way except when he was talking to the driver at rest stops. He told me a story about picking up a couple of kids at a checkpoint; they had tried to throw Molotov cocktails at a convoy, or something. They were very young, 15 or 16, and they knew they where they were going and they knew what was going to happen to them there, and they both shit themselves where they sat, blindfolded and handcuffed in the helicopter. He had to clean it up, and complained about how they ruined the seats. That's war. This video? It's just a bit of documentary footage, really, cleaned up for First World consumption. Its effectiveness, its use as a "statement", even MIA's "authenticity" are subjects I won't go into, but the video shocked me far less than the glorification of war seen in American entertainments from Rambo through to Saving Private Ryan.
posted by jokeefe at 5:57 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not exactly fair to suggest that war crimes are universal, so that your example of using boys to clear minefields -- not to mention lumping genocide in with "hunting terrorists" -- becomes relevant, yet also to suggest that America invented the glorification of war. Go get shocked by the Iliad.
posted by palliser at 6:07 PM on May 3, 2010


I'm not suggesting that America invented the glorification of war; those were the first movies that came to mind, and you have to admit that the American movie industry has supplied a lot of these. I suppose I was thinking that most likely the intended audience for MIA's video is, however, American, seeing as there are explicit details which reference the US in the video. Whether that's successful or not I can't say. But mostly what comes to mind is the situation which America is in today which may be unique: that the country as a whole is so insulated from the realities of war while still conducting one. Even in Britain there are many people who still remember nightly air raids; but when has there actually been war on American soil in the last hundred years? If your way of apprehending war becomes what you see on screens-- or what your neighbour's son, just returned from Afghanistan, won't talk about-- it's good to be reminded. The "hunting terrorists" reference is specifically directed at the video, as what we see there (breaking down doors, hauling somebody away) is very typical of daily actions in Iraq (and by Canadian troops in Afghanistan, for that matter).
posted by jokeefe at 7:13 PM on May 3, 2010


There's a remix up now on the Mad Decent blog.
posted by threetoed at 12:49 PM on May 6, 2010


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