This is a celly / that's a tool
May 6, 2018 8:31 AM   Subscribe

 


Holy shit.
posted by gwint at 8:58 AM on May 6 [33 favorites]


that was, indeed, america.

dang, gambino.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 9:00 AM on May 6 [6 favorites]


I can’t stop watching this. The way the guns are treated like precious objects, the riots in the background as they dance the latest fad dances, that incredible bit at the end when the veneer is off, the whole thing is just incredible.
posted by ukdanae at 9:06 AM on May 6 [21 favorites]


Feeling a bit lost on what is exactly happening in the video and the song itself? Genius Lyrics to the rescue. Click on the gray blocks for notes from users of the site.
posted by NoMich at 9:06 AM on May 6 [13 favorites]


I feel that I could watch this a thousand times and still not pick up every nuance of its meaning. Just genius.
posted by donnagirl at 9:23 AM on May 6 [11 favorites]


Blown away.
posted by Drexen at 9:37 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


Compare and pair with A Tribe Called Quest's We The People, with Get Out, and to the dancer's eye... Alvin Ailey's Revelations? Geoffrey Holder? ("The latest dance trends" doesn't fully capture what's going on here physically; there's a lot of the old languages being spoken.)

There is a vulnerability here about the terror of living in America that black men were not supported in spreading to the mainstream when I was younger, I think. I am glad that this truth is now being brought to light in the music industry as well as the streets, but it is horrifying that any human being is still made to feel this way.
posted by gusandrews at 9:46 AM on May 6 [40 favorites]


Dang.
posted by kdar at 9:46 AM on May 6


Lovely awful beautiful. Seems like Donald and Janelle are going to have a May.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 9:54 AM on May 6 [10 favorites]


I can't understand the lyrics, and I don't know music enough to appreciate any of its themes....

But I can feel the sickness and terror. This will haunt me.
posted by meese at 10:09 AM on May 6 [4 favorites]


(Content warning?)
posted by clawsoon at 10:13 AM on May 6 [2 favorites]


Was thinking of posting it with the note “contains sporadic gun violence”. Then again, it IS called “This is America”.
posted by Artw at 10:14 AM on May 6 [79 favorites]


The way the gun violence pops up suddenly and without warning once, then twice, and then how that leaves you queasy for the rest of the video as you anticipate it happening again, that’s just perfectly done. America: that sinking feeling in your gut while you wait for the next massacre.
posted by ericost at 10:32 AM on May 6 [74 favorites]


Others, with a slightly different look:

Lecrae - Welcome to America
Homeboy Sandman - America the Beautiful
posted by isauteikisa at 10:42 AM on May 6


I sincerely recommend to each of you who... enjoyed?... this video that you watch Glover's show, Atlanta. Season 1 is currently streaming on Hulu, and available for $1.99/ep everywhere else. There are 10 episodes in the first season, and eleven in the second, which concludes this coming Thursday.

Donald Glover is brilliant, the people he has surrounded himself with in both the cast and the writing room are brilliant, and Atlanta is going to be listed among the very best television shows ever as we move forward. Already, "B.A.N" and "Juneteenth" rank among the top episodes of television I've ever seen.
posted by tzikeh at 10:51 AM on May 6 [48 favorites]


Yes, Atlanta is fantastic. Highly recommend it.
posted by dazed_one at 10:56 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


The very idea of content warnings seems to come from an entirely different America.
posted by PhineasGage at 11:13 AM on May 6 [26 favorites]


There is so much in this video to unpack. I personally think the empty cars near the end symbolize the cars left behind after police shoot black men. There's something so specific in them using older cars like that, empty with the doors open.

Atlanta is brilliant and almost always subverts your expectations. And most of the episodes are directed by Hiro Murai, who directed this video.
posted by Catblack at 11:16 AM on May 6 [11 favorites]


Yeah just to hop on the Atlanta train here some more this music video was directed by Hiro Murai, who's directed like 70% of the episodes of Atlanta so far, the rest have been directed by Glover, Amy Seimetz, and Janicza Bravo. (they pull in a female director for episodes centering on Zazie Beetz' Van, and they are consistently some of the best episodes of a very good bunch)
posted by JauntyFedora at 11:16 AM on May 6 [2 favorites]


the empty cars near the end symbolize the cars left behind after police shoot black men

I assumed the same.
posted by saladin at 11:19 AM on May 6 [2 favorites]


I just went to look for Atlanta on FanFare, so that I could catch up and join in on the finale conversation this Thursday.

Atlanta's not on FanFare.

Well, this needs to be rectified immediately.
posted by tzikeh at 11:22 AM on May 6 [3 favorites]


But I've been vicariously "watching" Atlanta on FanFare: https://fanfare.metafilter.com/show/atlanta
posted by mean square error at 11:30 AM on May 6 [4 favorites]


It is on fanfare.

My spouse and I have been analyzing this video all morning. I think there's something being said about the commodification of certain types of black art by white people. This line at the end is super chilling:

"You just a big dawg, yeah
I kenneled him in the backyard
That probably ain't life for a dog
For a big dog"
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:30 AM on May 6 [16 favorites]


I searched for it and couldn't find it - both in the search engine and the list of TV shows. I... have no explanation for why I couldn't find it.

Sorry for the derail.
posted by tzikeh at 11:37 AM on May 6


needs about 327,670,000 views
posted by filtergik at 12:04 PM on May 6 [13 favorites]


A friend just pointed me to some good annotation happening in the comments on the article about it on The Root.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:34 PM on May 6 [5 favorites]


Whoa. Gonna go read linked articles before commenting further as I'm sure my questions will be answered.

Floored.
posted by sio42 at 1:22 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]


Already, "B.A.N" and "Juneteenth" rank among the top episodes of television I've ever seen.

"Teddy Perkins" has been the highlight for me this season. Donald Glover is the multi-talented artist that James Franco wishes he could be.
posted by cazoo at 1:25 PM on May 6 [15 favorites]


donald glover is brilliant. the video is remarkable in so many ways.and nthing the recommendation to watch Atlanta. he joked on SNL last night that Atlanta was only watched by black people but me, a middle aged white lady who was recommended the show by my son, find it incredibly insightful with full recognition that black people will find the show relatable in ways I can only guess at.
posted by bluesky43 at 1:30 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]


and a link to a new yorker piece on Glover.
posted by bluesky43 at 1:32 PM on May 6 [10 favorites]


That was simply one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Wow, what an artist and performer.
posted by 4ster at 3:35 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]


The early shot of Glover as Gambino as performer (~0:35-0:50) trying to figure out his approach (which face, which attitude, which dance) is fantastic. He's such a talented, thoughtful actor.
posted by IAmUnaware at 3:44 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]


The only word I can find to describe this is mesmerizing. Just can't look away, and it plays with virtually every emotion you can have.

Damn what a talent.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:00 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]


Luvvie's breakdown. (At the moment, I guess there's some confusion over whether the guitar player is actually Trayvon Martin's father Tracy or just his doppelganger.)
posted by Lyn Never at 4:11 PM on May 6 [11 favorites]


This is amazing. I do not watch videos over and over and I've always appreciated Childish Gambino but I have had to stop myself from watching this at least eight times now. Okay, one more.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:22 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]


I can’t stop watching this. The way the guns are treated like precious objects, the riots in the background as they dance the latest fad dances, that incredible bit at the end when the veneer is off, the whole thing is just incredible.

So many clever layers. The way some things are foregrounded and backgrounded, speaking to the way that America is focused on the WRONG things. The violence that seems surprising at first but then when you think about it, is very normalized. That people often are distracted by art, that we risk so much because it's easier to think about the pleasant things and not the truly ugly ones. My mind is racing. I'm sharing this with everyone I know.
posted by Fizz at 5:19 PM on May 6 [5 favorites]


I didn't even SEE the horse until my fourth viewing.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:19 PM on May 6 [15 favorites]


Been watching this on and off all day. Only just realized that “This is America” is said as a warning in the context of the song. No room for mistakes, kids. This is America.
posted by q*ben at 5:52 PM on May 6 [4 favorites]


Holy fuck.

Need to watch this a few more times but I think my reaction will remain at holy fuck level. (Donald Glover is so talented.)
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:05 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]


So there's some criticism on Twitter of Glover's treatment of black women. I admit to not knowing his history, but it's probably something to keep in mind.

One thing I have noticed from following black women on Twitter is that there is a LOT of bad feeling about "misogynoir" in the ways black women have been abused, used and denigrated by celebrated black men (and others).
posted by emjaybee at 6:13 PM on May 6 [11 favorites]


A different perspective (twitter thread)
living in the wake of anti-Black violence is to be berated by the factual fungibility of our bodies everyday. terror is magnified by the virality of Black death. when artists answer the [scripted] call to reproduce these scenes, why don’t we call them accomplices?
posted by ChuraChura at 6:13 PM on May 6 [6 favorites]


> I didn't even SEE the horse until my fourth viewing.

I didn't see the chickens until this last viewing and I've been watching this thing all day.

> The way some things are foregrounded and backgrounded, speaking to the way that America is focused on the WRONG things.

At the end of the first really long shot, around 1:35, the camera starts moving backward away from Glover. Because of the nature of camera lenses the separation between background (cars and background actors) and foreground (dancers, Glover) becomes less distinct. I wanted to say, "As nuanced and deliberate as everything else in this video is? this must be a statement that if you're far removed from any of these things they all look the same" [implying that insulated white folks see "black culture" as a homogenous thing] and then I think I'm reading too much into it.

... and then I read that New Yorker piece and realized that it's absolutely 100% possible that Glover would conceive of and deliberately shoot to match this interpretation, and now I have no idea what's intentional and what's not so I'm gonna give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that it is.

> The way the gun violence pops up suddenly and without warning once, then twice, and then how that leaves you queasy for the rest of the video as you anticipate it happening again, that’s just perfectly done.

Yeah this is probably the most deliberately horrific use of the Rule of Three that I've seen.
posted by komara at 6:15 PM on May 6 [37 favorites]


I wonder if the lyric "Get your money, Black man (get your money)" is an ironic comment, knowing that the reason why we're even here is because of 300 years+ of "Get your money, White man (get your money)".
posted by droplet at 7:28 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the lyric "Get your money, Black man (get your money)" is an ironic comment

I think it's interesting (important) to contrast this to his Childish Gambino SNL performance last night. On a certain level, he is getting his money. He's playing Lando and performing innocuous media about wanting to dance on Saturday night and pursuing mainstream success. He plans to retire from music after this album.

But he's still a black man in America.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:36 PM on May 6 [6 favorites]


Speaking of Glover and SNL - if you want a break from This Is America and are looking for something lighthearted but still insightful you should check out last night's Friendos which is probably my favorite SNL skit in a long time.
posted by komara at 7:42 PM on May 6 [23 favorites]


komara, I was thinking the exact same thing. I just finished watching last night's SNL and it's one of the better ones from the past few months.
posted by Fizz at 8:39 PM on May 6


That last skit was also a very striking criticism/satire of the industrial prison complex in America.
posted by Fizz at 8:42 PM on May 6


Puzzled by the papers being thrown from atop the car

also I didn't see the chickens
posted by thelonius at 8:52 PM on May 6


I really love his video for Sweatpants (which shares the same director and a lot of visual themes) (when I first discovered it, I must've watched it about a dozen times in a row), and the similarities between the two led me to go find the other two collaborations between Glover and Murai. Turns out, all three of his music videos from Because The Internet were directed by Murai: the previously mentioned Sweatpants, as well as Telegraph Ave and 3005.

They're all so beautiful, of course. Glover and Murai have a talent for narrative and visual presentation that is unparalleled. They're also wildly surreal, which is quite unexpected in the Telegraph Ave case!

Murai is also a director on Atlanta, although his episodes (in season 1) have not been the most memorable, even though they sort of provide the background spine of the show.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:00 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]


Whoops, I missed that they did Sober together also. These are all fucking great.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:08 PM on May 6


He plans to retire from music after this album.

He plans to retire from being Childish Gambino. I doubt he'll retire from music entirely.
posted by palomar at 9:52 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]


The topicality & quality of the art exceeds that of the music, I think, but perhaps I am just old.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:26 PM on May 6


Puzzled by the papers being thrown from atop the car

I believe that's money being shot from a cash cannon... a money gun.
posted by Mister Cheese at 10:52 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]


Lots of Twitter theories on the car symbolism ... Rodney King, LA riots, Philando Castle's 1997 Olds, maybe all of the above.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:00 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]


war, children
It's just a shot away
posted by eustatic at 11:12 PM on May 6 [4 favorites]


I just gave this another watch, and it deserves many, and noticed they went so far creating a specific look for the video that the corners of the video are subtly rounded to make it look like an old analog tv (or is there a more specific reference I don't know here?). It weirdly disappears for a moment as the camera pans around 2:25.
posted by zachlipton at 1:03 AM on May 7


Thanks for all the commentaries and walkthroughs, I missed a ton obviously.

(For me YouTube recommended following this video with Joyner's "I'm Not Racist", which, YouTube's raison d'être is after all to push my buttons any old way. Let's just say Joyner means well, bless his heart.)
posted by away for regrooving at 1:06 AM on May 7 [3 favorites]


I believe that's money being shot from a cash cannon... a money gun.

I'll have to watch it again; I thought they looked larger than bills. Contracts?
posted by thelonius at 2:50 AM on May 7


(For me YouTube recommended following this video with Joyner's "I'm Not Racist", which, YouTube's raison d'être is after all to push my buttons any old way. Let's just say Joyner means well, bless his heart.)

I got the same thing, and it's been bugging me all day. Damon Young's The Problem(s) With Joyner Lucas’ ‘I’m Not Racist,’ Explained does a good job discussing the problems with all lives mattering racism. The contrast between Gambino's video and Joyner's is so stark, and it's just eerie to have YouTube putting them together.
posted by zachlipton at 3:47 AM on May 7 [6 favorites]


After sharing this with some friends I am really struck that EVERYONE'S REACTION is they're watching it over and over and over again. Usually, there's a cool video and I watch it once, but what the actual fuck is this hypnotic element that I have to keep watching it?

Can we also have some love for the actual song? That cross-pollination of styles in the opening, the Prince/James Brownlike shift, the sudden darker addition of bass lines and drums? Forgetting the video, that is a seriously well-crafted story of a song.

Now back to the video and my twentysomethingth viewing---the look on his face at the end where he's running and running--that's a pretty fucking haunting image to be left with. Jesus.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:02 AM on May 7 [28 favorites]


That's the moment that really sticks with me: at the beginning of the running segment, the footage is underexposed so that all we can see is menacing teeth and eyes -- we're given a moment to experience the image as "dangerous black man", before he emerges from the hallway and we can see his actual expression, the eyes are wide with fear, not menace, he's running from, not to.

(Not to mention the additional layer of meaning, surely intentionally referenced here, that even color film is racist.)

The word "genius" gets thrown around way too easily these days, but daaaaaamn this is some quality workmanship
posted by ook at 7:08 AM on May 7 [24 favorites]


That's the moment that really sticks with me: at the beginning of the running segment, the footage is underexposed so that all we can see is menacing teeth and eyes -- we're given a moment to experience the image as "dangerous black man", before he emerges from the hallway and we can see his actual expression, the eyes are wide with fear, not menace, he's running from, not to.

My spouse pointed out to me that two scenes before this, he stops to smoke a joint. Slippin' up.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:18 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]


cazoo: "Teddy Perkins" has been the highlight for me this season.

Glover *better* get his second Actor in a Comedy (?!?!) Emmy in a row for "Teddy Perkins."

(The Emmys have really got to find a better way to categorize comedies and dramas that isn't based on whether they air for 30 minutes or 60 minutes.)
posted by tzikeh at 7:35 AM on May 7


(For me YouTube recommended following this video with Joyner's "I'm Not Racist", which, YouTube's raison d'être is after all to push my buttons any old way. Let's just say Joyner means well, bless his heart.)

I got the same thing


Same here, multiple times. Which seems weird, because usually the algorithm switches it up a little.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:52 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


(The Emmys have really got to find a better way to categorize comedies and dramas that isn't based on whether they air for 30 minutes or 60 minutes.)

When they laid down the 30/60 rule in 2015, they also established an appeals process that lets individual shows argue that they're a 30-minute drama or a 60-minute comedy. As Atlanta also competed in the Golden Globes as a comedy (the Globes only tone-police movies; TV shows are free to submit as comedy or drama as they wish), I suspect they didn't appeal to be a drama for Emmy consideration.
posted by Etrigan at 8:27 AM on May 7


I've watched this video like 5 times and I think it's really great. Mostly as agitprop, something very carefully crafted to evoke political emotions but without a specific narrative to analyze. People often use "agitprop" as a negative criticism but I think it's a really effective art form, particularly in this time.

I'm both old and largely ignorant of hip hop, so it was really helpful for me to read some Reddit discussion about mumble rap. The meter of the rap sections is pretty much directly a parody / imitation of Bad and Boujee by Migos. Not sure what that means, if anything, but for someone like me it helps to place this music in context.
posted by Nelson at 8:36 AM on May 7


Etrigan: When they laid down the 30/60 rule in 2015, they also established an appeals process that lets individual shows argue that they're a 30-minute drama or a 60-minute comedy.

Yeah, I know--what I'm saying is that there has to be a better way to delineate between comedy and drama than length of episode.
posted by tzikeh at 9:00 AM on May 7


A remarkable thing.

It's rare for 'commercial' media to swing for the fences (much less fly out of the park) but this does so so elegantly it made me think of Kara Walker or Amy Sherald.

I hope he makes more. I hope people keep talking.

That last image - jesus.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:10 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


How many times have I watched this and I *just* noticed the body falling from the second level onto a car. How did I not see that before?
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:39 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]


The people up on the second level made me think of tiers in a prison
posted by thelonius at 11:04 AM on May 7 [14 favorites]


One thing that I both love and vaguely worries me is that the song itself is a genuine banger. Much like the dance moves distracting from the horrors unfolding both in the fore and background, the song being as catchy as it is creates an odd (and probably deliberate) tension in my head about the message getting lost for the veneer.

What a great piece.
posted by slimepuppy at 12:10 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]


(Y'all must be used to much more violent stuff than me to not want a content warning. I suppose that's what I get for being descended from non-violent Mennonites.)
posted by clawsoon at 12:29 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Just noticed the cars at the end--their blinkers are on, doors are open, and they're empty. Something about that the drivers turned their blinkers on and were probably pulled out of their cars and you can guess that whatever happened next wasn't good.

But they put their blinkers on. They did the right thing.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:32 PM on May 7 [20 favorites]


This twitter thread is a good discussion about similarities to minstrel / Jim crow imagery and also the rider on a pale horse that I completely missed.

https://twitter.com/nicky_furiosa/status/993137469884420096?s=20

posted by sio42 at 12:33 PM on May 7


Clawsoon, with truly no criticism intended, my point re: content warnings was that the issues and situations and and reality portrayed in the video are the kind where the victims get no warning.
posted by PhineasGage at 12:36 PM on May 7 [5 favorites]


That's a fair point, PhineasGage. I guess I'm just used to Metafilter as a place where we generally try to be a bit gentler than reality often is, where we let people know when they're about to be hit by content about the horrific, traumatic parts of reality.

I see that I'm definitely in the minority on this one, though I'm not quite sure why. For most other depictions of horrific stuff, we do content warnings. Is it something about the victims that makes this one different? The performer? That it's a fictional description of horrific reality?
posted by clawsoon at 1:06 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


(I don't mean that as an argue-y question, and I apologize if it reads that way.)
posted by clawsoon at 1:17 PM on May 7


> For most other depictions of horrific stuff, we do content warnings. Is it something about the victims that makes this one different? The performer? That it's a fictional description of horrific reality?

It's because I don't often make FPPs and it literally didn't occur to me to add a content warning.
posted by komara at 1:21 PM on May 7 [7 favorites]


This twitter thread is a good discussion about similarities to minstrel / Jim crow imagery and also the rider on a pale horse that I completely missed.

That thread also led me to the choreographer, Sherrie Silver, who did amazing work and appears in the video.
posted by gladly at 1:28 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


yes I said yes I will Yes: "Can we also have some love for the actual song? That cross-pollination of styles in the opening, the Prince/James Brownlike shift, the sudden darker addition of bass lines and drums? Forgetting the video, that is a seriously well-crafted story of a song. "

I am.. unsure, to be honest. I watched the video first, and there is no doubt in my mind that Glover/Murai are amazing at visual composition and this is a great example of their best work together as far as I can tell. Listening to the song in the absence of the video is much different, however--there's no gunshots, for one, so the transitions are less drastic. I also think that without the video, the message of the song is really muddled (although this is me trying to reverse engineer having seen the video first). It's hard to even compare it to other songs in the same vein, because the lyrics here are so thin--all the feeling exists in the musical composition. You might compare Kendrick's XXX, which is maybe not fair because Kendrick is the gold standard of lyricality, but as a song, it exists as a powerful message without any video help.

Anyways, that's not to say I don't love the song for what it is, but I think for me all of the most interesting pieces here are visual.
posted by TypographicalError at 1:35 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


komara: It's because I don't often make FPPs and it literally didn't occur to me to add a content warning.

Usually everybody agrees there should be one and the mods add it, so don't worry about not adding it yourself.
posted by clawsoon at 1:49 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


It's very cool that Glover is using his platform for something like this. He's in a position to do literally anything he wants, and he chooses something that could easily have hurt him if it wasn't good, as opposed to something safer.
posted by cell divide at 3:34 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


We watched this in my advisory this morning. My co-teacher, a black man, was talking about watching Donald Glover's appearance on SNL and mentioned that "This is America" has just come out. After students showed interest, he asked the kids to look for messages in the video. I'm glad he did.

Hearing the kids was hard though. Still, time for me to just listen.
"Oh, I know a message, it's 'stop killing black people!' [sadder] Yeah."
"I think that man needs a hug."
"Why isn't he wearing a shirt?" "Slavery."
"They're running from the police."
"There was a church shooting. And a school shooting. And that guy he shot in the head."
"I heard them all. There was so much in the video!"
posted by wiskunde at 4:05 PM on May 7 [7 favorites]


I keep noticing new things. Like at one point there are young black kids in the background on beams wearing hoodies and holding cellphones recording the violence that has just happened below them. And wow. I keep seeing more and more.
posted by Fizz at 4:07 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


"The truth is that this video, and what it suggests about its artist, is very difficult. A lot of black people hate it. Glover forces us to relive public traumas and barely gives us a second to breathe before he forces us to dance. There is an inescapable disdain sewn into fabric of “This Is America.” The very fact that the dance scenes are already being chopped into fun little GIFs online, divorcing them from the video’s brutality, only serves to prove his point." Doreen St. Félix, The Carnage and Chaos of Childish Gambino’s “This Is America" (The New Yorker).
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:00 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


wiskunde, how old are those kids?
posted by AFABulous at 7:08 PM on May 7


I don't really know how much white people even matter to this video.

First he shoots blues/protest music black guy, then he guns down an entire black gospel choir -- it's like an allegory of what's happening in black music, where rap is killing off some of the other genres, and fostering 'gangsta' culture in the hood. I suppose "Gambino" is a gangster reference?

I didn't catch any allusions to jazz or pop.

And I thought the Guardian article, where I saw this, showed a still with somebody on the upper level in a cop uniform watching the whole thing with their hands clasped, as if intervening was not remotely likely; maybe that was a reference to white society, which could give a shit about violence in the black community as long as black people are only killing each other.

And then at the end, the hood has had enough and is coming for him, and I have never seen a final sequence as good as that in my life.
posted by jamjam at 7:30 PM on May 7


AFABulous, 13-14 years old. Old enough, especially with what some of them have to deal with on a regular basis.

Edited to add: our students are regularly given choice in how to engage with difficult material, including avoiding triggers.
posted by wiskunde at 7:33 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


I've been watching this video on and off all day and trying to take in all the commentary. I wish I had more to contribute. I'm going to keep watching and reading.

I am curious if the end brought to mind Michael Jackson dancing on top of cars in the extended version of his Black or White video (1991 - cued to the moment and noisy) for anyone else. I started this comment earlier and decided to let it marinate for awhile before posting it because it feels like a reach when I watch them side by side. But then I got in my car to run errands and turned on the radio... and the song Black or White started playing, which I can't recall having heard over the air in years and years. And it was coincidence enough that I felt like sharing this thought after all.

This video is going to be on my mind for a long time.
posted by juliplease at 7:46 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


jamjam - the choir was a reference to the Charleston church shooting.
posted by AFABulous at 7:52 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


I don't really know how much white people even matter to this video.

First he shoots blues/protest music black guy, then he guns down an entire black gospel choir -- it's like an allegory of what's happening in black music, where rap is killing off some of the other genres, and fostering 'gangsta' culture in the hood. I suppose "Gambino" is a gangster reference?

gunning down the choir is a pretty blatant reference to the Charleston church shooting. also consider how after both shootings the gun is tenderly placed onto red silk, while black bodies are left to bleed out on the ground. consider all the allusions to police violence, like the warehouse full of empty cars with blinkers on and the driver's side door open. this video is filled with references to race relations in America. watch it again.

also dude's been going by childish gambino for like a decade, this is like trying to interpret how steely dan's name effects the meaning of Hey Nineteen.

I didn't catch any allusions to jazz or pop.

don't see much jazz but the song itself is heavily influenced by trends in black pop music. the summery lyrics and african inspired backing vocals of the first section, the gospel tinged section between the two verses, and the end where those two parts are combined with a beat to make it all danceable, this is a synthesis of a few different trends. (all of that aside, given the success of trap on the charts you could argue that it's the dominant form of pop music today).

And then at the end, the hood has had enough and is coming for him,

you see the hood, i see white america
posted by JimBennett at 7:54 PM on May 7 [21 favorites]


jamjam: I suppose "Gambino" is a gangster reference?

No; he got the name when he was in college and he and his friends were playing with the Wu-Tang Clan name generator. That's the whole story of the name.
posted by tzikeh at 8:06 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


jamjam: And then at the end, the hood has had enough and is coming for him, and I have never seen a final sequence as good as that in my life.

The people chasing after him in the final shot are white.
posted by tzikeh at 8:09 PM on May 7 [12 favorites]


> the hood has had enough and is coming for him

You'll have to pardon me if I'm wrong, since I've only watched this thing like a dozen times, but I'm like ... absolutely sure that the makeup of the group that's running after him is 100% white.
posted by komara at 8:09 PM on May 7 [7 favorites]


> I thought the Guardian article, where I saw this, showed a still with somebody on the upper level in a cop uniform watching the whole thing with their hands clasped

Also, I should keep a running list of what people thought they saw in this video. There's no cop on the upper level. Someone mentioned school children being gunned down - there are no school children being shot. Someone mentioned the guns being deposited into red silk - red cloth, sure, but to escalate it to silk says a lot about what the viewer wanted to see.
posted by komara at 8:13 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


I'm having a visceral reaction from having watched this.

I'm not complaining, but it's more intense than I might have anticipated.

The Janelle comparisons are apt. Do we get more? Please, Mr. Glover?
posted by hippybear at 8:59 PM on May 7


So, the ending... am i doing this wrong, but he finds weed instead of guns and it leads to him being joyous instead of (to say it mildly) difficult but the he finds all of the white power system chasing after him?

Like, those are the images I see. Am I being too literal?
posted by hippybear at 9:11 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


but he finds weed instead of guns

Since it's about America, it might be a commentary on the legalization/normalization of weed happening before we really do anything about gun violence. On an individual level, it might be about Glover's participation in being distracted. I see the ending sequence as somewhat separate from the rest. We see Gambino in fear of the people chasing him. Could be they represent white supremacy. This might be a bit too meta, but the only other time I can recall Gambino desperately running is during Bonfire, where he wakes up with a noose around his neck. The meaning of that video involves desegregation, and the loss of knowledge of its history. Glover consistently points out that we're paying attention to the wrong thing, or clapping for the wrong reasons.

I wonder how much of the end sequence we see is actually a depiction of Glover. Glover may have fame and money through comedy and Gambino, but he's still running in fear. This is America because it's not abstract for Glover.
posted by Mister Cheese at 12:26 AM on May 8


The two points/ things that I've thought about most (after watching... many times) are
1. he says "This is Guerrilla War" but "War" is bleeped out. And I find that curious. What, was _that_ too inflammatory?

2. the image at 2:49 (arms outstretched, holding an imaginary gun - there's a long silence there) is a reference to... ? A visual reference to... it's killing me but I know I've seen that image before and I can't put my finger on it. (Like the pose he strikes when he shoots the guitar player, read somewhere that it's an evocation of minstrelsy : get it, got it. - but what's this image at 2:49?)
posted by From Bklyn at 12:52 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]


For me (white middle-aged Aussie lady, as context), the key to the whole thing is the line “you’re just a barcode”. From slavery onwards, African-Americans have been treated as a marketable commodity. So to me the dancing and thug lyrics being juxtaposed against riots and police brutality are about the limited options for survival in a violent system where white people dehumanise you as a matter of course. Your joyful resistance and art will be trimmed down and made safe for consumption, and so will your crimes, and here’s another viral gif of dancing or shooting for you to enjoy for a few seconds. I know some people see it as Glover criticising black culture, but I think he shows his own guilt and complicity plus an understanding that people will survive in any way they can. Compassion rather than criticism (I hope).

I’m conscious that my interpretation is that of an outsider, but I feel like maybe that’s more relevant than usual since Glover is the kind of black artist who gets the approval and attention of a large white audience. Unlike Lemonade, which was so clearly for black women without excluding anyone else who might be interested, I feel like Glover is talking to his white audience here. He’s shucking and jiving for us and it’s terrifying to him - what happens if he stops doing that? The zoom out from him on top of the car looks very much like the entire clip up to that point was happening in the Sunken Place, with the chase at the end being an attempt to escape. I don’t know. It just feels to me more like an indictment of white liberals than anyone else.

The fact that the meaning isn’t immediately obvious but we all bring our own history and cultural references to the video just proves that it’s art.
posted by harriet vane at 2:01 AM on May 8 [20 favorites]


It keeps getting better.

At 2:45, he stops singing, the music stops and it's silent.

The choir begins at 3:02.

That's seventeen seconds. Seventeen kids were murdered at Parkland.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:28 AM on May 8 [17 favorites]


1. he says "This is Guerrilla War" but "War" is bleeped out. And I find that curious. What, was _that_ too inflammatory?

Pretty sure he's saying "This is Guerrila shit."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:59 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]


> 1. he says "This is Guerrilla War" but "War" is bleeped out.

I don't hear anything being actually bleeped or dropped out, in either the video or the actual track (which doesn't have any of the sound effects (gun shots etc) from the video. I mean yeah there's a [woo!] there where the word would/could be, but I don't think it's being censored. I do think PhoBWanKenobi is right and based on the rhyme the word is 'shit' but it's deliberately omitted.

Yeah, yeah, I'ma go into this (ugh)
Yeah, yeah, this is guerilla (woo)
Yeah, yeah, I'ma go get the bag
Yeah, yeah, or I'ma get the pad

so did he just deliberately omit the word to keep it radio friendly? Is it just a fun trick to make us hear 'shit' without him saying it and it has nothing to do with anything but that?
posted by komara at 7:01 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]


Great commentary in this reaction video from George and Ryan of Lost in Vegas.
posted by vverse23 at 8:50 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]


I came across an interesting interview with Sherrie Silver: The Story Behind Childish Gambino's Symbolic "This Is America" Dance Choreography
There are a lot of dark themes in it, so they wanted us to be the light of the video. You know how kids are innocent and kind of unaware of what's going on? We were there to smile and bring joy to everyone watching it, because the background is bringing so much darkness and reality. I've seen a lot of people online referring to us as "the distraction," which I find quite interesting. That's why I loved being a part of this particular project, because a lot of people comment, "Completely ignore the dancers and Donald and watch what's in the background." You know, there are two completely different worlds in one scene. Or, three different worlds actually. It's amazing.
posted by zachlipton at 3:48 PM on May 8 [9 favorites]




The pants Glover is wearing are the standard pants for a Confederate soldier.

Jesus.
posted by tzikeh at 8:16 PM on May 8 [18 favorites]


The pants Glover is wearing are the standard pants for a Confederate soldier.

Secondary to this, it's amazing to watch how the internet is revitalizing media analysis and criticism. That stuff we used to do in English classes, close reading of texts and arguing about symbolism and references, that's now being done on a massive scale within minutes of a new work appearing. And creators are rewarded for it and start putting in more and more depth because they know people will pick over every little detail and every reference, no matter how obscure, will be contextualized.

I was acutely aware of this when the Hamilton cast album came out (and, really, with the Harry Potter fandom before that). People were pouring over the thing saying "hey are these five notes in the bassline a callback to this thing from an hour before which is itself a reference to a hip hop song?"

For all the time I spent sitting in high school English wondering why just so much time was spent honing our literary analysis skills, I never considered it would be crowdsourced.
posted by zachlipton at 8:55 PM on May 8 [24 favorites]




I really enjoyed the commentary reaction video from Lost Vegas. I disagree with just one of their interpretations, which was about the scene where Gambino draws out an 'invisible' gun (before he lights up the joint). Their take was that he's going through some introspection/regret. Maybe.

But I noticed that the crowd flees the scene away from him screaming. Also note that this is the third time a gun (albeit just an imaginary one) is drawn, which reminded me of someone's earlier comment about things coming in three's. My take is that this is about how society now sees guns everywhere, even if they are not there, especially if it's a black man.
posted by like_neon at 2:11 AM on May 9 [12 favorites]


Or rather, America only sees guns as a danger in the hands of a black man, even when he doesn't have them. The real guns that inflict terror and murder are unexpected and treated with care.
posted by like_neon at 2:13 AM on May 9 [5 favorites]




My interpretation of the gun violence is that he's actually representing white violence on black bodies- the first two times the gun appears out of nowhere (did they digitally erase the prop guy handing it to him, or was it always there?), and black bodies are dragged away without comment. It is only after the camera moves with him away (and he "gets away") do the cops and helpers swarm the gospel scene. The only time people react to a "weapon" is when he pulls out his hand, then gets a joint. So white men can perform lynches, mass executions, and shootings and get away/come out alive, but a black man/child holding a cigarette/phone/toy is a threat.

It's heavy stuff that is explicitly belied by the pop music and joyful dancing, and definitely looks like a statement on white america telling african americans to just "get over" their grievances.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 8:27 AM on May 9 [5 favorites]


the first two times the gun appears out of nowhere (did they digitally erase the prop guy handing it to him, or was it always there?),

The first time, he had it tucked in his waistband. The second time, it was thrown to him by someone offscreen.

So white men can perform lynches, mass executions, and shootings and get away/come out alive, but a black man/child holding a cigarette/phone/toy is a threat.

This was my interpretation as well.
posted by AFABulous at 9:18 AM on May 9


The first time, he had it tucked in his waistband. The second time, it was thrown to him by someone offscreen.

Yeah, but you see his back in the beginning of the video and there's no gun there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:22 AM on May 9 [2 favorites]


E! caught up with Glover on the red carpet of the 2018 Met Gala and asked the artist behind Childish Gambino what his intentions were when writing “This Is America” and filming its instant-classic music video. Glover responded with self-aware and politically-charged misdirection: “I just wanted to make, you know, a good song. Something people could play on Fourth of July.”
-- Indiewire (several links to other very good pieces about the video at the source)
posted by tzikeh at 7:11 PM on May 9 [6 favorites]


The New York Times goes all MetaFilter on us and puts up a collection of links to thinkpieces about "This is America" with quotes and descriptions, titled ‘This Is America’: 8 Things to Read About Childish Gambino’s New Music Video. Links include Dazed, The Root, and Vanity Fair.
posted by tzikeh at 7:25 PM on May 9


The more I watch it the more I think he’s leading the “good” kids (smiling, dancing, educated) through a violent landscape like a Pied Piper leading them to a different type of danger than the one they’re escaping. To be successful in a white world means you must sell out your values or lose authenticity or compromise your vision, and it still doesn’t guarantee your physical safety anyway.
posted by harriet vane at 11:21 PM on May 9 [6 favorites]


My interpretation of the gun violence is that he's actually representing white violence on black bodies-

YES. Thank you. When someone makes a "finger gun" gesture, we don't understand them to be literally suggesting they killed with their bare hands. Likewise, when Gambino makes a very heavy reference to a specific instance of white terrorism, despite being himself a black man, it is not reasonable to interpret it as some sort of reference to "black on black crime."

Think bigger and give him more credit.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 7:06 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


Also, I fucking love that Disney is stuck with Glover throughout the entire Solo movie promo tour. He knew exactly what he was doing with this release schedule (even posting the video literally during his SNL performance - !) and I just... I could not have more respect. Amazing.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 7:11 PM on May 10 [17 favorites]


When someone makes a "finger gun" gesture, we don't understand them to be literally suggesting they killed with their bare hands. Likewise, when Gambino makes a very heavy reference to a specific instance of white terrorism, despite being himself a black man, it is not reasonable to interpret it as some sort of reference to "black on black crime."

Think bigger and give him more credit.


I'd go even further and suggest that the 'This' in "This Is America" points to a shifting roster of referents, one of which is the notion of being a black person in the US, and so when Donald Glover himself does the shooting he's not so much acting as Childish Gambino but as an embodiment of the fact that black people in the US are exposed to many pathologies of white people that white people themselves are not subject to and not even aware of. I don't think it's a stretch, there's so much in this video to suggest that Donald Glover is not presenting entirely as Childish Gambino over the course of what happens. It's really masterful.
posted by invitapriore at 8:29 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


And yeah he's so obviously in control of his meaning here that I assume that any reading I glean from the video is something he's already considered, especially in light of how dense it is and how much only comes out after multiple viewings.
posted by invitapriore at 8:31 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


His pants being confederate uniform pants.

Wow.

I thought it was just my imagination but right away I thought they looked familiar and like 1800s pants bc I've spent far too much time watching period dramas and looking at old photos. Figured maybe it was a reference to slavery as others have mentioned above.

But to be actual confederate pants. Jesus.
posted by sio42 at 11:01 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Oh no. I just saw the first meme, him dancing on the car set to I wanna dance with somebody.

I am a bit queasy. It makes his entire point so well. (I didn't watch it... It had a caption)
posted by sio42 at 2:05 PM on May 11






So apparently people are starting to make parodies of the video where they dub in other songs over it and posting them on Twitter and I want to beat them about the head.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


It's been a week and I still can't get this out of my head. Link round-up:

YouTuber Kid Travis records a cover of "This is America" that sounds both more upbeat and somehow even sadder at the same . Other good covers: acoustic guitar + bass really accentuate the minimalist tune - Japanese guitarist MIYAVI is inspired by the track's chaotic energy - Cat piano (interesting interpretation, I'll admit)

College Kids React to "This is America" - especially interesting because one of the regular "Reactors", Will, is also one of Childish Donald Mr. Glover's back-up dancers in the video. (Also apparently all the React video people know each other irl? It's kind of adorable.) Will also gives some behind-the-scenes insights, including Glover's sincere concern for the well-being of the kids on set. (Plus, the horse was very professional.)

Glover on the meaning of it all:
"Can you explain what's happening at the end of that video?"

"...no."
posted by Rhaomi at 9:57 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "So apparently people are starting to make parodies of the video where they dub in other songs over it and posting them on Twitter and I want to beat them about the head."

If you're talking about the mash-up with "Call Me Maybe" (which syncs up to the point of being creepy), it's interesting to note that the uploader started backpedelling almost immediately, editing the description to say: "I just want to make this clear, my intentions weren't to be disrespectful to the message of the song. There's some very messed up things going on in America right now, racism wise. There's no denying it. This is just a shitpost that spiraled out of control. I made it in 30 minutes and posted it to have a laugh with my friends." Still not great, but better than the "lol get triggered libz" you usually see.

What gets me are the image macro memes, which just don't work at all. They're clearly inspired by the Eric Andre/Hannibal Buress meme that was popular the last few weeks, but the context here is just so viscerally awful and horrifying that it overwhelms whatever sarcastic point the text labels try to make.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:14 PM on May 13


Boy, this was… really affecting. On some level I kind of feel like not having a content warning on the FPP makes it much more effective, and that putting one on there would undermine a lot of the impact.

Also, put me in the column of "this is America" being meant as a threat/warning.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:00 PM on May 13


If you're talking about the mash-up with "Call Me Maybe"

I've been thinking about this a bunch, after watching it entirely too many times, and it's kind of fascinating at a meta level. There's obviously a whole discussion to be had as to the appropriateness of the mash-up and how it fits with the song's message about the impacts of media on society. There are so many ways in which, yeah, it's very much inappropriate and wrong to be doing this. But just musically and visually, it's an amazing demonstration of how "This is America" works. The song subverts all the building blocks and structure of a pop hit, but this kind of mash-up shows just how much the video is using those familiar elements even as it comments on them.
posted by zachlipton at 12:01 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Dead End Hip Hop did an extended conversation video talking about This Is America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tldwDd1dcnc

It's nearly 40 minutes long but very worthwhile, their conversational format works even better on something like this than on album reviews. Touches on a lot of what's been discussed here.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 1:37 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


If you're talking about the mash-up with "Call Me Maybe"

there are others
posted by thelonius at 4:28 AM on May 14


I find the notion of "appropriateness" problematic. That mindset usually ends in tears for humanism, pluralism, and progressivism.
posted by PhineasGage at 5:48 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I find the notion of "appropriateness" problematic. That mindset usually ends in tears for humanism, pluralism, and progressivism.

Okay, then, can you explain to what purpose mememing this actually serves? We know what the artistic statement is that Donald Glover was making; can you point to an artistic purpose that is being served by the applying of a different song to this video?

Because the only statement I can draw from someone undertaking such an act is "look at me, I'm so clever". And that's the kind of approach an eight-year-old takes when the grownups are all talking and they feel like they need to be the center of attention. These people see all the attention being paid to the video and are jumping into the middle of the discussion like a child saying "look at me!"

The issues Glover wants to discuss are far too important to be interrupted or co-opted by a child wanting attention. "Appropriateness" in this case isn't about humanism and pluralism, it is about respect.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I think those mashups and memes are dopey, too. But placing oneself in the role of arbiter of what types of creative expression should and should not be permitted isn't cool. So what if the meme and video creators aren't "respecting" Glover's video? Their "purpose" is entirely up to them, as it should be.
posted by PhineasGage at 7:07 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


But placing oneself in the role of arbiter of what types of creative expression should and should not be permitted isn't cool.

How is expressing a negative opinion “placing oneself in the role of arbiter”? No-one here has the authority to permit or forbid stupid mashups, but we’re allowed to say “holy crap that’s tone-deaf” if we feel like it. Freedom of expression goes both ways.
posted by harriet vane at 7:29 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]




I'm grateful to the dumb Call Me Maybe mashup because it got me to pay more attention to Glover's movements, ignoring the music. Watching the video on mute would probably have the same effect.

Anyway, I have a new-found appreciation for how grotesque the choreography is. He's moving in deliberately uncomfortable and exaggerated ways in a way that contributes to the overall unsettling nature of the video. Maybe obvious in hindsight, but you don't see grotesquery in contemporary music videos very often.
posted by Nelson at 7:44 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


But placing oneself in the role of arbiter of what types of creative expression should and should not be permitted isn't cool.

And that is exactly why i said "I want to kick them in the head" rather than "they should be arrested for posting that". Well, that and the fact that I am not in a position in which to arrest them what with the Constitution and all. The same Constitution that gives me the right to say "I want to kick them in the head", by the way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 AM on May 14


I said nothing about censorship, which we clearly agree is an act of government.

The issues Glover wants to discuss are far too important to be interrupted or co-opted by a child wanting attention. "Appropriateness" in this case isn't about humanism and pluralism, it is about respect.

The mindset of demanding "appropriateness" and "respect" is the same that prompted outrage at Abbie Hoffman for wearing a flag shirt, at Andres Serrano for creating "Piss Christ," at Chris Ofili for his elephant-dung appliqued "The Holy Virgin of Mary," and at satires of all kinds (inane or astute), as well as (most recently) at Colin Kaepernick and others taking a knee during the singing of the national anthem. Each of these situations is of course different, but all stem from a "How dare you!?" mindset directed at someone else.

Yup, anyone is entitled to say "I hate that mashup, because it doesn't respect Donald Glover/the views his video is communicating" and I'm entitled to say "That's a dangerous mindset from either Left or Right, which directly threatens the values of individual free expression that those of us on the Left hold dear."
posted by PhineasGage at 9:19 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


The mindset of demanding "appropriateness" and "respect" is the same that prompted outrage at Abbie Hoffman for wearing a flag shirt, at Andres Serrano for creating "Piss Christ," at Chris Ofili for his elephant-dung appliqued "The Holy Virgin of Mary," and at satires of all kinds (inane or astute), as well as (most recently) at Colin Kaepernick and others taking a knee during the singing of the national anthem.

They aren't, actually, but I'll leave you to think that since clearly nothing I say is going to convince you otherwise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:50 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Anyway, I have a new-found appreciation for how grotesque the choreography is. He's moving in deliberately uncomfortable and exaggerated ways in a way that contributes to the overall unsettling nature of the video. Maybe obvious in hindsight, but you don't see grotesquery in contemporary music videos very often.

I keep thinking of a marionette, his body jerked around in these awkward, unreal ways, sometimes sensual, sometimes acrobatic, the movements of the body not quite matching the eyes -- I took it as a commentary on white people enjoying the commercial products of being black in America, that American racism and culture limits the ways in which black people can be successful and he is demonstrating that split, and the accompanying pressure, with his body and eyes. He is literally jerked around.

At a couple of points if you listen to the music alone, he delivers lines similarly -- a few sound intentionally flat, as if he is quoting someone, bored. It's fascinating as an auditory work of art also.

The amount of pressure going on in this video is hard to sit with which makes it especially fascinating that so many (me too) are watching the video over and over. One of the comments on the YouTube video with 121 million views said something like, 'Look, I admit it. 100 million of those views are just me.'

Words like pressure and stress seem too small for what I want them to mean here -- a crushing struggle that seems half about bare survival and half about what it means to be a creative person under those circumstances. I still can't articulate it.

I could talk about this video for days.

It is so joyful, no matter how 'challenging' a piece of art, to see a fellow human and fellow humans create something drop-dead-stop-the-presses-lets-all-watch-again gorgeous.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:47 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


I know it was eons ago, but I think starting with Lemonade and continuing through this and Dirty Computer and other works we've reached a new renaissance although I don't know how many people who are white are noticing it.

I'm noticing, and I find it joyous.
posted by hippybear at 10:52 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]


(clarifier -- I find the expression and the depth of art in the expression joyous. I don't always find the subject matter joyous.)
posted by hippybear at 10:53 PM on May 15


Great point, hippybear. I was at a large gathering of an extended family last night: mixed Anglo, Asian, Jewish; gay, lesbian & straight; most of the adults working in medicine and other helping professions; all politically progressive and active; the teens attending a high school that is as woke as can be. And yet none of them had seen a single episode of "Atlanta" ("oh, yeah, I have heard it's great"), none of the adults had even heard of "This Is America," and none of the teens had seen it yet ("oh, yeah, I have heard it's great"). It was a reminder that not everyone is as marinated in internet culture as we are...
posted by PhineasGage at 4:37 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Ok, but also, does anyone think Donald Glover made a piece of art in music video form designed to critique the very process by which works of black art are broken down, ripped apart, and sanitized for white consumption with the expectation that this video would be the one thing ever on this planet that doesn’t get that treatment?

Of course not. He knew — everyone involved knew — that this video wouldn’t be treated any differently. A music video is never going to be locked behind glass at a museum. They knew it would be cannibalized in the exact same way everything else is.

So they made something that critiques that same process. It’s part of it, I guess. It doesn’t excuse the people who are making shitty mash ups; it brings them into the piece. This is the one thing they can’t steal, because every time they use it to make something stupid or something silly or something bland and drained of life, they’re making Glover’s point all over again.

It’s like a poison pill. I love it so much.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:44 AM on May 16 [8 favorites]


and I guess the more important thing is: now we see it. We see it for what it is. We’re having this conversations about mash ups and stolen art and respect and minstrelsy because of the original video. No mash up will be seen the same way now.

It’s brilliant.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:46 AM on May 16 [7 favorites]


Today the thing that is captivating me about this video is how we are culpable within the first minute.

Watching some of the reaction videos (which is a fun new way to consume the consumers and consumption of art! Not kidding, I actually like it.) I'm struck by how many people are grooving in the beginning, listening to the music. It's a soothing, nice little ditty for about fifty seconds. It's what we are used to. It shifts a little, the guitar comes in, we all relax. Sure, he's doing some weird shit with his face, but we all understand the territory. We are not expecting any further questions.

And then...then he shoots the guy, and we're complicit because we were enjoying this trite little number and ready to believe that was the entirety of it -- if the song was 'we just like to party, party all day long' nobody would be surprised. Sure. Why not?

So there is a song within a song that sets the stage for the emotional involvement in the larger piece and it *traps* the watcher, which is interesting on several levels but also underscores the claustrophobic atmosphere of the whole thing, despite apparently taking place in an airplane hangar.

That lack of freedom of movement, the feeling of being panicked and stuck, comes up again with the repetitive drumming of grandma told me, get your money. Black man. Get your money. Black man. All delivered like electric shocks are being intermittently administered, or between the blows of a beating.

I'm grateful to Donald Glover and all of the people who had a hand in putting this together because I just really need to see people get together and do things that are good and important. I need to know there are people still putting things together because they are good and important, not just people dismantling things that are good and important, because that is what I see everywhere else.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:21 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]


Rather late to the thread but I saw this come up on MTV in a restaurant and I was thinking "uh..."

It cut to a black screen for the choir.
posted by solarion at 2:29 AM on June 5 [2 favorites]


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