This is America.
I get a lot of flak for having the Daily Mail as my number one news source and granted there isn’t much on there that would spark any sort of serious conversation at the office on a Monday morning. But when it came to my turn for FIMO – you can imagine my delight when there was something published on the Daily Mail actually worth talking about.
This is America.
This is America is the newest single by multi-talented American actor, comedian, writer, director, record producer, singer, songwriter, rapper and DJ; Childish Gambino – real name Donald Glover. He’s everything AND the kitchen sink. And he’s got a lot on his mind.
His newest single – thought provoking as it is – comes to life in an even more intense music video. It’s loaded with haunting images of black oppression and highlights some other pressing issues in the media today, like gun control and suicide. Seems like a pretty heavy subject matter for a four minute video – it is – but it’s so amazingly offset by its entertainment factor; clever cinematography, genius composition and breakout dance routines. Even the most politically daft can appreciate such CRAFT.
There’s a strategy to it. We’re so entertained by the stylish composition that we don’t notice some of the big issues being portrayed. Just like real life. Childish Gambino has eloquently woven hidden messages throughout This is America so the video merits not just one watch but many to catch all of its hidden gems.
Here are just a few of my favourites:
Jim Crow Era.
It’s hard not to notice Childish Gambino’s funny faces or interesting disjointed poses he strikes throughout the video – particularly how he points and shoots the gun in the opening scene. There’s history in his mannerisms. They’re based on the dehumanising, grotesque and cartoonish way African Americans used to be portrayed to white audiences in the 1800s. Jim Crow was a caricature of a clumsy, dim-witted black slave, played by white actor Thomas Dartmouth who covered his face with charcoal to resemble a black man. Not so obvious at first, this is a blatant reminder that not much has changed in terms of the way African Americans are treated in America today.
America’s gun obsession.
Every time Childish Gambino fires a gun, he hands it off to someone who delicately whisks it away in a red cloth. Not moments later a dead body gets dragged off frame without any remorse. This juxtaposition is an obvious sign of America’s willingness to protect gun rights over people.
There’s been a noticeable increase in youth suicide and mental illness in the last decade, with the introduction of social media. Yet with all of the open conversation going on, we are blind to the fact that it is still happening and being largely ignored in the African American community. 2:13 into the video, a man jumps to his death, which goes largely unnoticed because simultaneously, Childish Gambino starts up a mesmerising dance routine. It shows how there’s no interest in suicide in America, yet total appeal when it comes to the latest dance trend surely to make its way to dance floors all around the world.
After a few watches, you start to discover more and more. It’s entertaining, it’s haunting, it’s a wake up call. What Childish Gambino did with this four minutes, Kanye’s been (unsuccessfully) trying to do over the past four years. Some are even going as far as to say that Donald Glover is the most influential voice of this generation.
I wonder what Kanye thinks about This is America? That’s another day, another FIMO and another sneaky trip to Daily Mail.