Childish Gambino’s beautiful, disturbing “This is America” music video depicting gun violence and the African-American experience has gone hyperviral. Via the Guardian:
Try, if you can, to watch This Is America, the new music video from Childish Gambino, while keeping your eyes off the man in the camera’s gaze. It’s not easy. You may have to watch it twice, maybe three times, probably more. In the clip, Childish Gambino is a dancing, running, alternately homicidal and joyous streak of shirtless charisma. Your eyes want to follow him, soak him in. But if you do, you’ll miss the point he seems to be making in the video, an enigmatic and provocative effort that has accumulated over 74m YouTube views and hundreds of thinkpieces in the six days since its release.
While Childish Gambino is surely the star – playing the role some have suggested is America itself – viewed in context of the background action, the video is dizzying, hypnotic treatise on racism, gun violence, joy, spirituality, hip-hop and entertainment in the United States. Its symbolism has been linked to Jim Crow, Michael Jackson and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. YouTube videos investigating these Easter eggs have more views than many actual music videos.
Since debuting This Is America during last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live – for which he served as host and musical guest – Glover has refused to reveal the video’s message, telling TMZ “that’s not for me to say.” What’s certain is that This Is America is a brilliant, career-defining moment.
“This is one of the great performers in modern America,” says TV host Touré, whose books include 2012’s Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? “He’s showing a really interesting ability to do soul music, television, movies, comedy and drama and to make art that has political substance, but not so much that it becomes propagandist or preachy.”
This Is America has dared us to decide what to make of it. The video’s background action commences immediately after the video hits it pivot point: Childish Gambino pulling a gun from his pants and shooting a hooded man in the back of the head, execution style. This is when he declares the song’s guiding principle: “This is America.”