The Catalyst

This is America

Holly Rooney, Staff Writer

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Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, has caught the eye of many after the release of his new music video. Stirring up social media, the video for his new song “This is America” has put him in the limelight with its stunning and intense scenes.

The song made its debut on May 5th, when Glover made an appearance on Saturday Night Live. The song shocks the audience as it clearly draws to touchy political topics like gun violence, racism and the Black Lives Matter Movement.

During the delivery of his SNL performance, Glover stands excessively stiff in a paralyzed manner as he opens the song.  Around him, there are blue and red lights flashing to simulate police lights. This performance symbolically expressed his views on the behavior African Americans have to follow around law enforcement in order to avoid cop brutality.

The performance received positive feedback from that night’s audience, but it wasn’t until the music video was released on Sunday, May 6th, that everyone took notice of the new single.

Though his SNL performance was powerful, the video was able to deepen the meaning of Glover’s lyrics and give the audience a shockingly blunt visual packed with different allusions and symbolism. As of Thursday, May 10th, the single is #1 on iTunes and on YouTube, the music video is #23 on trending with up to 62 million views which is steadily climbing every day.

Set in a warehouse, the opening scene starts with an African American man sitting in a chair, masked, giving him no identity. Glover, wearing pants that resemble old confederate pants, dances his way over behind him, pulls a gun and shoots him in the back of the head with no hesitation. Due to the mask, the man will become just another victim of African American violence — a statistic. Before shooting the man, Glover holds a position that closely resembles an old Jim Crow poster.

After the horrifying and surprising scene, the upbeat background singing shifted to a more dramatic and serious tone, with the first lyric being “This is America.”

As the video progresses, the camera never breaks its focus off of Glover and his dance moves, but viewers can see that there is chaos in the background. People are fleeing in a panic and dancing on top of cars in a riot-like manner. America is focused on the flashy entertainment and not the underlying background issues.

The people running in the background all appear to be African American, while the policemen chasing them seem to be white. Yet another example Glover includes to highlight the Black Lives Matter Movement and racial discrepancy between African Americans and law enforcement.

Progressing through the video, young teens dressed in school uniforms join Glover and dance around him. By utilizing these teens in the video, Glover draws attention to the recent destructiveness and violence in America that teens are being exposed to within schools.

Later in the video, the music changes back to the original upbeat tune. The camera pans to a church choir. Glover stands in front of them and from out of nowhere, he is tossed a large automatic gun, symbolizing how easily Americans can access guns in this country. He quickly spins around, opening fire on the choir members who instantly drop to the floor. This surprising and intense scene creates an allusion to the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Towards the end of the video, Glover is dancing with the students. Suddenly, he holds his arms out like he’s holding a fake gun and the students scatter. Slowly, he puts it back down which viewers can interpret as a representation to stop the violence. The upbeat music returns and Glover freely dances on top of a car, symbolizing that happiness and peace returned to America.

The video fades black with only a drum beat remaining. Viewers think the video is over, but it pans up to a scene of Glover, with a genuinely scared expression on his face, running wildly from what appears to be multiple police officers. Viewers realize the drum beat was simulating a heartbeat. The scene again fades to black and Glover ends the music video on that powerful, symbolic scene.

Viewers are left contemplating Glover’s reasoning for including all the purposeful chaos in his video and drawing attention to these current political issues. Such shockingly intense and brutal scenes have grabbed the attention of Americans and pushes the audience to look at these issues from a different point of view, achieving Glover’s goal.

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