Sola
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10 months

So there's this video on the next page. If you aren't one of the 60 million + views on YouTube, have a look. The rest of the card will discuss it without spoiler warnings. So maybe it helps to spend the ~5 minutes watching it (it's violent) I included a TL;DR on the last page, in case the commentary is too long winded.

Photo #1 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) is an American rapper, actor, comedian, etc. He's 34. Born in California, educated at NYU (New York University).

Photo #2 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

He's known for his work on TV shows *Community and Atlanta He's released several rap albums to mixed reviews, but has gained steady popularity over the past decade.

Back to the video. (I'm going to provide source links* in the comments in case you're curious about something. I'll add more if I feel up to it.)

Photo #3 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

There are so many layers to this video.

And they are flying around because Gambino has yet to really comment on it. (Art by Geo Law)

Most of the interpretations from various sources overlap. Here are some examples of where they overlap most frequently:

(1) Gambino is attempting to comment on the place that black culture, particularly hip hop, has in America

Photo #4 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

The worldwide consumption of American black culture is an outstanding phenomenon. Dress, slang, music, and dance have extended to the far corners of the planet, often at a disconnect to its origin.

Photo #5 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

In any case, it is, at it's core, entertainment. And like all entertainment, it is a distraction from "reality".

Photo #6 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

But to bring it back home, one of the most recognized symbols of the Jim Crow* era is reflected throughout the video but in particular at Gambino's stance when he shoots the musician at the beginning of the video.

Photo #7 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

His exaggerated gestures and expressions are a throw back to minstrelsy*

Photo #8 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

As a sidenote, minstrelsy was one of the most popular forms of American theatre for around 80 years, just something to think about in terms of the unease often expressed by black Americans when it comes to representation and gaze.

Photo #9 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

(2) And of course, there is the commentary on gun culture and the victims it creates. The quick, remorseless violence displayed is an illustration of that.

The guns are treated even better than people who are killed: gently handed off and carried away in a cloth. The people are left on the ground as we follow Gambino to the next action in the video.

Photo #10 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

Remember the Charleston massacre*? Many think that Gambino was referencing that event when he shoots up the choir.

(3) The children dancing seems to have gotten the most diverse interpretations. Some say it's commentary on the innocence of children surrounded by a violent world.

Some say the dancing represents a staple of black culture. Some say it also speaks to society's distraction in consuming entertainment.

(4) And then we see a police presence.

Photo #11 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

We see him walking by cop cars and we see cop car lights in the background. He is incorporating an illustration of the strained relationship that black communities have with police and the perpetual problem of abuse and brutality*.

There are a lot of "did you see that?" moments in the video. Watching the background, you'll find at least one seemingly biblical symbol (The pale horse to behold. Are there more?), rioting, cellphone recordings, even a cameo at the end by American pop singer SZA (who might just be on another track on the album?)

It's actually a lot. And there are plenty of publications and channels that break down different parts of it.

I made this card because I was talking about this video with a certain French filmmaker who hates beautiful bridges and we agreed a card would be nice. Feel free to discuss civilly (we always ask for that, but what is our success rate, really? 🙄)

Photo #12 from New York, United States by Cat Woman made on 2018-05-10 07:24 for Sola

TL;DR: American rapper, Childish Gambino just released an intense and provacative video called "This is America" that appears to serve as commentary of black culture and experience in America. It has many interpretations of its content.

Sorry for any typos or missing words. It's past my bedtime. 😴

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United States, New York
75 comments
Windy
Thank you for making this card. This is something I have to digest and think about.
10
Cat WomanAuthor
No problem. I think the longer you think about it, the harder it gets to formulate some thought about it. First impressions are probably the simplest. Had you seen the video before?
10
José Zueco...™
Deleted by comment owner
Windy
Cat Woman, no, I haven’t. My first impression was that it was perfect. Exactly what was needed. In perfect balance, aesthetically, musically, politically.
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Cat WomanAuthor
🌪Windy 🌬, Yeah, I liked it when I first saw it too. Side note: the director is Japanese ❤️
Windy
Cat Woman, interesting
Cat WomanAuthor
🌪Windy 🌬, lol right? The two are long time collaborators, but I find that to be interesting too.
Cat WomanAuthor
🌪Windy 🌬, hmm...bad link. I'll try to search for it...
Cat WomanAuthor
🌪Windy 🌬, Found it. My mind is already tired lol But...I don't know... I don't know what to think about that....
Windy
My teenager told me today that his teacher showed this video to his class this week to discuss. Excellent.
3
Cat WomanAuthor
🌪Windy 🌬, heh. That's interesting.
Windy
Cat Woman, I showed this to my class of Japanese teenage girls. I showed it without any explanation and asked them what they thought and what they thought it was about. I was disappointed. They only saw a theme of guns and some kind of vague criminality. After some discussion we watched it again and I think they understand a little more of it, but it was hard. Even the second time they physically recoiled at the shooting scenes.
Rolo Tomasi
🌪Windy 🌬, during the discussion, were you able to see how much/little they know about race issues in the US?
Windy
Rolo Tomasi, yes. Basically nothing.
Cat WomanAuthor
🌪Windy 🌬, Your son and your class: what exactly is this supposed to mean to them?
Windy
Cat Woman, well, in my son’s case, most of the teachers are American, the curriculum is mostly American, so they probably think it’s important, culturally. For my class, I was simply curious. It wasn’t supposed to be anything, I was experimenting to see if it did mean anything to them.
José Zueco...™
Watched it after I read the card, don't know what to say. It's an old story told a dozen times but it won't change a thing unfortunately...
2
José Zueco...™
As long as there are people who talk about us and them...
1
Cat WomanAuthor
I understand your first comment. But I'm not sure if I understand your intention with the second. Can you explain?
1
José Zueco...™
Cat Woman, people who think they are a better human being than another...
Cat WomanAuthor
José Zueco...™, So you think that people should or shouldn't talk about us and them?
José Zueco...™
Cat Woman, yes of course, but not in a way that you think you are the better species...
Cat WomanAuthor
José Zueco...™, I see what you mean...
1
Supermir
Clearly a 100 AP card
10
Cat WomanAuthor
I'm glad you think so! Thank you! It was more work than I had expected.😖 What did you think of the video?
Supermir
Cat Woman, it made me feel strange while watching it. It’s an art piece difficult to catch utterly.
Cat WomanAuthor
Supermir, yeah, I think I know what you mean. Music videos usually aren't so weighed down.
Supermir
Cat Woman, yes. I think he found his very own way of expressing his feelings about the current political/racial issues.
tóót
Pro Creator
I watched the video before reading the card. I felt it was overloaded with references for the sake of having references. Your card was a great read, but I'm can't be bothered to decipher the video as a whole.
5
Cat WomanAuthor
[Edit: wrong placement of comment]
Woetroe v2.0
I just know ‘em from the meme’s of this vid
Rolo Tomasi
Wow thanks for the card, this is exactly what I needed. I didn’t expect it to be so thorough, I’m sorry for the workload. I always enjoy Childish Gambino’s music videos, although I usually have trouble separating him from his Community character. This time, he totally got me: 10 seconds into the video, i had forgotten about Troy Barnes. I loved the piece at first sight. It raised many technical questions, I have some ideas about how they were able to achieve some of the effects but I’d love to see a making of. Some (most?) of the symbolism went over my head but I kind of got the general ideas. The card and the links help me with the major ones I had spotted but didn’t really get (the weird pose of Gambino when he kills the musician for instance). ————————— The main thing that bothered - let’s say intrigued- me is the pacing. It starts with a very long extended shot (1’37) then another one (that stops at 3’02), both of which are linked as a single shot by a semi hidden transition. The video then seems to end, but the first clear cut of the video happens, and we get a comparatively short shot (about 35 seconds), and end the thing with a way simpler set up, in 2 shots (classic shot/reverse shot of him running away). I’m not sure what to do with that: when you keep a shot for 1’37, the first cut becomes highly meaningful. I guess that first cut is supposed to be hidden here, so let’s say the first visible cut is the one at 3’02: I don’t really get why they didn’t hide that cut too to give us a fake extended shot from the start to the black screen at 3’37. I totally get the switch to a more regularly paced editing for the last sequence (2 shots including a quite short one): the shift of cinematic language perfectly fits and highlights the shift of tone of the video at that point.
30
Rolo Tomasi
Side note about the shooting of the chorale. I don’t think anyone cares but it stayed on my mind for a couple of days. After a few viewings, my bet is that: the blood impacts (more like red clouds) on the victims are CGI, as are probably the bullet holes in the wall. I’m pretty sure the blood on the wall is just painted on the wall for real. It’s simply hidden by the chorale as long as they’re standing, and revealed when they fall. The camera move around them at The beginning of the scene made me doubt about that but then I realized there is no blood on the wall on the right: it’s he only place that would be revealed by the opening camera move. I don’t know if the smoke of the gun is real or CGI, YouTube’s compression is too harsh on the image. I would think they used a real gun with blanks so everyone in the chorale would know when to fall. Once again, I’m probably the only one who cares, but that bugged me for a while. Now I can sleep at peace. I would sleep better if I could see a pic of their lighting setup for the first 3’30 but that will do for now.
15
🚀 Josh
Rolo Tomasi, I felt the same way about that sudden cut after the long tracking shot. There must be a reason. The subject (surely no protagonist) suddenly transitions to victim?
3
Cat WomanAuthor
Rolo Tomasi, Just the man I was waiting for. 😊 I have to review the video maybe several more times with your notes because I didn't view it in terms of timing. I'm not sure which moments you're actually talking about in your first comment. I just see numbers lol. So I'll get back to you on that if I'm up to it. Not that I have any real answers. About the choir the fact that the blood seemed fake was apparent to me on the first viewing. I think it was shocking and intense, but if we saw a deeper red with fuller, thicker blood, I think that would make a more complete visual impact. I have no idea how they do it or if it's CGI, but I did see a couple of comments on that around the interwebz wondering the same thing. Conclusively, I don't think it matters much as far as the message goes. They are in a warehouse-like place with a synthetic, staged chaos surrounding them. The noticeably fake blood is consistent (imho) with the environment of the video. I don't think it's that no one cares. It just doesn't detract enough from the feel of the video to be seen as overtly problematic or curiosity-inducing.
Cat WomanAuthor
Again about the choir. There is a man on the bottom left at the very end. The way he gets hit looks ridiculously real. Like it looks like a bullet caught his eye. Very intense.
Rolo Tomasi
Cat Woman, yes the blood doesn’t distract from the video. The massacre is intense, brutal and surprising so the overall effect works very well. The way they fall (very, very quickly, almost in a single move) is very well choreographed: it isn’t realistic but conveys the idea in an effective way. And i agree: the guy on the bottom left does in a brutal, brutal way.
Rolo Tomasi
Cat Woman, I just found a podcast about the making of the video. I’ll report back here.
Cat WomanAuthor
Rolo Tomasi, is the podcast in French?
Rolo Tomasi
Cat Woman, no, it’s a 16min interview of the DA of Childish Gambino, who also happens to write for Atlanta. It’s actually way less about the making of the video rather than about what they tried to do, and how it was received. https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/making-america/
3
Cat WomanAuthor
Rolo Tomasi, I was kind of hoping to listen to it without introduction, but I will get to it when I can ^-^
Righteous Pie Loving Joshua
I actually watched the music video today. I didnt unstand any of it. But now I do.
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Cat WomanAuthor
Glad I could help! I was just summarizing what smarter people have said elsewhere. I agree with most of it though.
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heisenberg
The video is greatly produced. Thanks for showing it, I probably never would have seen it otherwise. I got goosebumps twice watching it. But I can't say much about this topic, because I didn't grow up in America. So all I can say is... Great card!
10
Cat WomanAuthor
Aye, no problem. Glad you enjoyed it. While I think many aspects of these themes/topics get frustratingly lost in translation with some of our European counterparts, but I'm curious about what you have to say. I may not agree, but I've always liked your conversational company.
heisenberg
I don't know if it's the translation or simply the lack of experience of the environment which you grew up and live in. It is generally difficult for me to talk about people who shoot other people in the head with a gun. Or that people kidnap and threaten other people for whatever reason. You know what I mean? It's all too far from the reality I live in. I only see such things in movies. The personal distance to it is far too big for me to create a valid opinion.
1
Cat WomanAuthor
heisenberg, "lost in translation" is an expression that can refer to technical language differences, but doesn't necessarily have to.
heisenberg
Cat Woman, ah.. okay.
Tadas
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Cat WomanAuthor
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Tadas
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Cat WomanAuthor
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Enes 🔥🔥🎆🎆
Amazing Card Cat🙂 I also watched the video before reading and yeah I had same thoughts. First of all I have to say that is a really interesting video :D! Theres definetly much to analise, but Im not sure what to add....😅 And yes we all know this special french guy really well 😂😂😂👍 #brookylnbridgeftw
5
Cat WomanAuthor
Thank you! What are your other thoughts?
Enes 🔥🔥🎆🎆
Cat Woman, *AHHHH I again didnt got your answer!!! I KNEW IT* np🙂 its an extremely good artistic music video. And I love that he/they obviously made it that way that you can interpret it different ways, but at the same time having some more obvious topics. I LOVED the fact that they treated their weapons better than their victims😂 criticism from the finest. I havent recognised the polices and so on at all 😮😅 And thank you for the information about Jim Crow. Now I understand it. First I was kind of confused about his posture. And lets come now to the young students: Theyre students, so they resemble education. And maybe they get educated for these horrible things ? But its not a simple criticsm on the education system. Its more about how we raise our children I think. They all have the same uniform. I think they kind of show how strongly united they are about these things even though they might be bad. Maybe something like that 😄😁
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Cat WomanAuthor
Enes 🔥🔥🎆🎆, what do you mean you didn't get my answer?
Cat WomanAuthor
Enes 🔥🔥🎆🎆, and the children could be a comment on the education system. I didn't really see that, but that is definitely a possibility.
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Enes 🔥🔥🎆🎆
Cat Woman, you remember how I said that sola didnt show me that you wrote an answer to me ? It happened again. I was pessimistic, so I went back to this card to check and see there! I had an answer by you
Cat WomanAuthor
Enes 🔥🔥🎆🎆, New App. Old bugs. 😒
1
fragmentedreality
Great card. I already saw the video but enjoyed the extra commentary and break down you provided. Thanks for this.
4
fragmentedreality
I must say though, Donald Glover annoys the shit out of me for being so damn talented.
fragmentedreality
Oh, one last thing ... I can't help but think of this one comedy video I love whenever I see this Childish Gambino music video. Just the random violence and gun flying into the hands of the "bikie" from outside the camera's lens just like the part of the music video where the gun is thrown to Childish Gambino before he shoots the choir (same "style" of gun as well ... as you can tell I have no idea about guns at all). The comedy video, of course, has a completely different feel and no political commentary or high art feel. But I do wonder if the director or Donald Glover ever saw the video and were influenced, knowingly or unknowingly by it. It's a far stretch, I know, and it is a tiny part of the over all video, but I can't get it out of my head. (The video I'm talking about is called "Bikie Wars: the musical" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihSaGAVHmvw )
Cat WomanAuthor
Ohhhh. Well I guess we all have our own ways to draw connections and comparisons and such.
Cat WomanAuthor
Yep. I read that one already. What do you think? Any thoughts?
Righteous Pie Loving Joshua
It got to 100 million
1
Cat WomanAuthor
Oh. City of God and Mother! Lol I thought there was going to be more to it. But yeah, I can see what he means when he lists those influences.
Cat WomanAuthor
Did we talk about Mother!, btw?
Rolo Tomasi
Cat Woman, I don’t think so... did you like it and do you want to discuss this on this card?
Cat WomanAuthor
Rolo Tomasi, it was interesting. I'll message you.
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