If you haven’t seen the latest viral music video by Childish Gambino, then you really need to right now. It is a masterpiece that we can’t afford to look away from, in fact, even go on multiple replays. Why? Because Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” directed by Hiro Murai, is a bone-chilling video packed with social and political messages and references about the lives of Black Americans, police brutality, domestic terrorism and gun violence in America.
Despite the cheerful tunes and hardcore dance moves you’ll see, a lot is actually happening in the background. Gambino shows us a vivid illustration of what is happening in the news by taking us on a journey through modern America in his video.
We follow Gambino parts to parts as he shoots a guitarist, massacres a church choir with a rifle, hardcore dances in between before lighting up a joint and ending the video in a very chillingly way with him running in desperation from a violent mob.
There is just so much to unpack and digest from this brilliant and controversial performance that we will help you unravel some of its most potent elements of the video.
The Jim Crow Pose
One of the very first scenes where all hell starts going down. It has been suggested that Glover pulls a Jim Crow pose right before shooting at his first victim who was played by the artist Calvin the Second.
A quick background check, Jim Crow was a theater racist black character created in the 19th century by Thomas D. Rice but was later used as a racial segregation name in the Southern United States known as the Jim Crow Laws.
We can guess why he pulled that pose now.
His Dance Moves
Were you as absorbed as we were when watching Gambino’s dance? Because we had to rewind. The dance moves in the sequence help illustrate how quickly we are all distracted from the horrible truths of our society, just as Gambino and the children’s dance moves distract us from all the constant chaos happening in the background. The dancing serves like a light within all the madness and issues we’re all used to seeing, almost as if a way of the coping mechanism. The juxtaposition of the dancing and chaos is the reflection of how we live and function when coexisting with opposing forces.
The Church Choir
This is one of the more brutal and hair-raising scenes in the music video. One second you have the cheerful choir singing and one second later they are all dead. Glover addresses the gun violence again by shooting the harmless church choir with a rifle. This is most certainly a reference to the massacre that occurred in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015, by white supremacist Dylann Roof.
A take on the police
And while we continue watching the dancers, scenarios in the background of police brutality and riots play out. If you blink for one second, you might miss out on the car on fire or the hooded person riding across the screen on a white horse, which is thought to symbolize the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in other words, Death. Gambino is taking it quite literally, isn’t he?
A take on Black Mirror style
As the camera pans between shots, we can catch a glimpse of some teenagers filming the disruptive events from a distance place. Very similar to what you can witness in one of Netflix TV series Black Mirror, the episode “White Bear,” where bystanders are just there to watch and film. In other words, in a more extreme way, this can be seen as the how making pop culture content has led us to be at times.
The Statue of Liberty
Lastly, in one of the final scenes, you can catch SZA leaning against a car after the chaos seems to have diminished. But little did you know she is actually embodying the Lady Liberty in the video. Her presence can be seen as a clear comment on America’s hypocritical definition of “freedom” while it abuses the marginalized members of society. Quite subtle, don’t you think?
So, there you have it. King Gambino – he’s not only giving all his fans a wakeup call but he’s also taking rap back to its origins talking about society rather than about bitches and bling.
And after watching it over and over again, that’s our take on “This is America”. What’s yours?
If you like Childish Gambino check out our Best Childish Gambino Songs!