Lady Gaga could have waited a few weeks to release her equally-long “Telephone” video but at least Arizona's state government turned fascist in the right marketing cycle. Playing off the mostly centuries-dead anomaly of red head persecution (which probably plays bigger in the UK than in the U.S.), M.I.A.'s sarcastic Romain Gavras-directed video for “Born Free” plows through a nine-minute practice in western squeamishness in the face of (barely) allegorical political trauma.
As the mirror shines back on us, reactions are unsurprising, if a little goofy. We're all very subtle these days. Didacticism is about as cutting edge as punk music. Quentin Tarantino guns kill in Hollywood scenarios, war reporters stay with their military units. Even the camera work for that real life Reuters snuff video had a pleasant Gaussian sheen to it.
That's why the school teachers at vanityfair.com protect you from Gavras' literal scenarios:
“Instead of embedding M.I.A.’s very capital-D Disagreeable new video, we recommend watching one of the world’s top gingers, Ms. Bonnie Raitt, perform her 1991 smash hit, 'Something to Talk About.'”
If there's any human-affecting moments in the video, they probably come before the little boy's shot through
the head or the other little boy explodes into pieces over a landmine.
At that point you're just slogging through some ultraviolence. Yes, “Born Free” is “distasteful.” Perhaps the narrative flat-line could have been spiced up with a twist. Whether the video is any more artful than your next political hack's attack ad is kind of moot in an election cycle where demon sheep stalk the airwaves. Didacticism talks, even when it's wearing goofy sheep's clothing or being shot in the head.
And, not the most center right of audiences, but the online poll at Huffington Post has a 55/44% divide between viewers who thought the video “Powerful” and “Meaningless”.
Really looking forward to what else M.I.A.'s got in store for us to all write about. Hopefully an album title to start.