How not to make a feminist music video

Side-by-side comparison of a shot from Childish Gambino's "This Is America" as he guns down a black gospel choir, next to the corresponding shot from Nicole Arbour's "Women's Edit" that shows a bunch of cheerleaders holding a giant check

Same, right? They’re basically the same.

Normally, I put this at the end, but seriously, who cares what I have to say? – C

Required Reading

Blue Telusma at The Grio, “White woman tried to colonize Donald Glovers’ ‘This is America’ and her trash video is everything wrong with white feminism”

Kaitlyn D’Onofrio at DiversityInc, “A White Woman’s ‘Feminist’ Remake of ‘This Is America’ Is an Epic Fail”

Melinda Fakuade at The Outline, “You Don’t Need to Remake ‘This Is America'”

Malinda Janay at Blavity, “Alleged Comedian Desecrates Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ With White Feminism In God-Awful Remake”

Childish Gambino (known to his parents as Donald Glover) broke the Internet May 5 with the release of his music video, “This Is America.” It’s a nuanced and incredibly layered commentary about the experiences black people face in the U.S., from gun violence to police brutalization to commercialization of culture.

YouTube… person Nicole Arbour jumped on that video and created the “Women’s Edit” (not linked here) that no one has been asking for. Piggybacking off of the original’s popularity, she strips away the aforementioned nuance and layers, smears some lip gloss on it, and has no idea why she isn’t getting rave reviews.

Arbour encourages everyone to “create their own version of this video,” and… don’t do that. But if you decide to make your own original, non-appropriative feminist video, here are some tips for making it not completely shit.

1. Be talented. Which really should go without saying.

2. Don’t half-ass it. ‘Bino’s vastly superior video has chaos and violence in the background as he and schoolchildren entertainingly perform a carefully curated series of dance moves and a hooded figure on a white horse gallops by. Arbour’s version, released barely a week later, has her forcefully grabbing her own titties while shouting “These are my titties!”

3. Understand scale. At the beginning, ‘Bino shoots a guy in the head, then carefully places the gun on a scarlet cloth as the body falls to the ground. Arbour sneers and takes a picture of a woman breastfeeding. Not that sneering at women breastfeeding in public is a good thing. It’s just not, you know, gun violence. And then there’s, like, everything else in the entire video.

4. Understand metaphor. One of the things that makes the original “This Is America” so powerful is that every single element means something. Arbour matches ‘Bino’s minstrel-like poses with Rosie the Riveter, and replaces dance moves that reference Nigerian dance, minstrelsy, and pop culture with crotch-thrusting, hypersexualized women dancers. One of the most striking fails is Arbour’s take on the sequence where ‘Bino sings and dances along with a gospel choir, then grabs a semiautomatic rifle and guns them down. At the same point in Arbour’s video, a bunch of cheerleaders jump around with a big-ass check. You’d almost think Arbour has no idea what any of the video means and doesn’t care because look! It’s a thing I can take! Thanks for meticulously crafting a powerful video for me to steal and shit on, Childish Gambino.

7. Understand eugh. “If I were a guy, you wouldn’t be asking yourself, ‘I wonder who wrote that?'” Oh, just shut up.

And the big number 8. Let other people have their thing. The world is not crying out for your shit. The conversation does not have to be about you all the time. Discussion of the oppression and struggles experienced by black people — including black women, Nic — is not a jumping-off point for you to talk about your own problems. Do you sit by a friend’s hospital bed and say, “Remember when I sprained my ankle last spring?” (Well, yeah, Nicole probably does.)

The problem isn’t that the feminist issues Arbour is addressing aren’t important. It’s that drawing a parallel between life-or-death concerns and a selection of issues that are comparatively (comparatively) superficial is trivializing. The effect is, “Oh, you think getting murdered in your church by a white supremacist is bad? Try being an underpaid cheerleader.”

And for that matter, if you want to look at feminist issues, how about the fact that the black woman at the beginning of the video nursing her baby faced a maternal mortality rate three times that of a white mother? That the guy roofie-ing the woman almost certainly won’t get prosecuted, and the rape kit probably won’t even be processed. (And it’s still not something that needs to be overlaid onto “This Is America.”) Hell, even SNL’s “Welcome to Hell” is more effective, because it applies a catchy and ironic sugar-pop glaze to the reasons women have to carry weapons and travel in groups for physical safety, and also it’s original and entertaining and doesn’t appropriate someone else’s powerful, meaningful, and deeply considered work of art and social commentary.

So that’s how you make a feminist music video: Make your own video. Don’t hijack someone else’s because you’re too lazy and entitled to do anything else, and because “[their] shit is just cooler.” Don’t be awful, is my point. It’s too late for Nicole Arbour. It doesn’t have to be too late for you.


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1 comment for “How not to make a feminist music video

  1. Andie
    May 18, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    How did I know it would be Nicole Fucking Arbour. Ugh. She’s the worst.

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