Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It was more appealing when it had kittens...

Can't say I'm overwhelmed by M.I.A.'s new Born Free video, in which a group of American guards tromps through a dusty dystopia to round up a busload of unfortunate redheads and subject them to a bit of ultraviolence.

Musically, it's not her best by a long shot, and the video, skillfully directed by Romain Gavras has top-notch production values, but little to say about violence that hasn't already been covered by the hip-hop video medium.

You can take a gander below, but this is not even remotely safe for work--or any location that frowns upon nudity, violence or four-letter words.

M.I.A, Born Free from Romain Gavras on Vimeo.

It's a solid video, although I don't think I'd call it a "tough little masterpiece." Nonetheless, it's hard to look at this week without reflecting on Arizona's new immigration law. Unfortunately, I don't think any of the bill's supporters are going to be moved by the connection.

There's also the disturbing fact that anybody with passing knowledge of M.I.A.'s background knows of her connections to the Tamil Tiger rebels, although she's denied accusations that her work tacitly supports their cause. The video includes one scene involving a carrot-topped sect whose members have, like the Tigers, embraced violence as a means of resistance.

Ultimately, the video isn't complex enough to make a meaningful contribution to the problem it addresses. Which is a major issue with the Arizona bill as well. Fortunately, that bill is turning out to be as popular as sunburn, so there's hope that it may be overturned. While a stalwart few insist that the bill is necessary to counter the evils of illegal immigration, the bill has widely been decried as an unconstitutional racial profiling measure.

Illegal immigration has caused significant problems in the United States, most of which are borne by border states. Racial profiling is ineffective form of institutionalized racism. And genocide is a horrifying reality. None of this is news.

In the end, Born Free and SB 1070 suffer from the same shortcoming. Namely, they draw attention to an important problem, without offering any meaningful solutions on how to improve cross-cultural (or intra-cultural) communication.

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