CW: Video contains graphic violence.
ICYMI—Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) dropped a new track last week, and its accompanying music video has driven the internet’s think piece generator into overdrive. With the video’s overt political themes, surrealist—if extremely violent—imagery, and over 107 million YouTube views and counting, it comes as no surprise that a lot of people have a lot of thoughts about Gambino’s latest offering. Read on for some deep cuts about the video, from its use of “kinesthetic empathy” to criticisms regarding the video’s intended audience.
Jason Parham on Wired calls the video “a piece of trickster art that soundly rebukes the natural DNA of the protest song and constructs it into a freakish chronicle of imprisoned torment,” comparing the work to Kara Walker’s equally challenging cut-paper silhouettes.
Over on Daze, Natty Kasambala unpacks a number of visual references.
Along the same lines, Guthrie Ramsey, a professor of music history at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses symbolism in four key moments in “This Is America” for Time.
Aida Amoako on The Atlantic explores how the video “weaponizes” the viewer’s instinctive kinesthetic empathy to create a particularly jarring viewing experience for its audience.
K. Austin Collins of Vanity Fair questions Glover’s intent in offering such a provocative political statement, saying, “I’ve often struggled to make sense of where Glover really stands on things—of whether the political statements in his art are expressions of genuine fury or Glover just playing around with political rage like it’s a costume he can slip on and off when convenient.”
Doreen St. Félix reflects on the video’s “carnage and chaos” in an article for The New Yorker.
Similarly, Jazmine Joyner, a black disabled femme writer, offers a critical take on Glover’s rehashing of black trauma as spectacle for mass consumption.
And lastly, Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic considers the viewer’s use and misuse of black art in relation to Glover’s work.