In today’s society, music plays an important role in peoples lives and is in broad use through out many difference cultures and societies around the world. Music is known for empowering people (Born This Way by Lady Gaga), creating trends (Beiber fever) and in this case sparking online debates of race. Last weekend as I was browsing new videos on YouTube, I stumbled on a new Florence & The Machine music video of the song “No Light, No Light” that was getting a lot of attention for having racist subtext. Since its release two weeks ago, the video has had over one million views. However, thousands viewers of the video have criticized it for having racist connotations. The video features a scary looking man painted black (he was later reveled to be Asian) with a cloth mask over his head practicing voodoo on a doll that is meant to be the “angelic” lead singer Florence Welch. While the evil man is pursuing Florence, a young all- while Christian boys choir are trying to rescue Florence by singing. The choir ends up saving the lead singer by catching her after she throws herself from a skyscraper and crashes through the church skylight.
The racial and religious imagery of the music video has driven an intense debate among YouTube and various blog commenters over what certain people believe are references to the Illuminati and Satan worshipping. The video is supposed to be portraying the classic fight between the good and evil, however, with its added references to Blackface and voodoo, many have stated that the video is more about race and black vs. white. Some of the aspects that the viewers say made this video racist are the blackface that was used as a costume choice, the stereotypes that black men are savages who target white women, Christianity will save all as well as the African religion (voodoo).
Some of the YouTube viewers have suggested that the underlying theme of the video is ambiguous, while others thought that some of the video aspects are inappropriate and racist. During the video, Florence, an angelic, red headed white woman is running away from “evil” that is represented by a black guy. The viewers claim that the way that the bad guy is portrayed is very stereotypical because he is a tribal-voodoo shaman and is a “black face” (For those who do not know blackface is a non-black person painted black; they used to use this back when media was openly racist). In addition to the way that he is portrayed, the viewers also say that this feeds on the belief that black men attack innocent white women. Although, white is traditionally associated with good and black with evil, the viewers connected white as evil and black as the target for the evil. A website called “Racialicious” was one of the first who ridiculed the video and they believe that it represents a view of white supremacy and went on to say:
“It’s actually slightly astounding how much racist imagery they managed to pack into just four minutes and 15 seconds,” the website’s upset writer said. “All sorts of defenses and excuses are being pulled out of the hat to try and label this music video as anything other than what it is: racist. Glorifying the white female central character as representing goodness, all while vilifying the evil dark skinned heathen Other.”
Moreover, the commentators believe that the video depicted “voodoo” as evil and primitive version of witchcraft, Jezebel (blog) went on to say that in reality Voodoo is a religion like any other, with gods, goddesses, moral code and rituals that do not kill people but protect them from evil spirits. Some also found it racist that in the end the heroine is saved by a choir exclusively composed of white boys in a Christian church. Some went as far as saying that the pose that Florence was in when the choir carried her off was the same as the Jesus on the cross, thus signifying that she is being sacrificed and not saved.
Just like everything else in the world, music has evolved drastically over the past decade. It went from being an enjoyable pastime to a more complicated mixture of business, politics and money. In order to “make it” in the music world, artists today not only have to write a good track, they also have to create a music video that will draw attention to them and make them and their music more popular which will make them and their record company more money. In order to stand out from countless other music entertainers, artists try to make their videos flashier by adding different affects whether it’s half naked girls, animal costumes, fancy cars or in this case an Asian men painted black with a voodoo doll. In my opinion this music video is not racist. Even though there is a certain sense of vagueness in the music video it is mainly seen in the concept of duality, where contrasting forces are part of one larger whole and not as racist connotations.
Florence and the Machines are known for their odd yet amazing music and this is no different. From my standpoint, I think that what the video is trying to get across has nothing to do with stereotyping or racism. The imagery of the video is founded on contrasts and opposites by expending concepts such as good and evil, civilization and tribalism, black and white, church and witchcraft and light and darkness. The characters in this video are not racist they are merely symbols and metaphors of what the video is trying to convey. Florence’s character attempts to commit suicide out of pure guilt which here is represented by the man who is painted black, as he is the demon that lives inside of her. The demon is torturing her and continues to follow her everywhere (the needles and the chase) and remind her of the sinful things that she has done. However, when she flings herself from the rooftop of the skyscraper, she is trying to not only get rid of the demon but to also start a new chapter in her life by finding solace in faith by reconciling her sins with God as well as herself. Do you see anything racist in this?
People tend to use the racism card as soon as they don’t think that there is a fair balance of ethnicity. Those who are attacking the video are the ones who actually are more racist because they are the ones who cant see past the skin color of the artists (or the paint in this case). When people see the different colors of the skin before anything else, they immediately begin to think if this is racist or not. This type of thinking shows that these people are so focused on race instead of the actual person (or in this case the underlying message), they are actually the ones who are creating the differences in the society. Even though, it is the twenty first century and we have had major strides with certain aspect of race, we are unfortunately far from being “color-blind”.
Please watch the video here:
Racialiscious full article:
Jezebel full article: