An Analysis Of Childish Gambino’s Epic “This Is America” Music Video

Childish Gambino, Donald Glover, This Is America

Kuulpeeps, if you have been online lately, then at least, you must have seen short videos or pictures from Childish Gambino’s “This is America” music video.

Just so you know, Childish Gambino is the hip-hop alter ego for the multi-talented Donald Glover.

He released this music video three days ago and the internet hasn’t kept quiet since.

The video already has more than 33 million views on YouTube.

See Also: Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” Video Has More Than 33 Million Views In Just 3 Days

What has got a lot of people talking is the social inferences made in the video.

Before we attempt to explain some of the significant moments in the video and what they mean, you need to watch it again:

Now let’s break it down for you with help from the Washington Post.

“This Is America” begins with a man seated in a warehouse, playing a guitar. Many misidentified him as the father of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager killed in 2012. The man is actually Calvin the Second, a Los Angeles-based artist who shared on Instagram that he “got to be a part of history.”

The camera soon finds Glover. He stands behind Calvin the Second, whose head has been covered with a bag, and shoots him with a gun pulled out of his back pocket. As several have pointed out on Twitter, his stance while holding the weapon mimics that of the minstrel character Jim Crow, the origin of the term used to describe pre-Civil rights-era segregation laws.

 

Glover’s erratic dancing, choreographed by Sherrie Silver, distracts from everything happening in the background throughout the video — purposefully so, it would seem. Paired with exaggerated expressions like the one pictured above, his movements further the connection to minstrel shows, a form of entertainment popularized in the early 1800s that mocked black people in the United States. The stock characters were usually played by white people in blackface, though some all-black groups performed under white directors.

 

Glover’s character, who appears to represent how white American culture oppresses black people, periodically kills innocent performers. As a choir joyfully sings the refrain — “Get your money, black man, get your money” — Glover slips out from behind a door and dances in front of the choir. He is handed an assault weapon, shoots all 10 singers and walks away. The imagery evokes the 2015 Charleston church massacre, in which attendees of a prayer service were murdered by self-described white supremacist Dylann Roof.

 

As Glover tells listeners to “watch me move,” people in the background are chased by cops. A police car is parked in the viewers’ line of sight, and orange glares suggest fires burning throughout the warehouse.

 

The camera quickly glides past young people with their phones out as Glover says, “This a celly, that’s a tool.” Cellphones have been used to record police officers shooting or choking black people in the past few years.

 

As Glover continues to dance amid the chaos — with another police car parked in view — a hooded figure rides past on a white horse. Some on Twitter have drawn connections to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, in which death rides on a pale horse with hell following behind.

 

Calvin the Second plays his guitar with the bag on his head as Glover climbs atop a parked car. All the cars pictured — including the one SZA sits on, in a surprise cameo — are from the 1980s and 1990s, in contrast with the new, luxury vehicles often depicted in today’s music videos. Some Twitter users theorized that the cars’ age represents the “stalled socioeconomic and political mobility” of black Americans. Others pointed to images of vehicles during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which began after a jury acquitted police officers of using excessive force while arresting (and beating) Rodney King.

 

The video ends with Glover chased down a dark hallway, and some point to the darkness behind him as a physical representation of the Sunken Place, a mental prison where the Armitage family matriarch sends black people in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” How fitting, then, that “Get Out” actor Daniel Kaluuya presented Glover’s performance of the song on SNL.

Whether this reference was intended, the video makes clear how black people have been trapped and/or harmed by American culture. Glover’s character keeps the darkness at bay by acting within white-imposed boundaries for most of the video — hence the rich depth of field, with his giddy dancing layered in front of violence — but it eventually catches up with him.

“This Is America” is a painful yet perfectly timed masterpiece, what Glover seems to do best.

Yeah… he did a lot of Gwara Gwara dance too…perf right?

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