It’s only been a week since Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover dropped the incredible music video for “This Is America” and already a white woman has attempted to steal his concept and piss all over it.
I say “attempted” because Canadian YouTube star Nicole Arbour’s “women’s edit” of "This Is America" is a failure in every possible way. I’m annoyed that I even had to watch all three minutes and 54 seconds of it in order to write this piece.
Backing up for a minute, the real version of “This Is America,” directed by Hiro Murai, is chock-full of symbolism and offers a searing commentary on racism, gun violence, police brutality, and society’s willingness to focus on viral videos while ignoring the pain and death evident all around us. It is a creative feat that requires several viewings (and thinkpieces) to unpack everything that’s going on.
Arbour’s video, which she posted to YouTube this weekend, is a fucking mess. It opens with her mumbling something like “We just wanna be pretty, pretty that’s the goal, we just wanna smile, get a mammy home” as a black woman nursing a baby in a chair gets dragged offscreen by two men.
I guess Arbour is attempting to address (white) women’s issues in the video—while totally oblivious to the fact that she is appropriating a black man’s work that specifically highlights the black American experience. But where Glover was clever and imaginative in his messaging, Arbour’s piece is embarrassingly literal. She holds an actual lightbulb over her head when she sings about having an idea. Her lyrics include, “This is America, got rape in my area, you got a drink, the roofies got into ya,” and this nonsensical stanza “Look how I’m spitting truth out, I’m so trendy, I wear Fendi, I’m so sexy, Imma get it, watch me move, these my titties, that’s my tool.”
When she rightfully got dragged on Twitter, Arbour responded by characterizing her video as an homage to Glover’s.
“His video hit me hard. Real hard. Best art I’ve seen in years. Finally felt it, and was hoping u can feel me now too,” she tweeted. She is clearly defensive about the criticism, as she also tweeted, “Trying to paint someone as racist for making a female positive/ empowerment video makes as much sense as betting on the Celtics.” (For the record, the Celtics are up 1-0 in their series against the Cavaliers).
Then again, we probably can’t expect much from someone who previously said she’s “sick of people mad at slavery” and has made videos fat shaming people in the name of “satire.”
I’m mortified for anyone associated with this project.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.