M.I.A.’s “Born Free” makes bold statement


Last Monday, musician M.I.A. released a 9-minute music video for her song “Born Free”. Shortly after, it was pulled off of Youtube due to its graphic violence and nudity. The video depicts the intensity of political violence and the horrors of genocide. Since Monday, there has been much controversy and debate on the content of this video. There is more that meets the eye, though, and the entirety of “Born Free” must be taken into account when forming an opinion on the video.

Though they make us uneasy, explicit representations of such real things are good for a sometimes necessary eye-opening. So, despite its graphic content, I support the creation of this video. 

Often, it takes a visual that’s not easy to watch in order to make a statement. If we can’t stand to look at it, then how can we accept that it’s actually happening? Furthermore, if we can’t accept that it’s actually happening, no one’s ever going to do anything to change it. Can we really expect that sheltering viewers’ eyes from violence means that it doesn’t happen? This situation is not about a political activist who went too far. It’s about uncomfortable people wanting to look the other way.

Having said this, there are definitely parts of M.I.A.’s video that I do not agree with. Firstly, I fully support Youtube’s actions to remove it from their site. I believe that the content of this video is inappropriate for such public access and should not be available for younger audiences.

This is not the fist time we’ve been faced with unpleasant realities. I can’t help but compare this video to other graphic, yet accepted, depictions of violence. Consider movies like Crash, Hotel Rwanda and Schindler’s list. Each expresses violence in their respective cultures with quite vivid imagery.

The difference though, is that upon release, each of these movies was rated “R”. This further articulates why “Born Free” is an acceptable medium for such expression but should not be accessible to everyone on Youtube.

My other gripe is that this video’s aim is to make a statement with a hypothetical situation: ginger genocide. So I found it unnecessary, inappropriate and incorrect that the soldiers’ uniforms sported American flags. With this subtle addition, “Born Free” could potentially turn from anti-violence messages to anti-American messages.

In the end, I agree with what M.I.A. is trying to convey, I just think she approached it in the wrong way. If she wants to make a statement against violence and genocide, then that’s okay with me. If she’s going to bring down the United States in an all too public forum, then she loses my support.

It is simply human nature to resist accepting such harsh realities. Spreading awareness is critical to solving problems. This is not to say that a 9-minute music video is going to end genocide forever, but as with anything, we have to start small. What is unsuitable for Youtube today, has the potential to make a difference tomorrow. I, too, found it difficult to watch this video without cringing, but sometimes facing ugly issues head-on is just what it takes.


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