You can’t see M.I.A.‘s new video, “Born Free,” on YouTube. The Google-owned video-hosting service, which celebrated its fifth birthday this week, has deemed it too violent (a child is executed at close range) and dirty (old people’s privates are on display). You can, however, watch it below.
Directed by Romain Gavras, the nearly nine-minute short film depicts soldiers ransacking an apartment building in search of redheads, who are rounded up, bused out to the desert, and sent scrambling across landmine-planted terrain. (Gavras, the son of radical filmmaker Constantinos Costa-Gavras, directed Justice’s violent “Stress” video in 2008.) M.I.A. wails about injustice over searing rock beats rather than her usual hip-hop, and the short’s point is as blunt as the music. Discrimination can lead to genocide. Hot-head that she is, M.I.A. first blamed Universal Music Group for getting the video banned on YouTube.
The video is way timely insofar as it casts an unseemly light on Arizona’s new anti-immigrant legislation. And of course it also might refer to the Sri Lankan government’s repression of the Tamil people, a topic of much concern to the singer, whose real name is Maya Arulpragasam and who prides herself on being the daughter of a Tamil freedom fighter.
Coincidentally, “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone incurred the wrath of an Islamic group due to two recent episodes featuring an army of redheads – or “Ginger kids,” as Eric Cartmen derisively refers to them. The Gingers joined Tom Cruise, David Letterman, Barbra Streisand, and every other celebrity the show has ridiculed in its 201-episode history. However, the town of South Park was defended by the Super Best Friends, a group of religious figureheads consisting of Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Joseph Smith, Krishna, and Lao Tzu. The celebrities demanded that the town produce the Prophet Muhammad, “the one person on this Earth who is completely free from slander,” in order to shield themselves from parody in the future. After the first episode aired, a message threatening Parker and Stone appeared on the Revolutionmuslim.com website.
With their pale skin and freckles, could there be a less threatening group of people than redheads? Yet they seem to have become the terrestrial Na’vi of symbolic discrimination. The movie District 9 constructed a much more elaborate and intriguing metaphor for discrimination. It by made the victims powerful aliens rendered impotent by their white masters in an elaborate allegory reflecting South Africa’s history of apartheid. Admittedly, however, gingers are a whole lot cuter.