M.I.A.’s NSFW video for “Born Free” – the ginger genocide is upon us

**The video above is very NSFW, it contains obscene lyrics, nudity and extreme violence**

This video just blew my mind. Sort of. It’s definitely got production value, and it’s definitely trying to say something, I suppose. I just can’t tell what it is exactly. This is M.I.A.’s new video for her new song “Born Free”. The video is about violence against gingers, a ginger genocide, a ginger Holocaust, perhaps? Sad gingers, being oppressed, revolutionary gingers, freedom fighter gingers, gingers that get shot or blown up or beaten to hell. I think it’s probably a complicated political statement, about the power of gingers…? Gawker thinks so too, kind of:

The almost-nine-minute mini-movie for M.I.A.’s single “Born Free” came out today and it’s already been taken down from YouTube in the U.S. It’s definitely NSFW, but it’s also her latest attempt to drum up some attention.

First of all, the track kicks ass. The Bed-Stuy by way of Sri Lanka musician takes a break from her usual hip-hop/world beat sound to make something that’s basically a hard-driving rock track—full of heavy guitar hooks and a driving, dismal beat—and adds her signature spoken-style lyrics. How that fits into a video that’s about a ginger genocide complete with children being shot in the head and bodies blown up by landmines, well, we’re not quite sure.

As the video starts, a group of soldiers ransack an apartment building, bypassing an old man smoking crack and barging in on a couple having sex. When the soldiers find a young man and start hauling him out of the building, it seems like it’s going to be another tired video about the brutality of war. Then the young man is thrown into a bus and we see that it’s full of other red-headed young men. Ah, a twist. As the bus pulls away, some ginger militants can be seen throwing bottles at the bus in front of a mural that depicts red-headed men holding guns aloft.

When the bus arrives at its final destination, a dusty minefield, the military men tell the carrot tops to run across a minefield. When they don’t budge, we see the officer in charge shoot what appears to be a 12-year-old in the head at point blank range. It is graphic and shocking. As the men run across the field, the soldiers pursue both on foot and in an armored van while shooting at their prisoners. One of the runners hits a mine and we see his body explode. Finally the soldiers catch up with the initial man from the apartment building and they beat him, presumably to death. There is no happy ending or redemption here. The movie just ends.

M.I.A.’s video has already been pulled from YouTube for both its sexuality and violence, and she tried to kick start the controversy engine by blaming Universal Music Group for barring the video from YouTube, redirecting people to her website to watch. (She soon recanted without further explanation.)

Controversy sells, though, and in these cases we often remember the stories around the videos long after we remember the songs or videos themselves. Which might be why M.I.A., who has a history of bilking her violent past for attention, is courting it so closely.

Ironically, the video comes on the heels of an attention-grabbing interview in which M.I.A. blasted Lady Gaga—who can be thanked for the resurgence of 9-minute video as an art form—for being a mimic rather than progressive.

M.I.A’s sci-fi dystopian vision is certainly startling. It can be seen as a comment on the senselessness of genocide or the state of immigration in the U.S. Closer to M.I.A.’s home, it can been viewed as an analogy to the Sri Lankan civil war and the government’s crackdown on the Tamil people, a subject she’s tackled—controversially—on numerous occasions and a cause she’s used her fame to draw attention to. But she’s no longer the daughter of a penniless “freedom fighter”: Her husband is Benjamin Brewer, the son of billionaire mogul (and Warner Music chairman) Edgar Bronfman, Jr.

Is the video too violent? Probably. The imagery is not for the squeamish, and personally I’d find it hard to watch that young boy get shot in the head again. But it’s no worse that what one can see in most rated-R movies or even on some prime-time television shows (24 can be downright gory!). And is this little piece of entertainment—a music video, for heaven’s sake—worse than what the people who have actually survived immigration nightmares, police brutality, or genocide had to witness in their actual lives? Certainly not. I can’t fault any artist for creating something that’s designed to spur debate, but for those who don’t want their summer jams tainted by a helping of questionable-politics, it’s going to be a turn-off.

[From Gawker]

My first thought was “Iraq” actually, but the Sri Lankan thing makes some sort of sense. Does Sri Lanka have oppressed gingers? No, I jest. I guess the video could also be about Israel and Palestine, maybe? Why do I feel dumb for trying to figure this out? I know M.I.A. meant for us to understand! Either that or she just got high and watched South Park? Either/or.

sadgingers

sadgingers2

gingerfreedomfighter

 

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32 Responses to “M.I.A.’s NSFW video for “Born Free” – the ginger genocide is upon us”

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  1. gloaming says:

    Awesome track/video! Reminds me of a Prodigy video.

    I can’t wait to see The Daily Fail’s reaction to this.

  2. Lala11_7 says:

    In lieu of talent or originality…she’ll just shove violence down your throat…

    What I find EXTREMELY amusing about M.I.A. is in a recent article she was ragging on Gaga being a ripoff artist….

    “Pot…meet kettle…have a cuppa and sit down for a LONG chat”…

    SIGH!!!

  3. Samantha says:

    This video gave me chills. I know its just a video, but my daughter is a ginger and it was just like, noooooooo! *wipes nose* Anywhoozle, I was getting more of a Palestine/Israel vibe from it. Then again I am a Muslim so maybe I just want it to be there.

  4. Margie says:

    It’s the feeling that you get when you watch the video. Would you HONESTLY have the same feeling if you were watching them rounding up brown people and killing them? You might feel some slight pity but nothing like seeing “your own” (albeit ginger heads) being persecuted to create a REAL reaction. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a take on Palestine/Israel in order to give the average person some insight into their world.

  5. scotchy says:

    the song is very prodigy-like,
    i like her dance/hip hop stuff a little more, but it is good to see an artist being creative, speaking their mind and trying to create sounds and images that cause the listener to think, wake up and feel some sort of emotion. music used to be a powerful tool of communication and protest as well as entertainment.
    its good to see someone who is successful and wealthy trying to say something, because truth be told, a lot of people on this planet go through, situations worse than what is being depicted here.

  6. ligeia says:

    pretty horrible video to watch. serves as a reminder that things like that happen around the globe more often than we might know. i agree with the poster who said that if it were “brown people” it wouldn’t get the same kind of reaction cause hell, we can see that shit on the news everyday as is. its a horrible horrible world we live in, sigh.
    on a lighter note, i have never seen so many cute gingers in the same place before ;p

  7. Bee says:

    I’m confused. Is ginger considered a deragatory term or not? I always thought it was. Anyway, I thought the video was very moving and powerful. The level of violence was disturbing,as it should have been. It felt like M.I.A. was trying to bring the reality of violence and prejudice home to people who otherwise wouldn’t have been as affected by the message if, as ligeia commented, “brown people” were the ones being discriminated against.

  8. Shannon says:

    Wow, this is an amazing video. I think that the gingers represent whoever the viewer relates to, or perhaps they show how ridiculous most genocide campaigns are. Rounding up and exterminating people for having red hair is just as stupid as rounding up Jews, or Armenians, or Japanese-Americans, or Tutsis and Hutus.

    It’s an incredibly relevant video, and I hope that by viewing it people reaffirm the understanding that genocide and prejudices that lead to genocide must be avoided.

  9. Heiyah says:

    I’m a ginger, I dont find this offensive, but it could be Cartman’s view of the future.

    What I am offended by is MIA being called a singer when all she does is talk or rap in a retarded voice–but she’s popular because she is really smokin hot. I guess hotness really does overpower being tallented, and that, Sir, is offensive.

  10. Dawn Bennett says:

    The video is an allegory about racism . You could replace the gingers with blacks, gays, mexicans, women or jews. It’s about the stupidity of bigots and how those kinds of views can lead to genocide.

  11. MissyA says:

    Incredible video. So powerful, and so relevant.

    I don’t know much about MIA (yes, I live in a hole) but even if she “earned” her fame being a provocateur as opposed to an artist (ala Lady Gaga), she certainly hits at something visceral. I admire anyone who can parlay their fame/notoriety to worthwhile causes. I commend her for it.

  12. fizXgirl314 says:

    I agree with Shannon… I think the randomness of rounding up redheads shows just how ridiculous genocide campaigns are… The video is very intense… however, I’m not sure there much music in it? Her paper airplanes was pretty good though…

  13. Kim says:

    If you want to do a piece on racism dont be a racist yourself. Dont make the racists be all caucasian, American males.

    Racism exists EVERYWHERE. EVERYONE has some prejudice/racism in them. Including MIA (of which she makes obvious with this video).

    The video might have bene effective if the perpertrators of the genocide were portrayed by different races and citizenship but they are only white American men and that makes MIA a racist.

  14. Kim says:

    Why is a “musician” (I use that term very loosely) making a movie?? Stick to music or become a director. I dont want to hear celebs talk about politics and i dont want to see a very limited in talent singer doing it either. Stick to your day job.

  15. Kim says:

    didnt she just have a child? But she doesnt understand why YouTube would take down a violently graphic video with nudity and sex from a site that any young kid can access?? Get over yourself and be a better parent MIA.

  16. gruffnut says:

    i usd to hav respect 4 m.i.a but jus stik 2 ur music (in fact dont) coz dat video was nt made by a sain person,jus finking of d exacution of a little child make me feel sick an d song is truly appalin dats jus noise

  17. asiont says:

    I agree with all that Shannon said, this video is fantstic and it is wonderful that somebody cares and tries to make others care

  18. Mairead says:

    I’m not convinced that it’s specifically relating to any one particular conflict over another (e.g Israel & Palestine), as there are nods to many of the long-running civil conflicts.

    For example, the still above with the mural of three soldiers is a clear nod to sectarian murals found in Belfast and Derry in Northern Ireland. Indeed “Our Day Will Come” is a direct translation from the Nationalist catch-cry “Tiocfaidh Ár Lá”. And the guerrila warfare on the army convoy was a pretty typical activity until fairly recently.

    Also it’s much more complex than just picking on the gingers. It’s the wanton assault on anything not perceived as “normal” and the power going completely to individuals heads, where they are no longer serving the public but controlling them. For example in the opening shots you note that it’s only the fat people that the soldiers are randomly beating and degrading, even a woman who just happened to be in the way whilst they were all pumped up on adrenaline.

    As for the issue of musicians commenting on political situations. Seriously, how many f*cking love songs do we need? Or should we laud the vacuous nature of many of the well-known rappers banging on about what type of champagne they drink and how many bitches they’ve infected and selling out the early roots of the genre?

    If music is an art form, and art serves to reflect our society back to us in a challenging way – then why shouldn’t M.I.A. collaborate with Romain Gavras in this? As a piece of work it was a shocking, horrific, compelling and did what it set out to do and the song was a perfect soundtrack because that pulsing beat at the start really conveyed a sense of dread.

  19. EMV says:

    This video was really inappropriate. I’m all for personal freedoms,but this video really made little sense to me. The beginning did not mesh with the rest of the video…beating up on fat people? How is this an allagory about racism when the majority of the people who were putting the gingers into the camps were white themselves? If she really wanted to make a statement she should have just taken REAL footage of REAL genocide like Sudan or the murder and torture of women and student in Iran or Egypt or Sri Lanka for that matter. I am all for making a statement,but this was not moving to me whatsoever. Her music was background noise to this video. It was not about the music here at all obviously.

  20. MNG says:

    Wow, I guess the reason they chose redheads (a hair colour predominantly held characteristically by caucasian- also symbolic of the way we as humans constantly divide one another from each other) was to highlights the stupidity of prejudices and the resulting violence and brutality which may arise from it.
    The ending was depressing but reality for too many who face hatred for just being different. IDK, just my two cents..
    Loved her first two albums but im not too keen about this song

  21. MNG says:

    @ EMV
    I think the reason why redheads were chosen was for two reasons:
    1. Redheads are for some reason ridiculed about their hair colour
    2. Redheads are normally of Caucasian decent.
    The second point is important because Caucasians over the last 500 years have committed vast amounts of hatred (prejudice and discrimination) and acts of brutality on those of a different colour because they believed they were superior. They saw themselves (white) superior to those of a darker skin tone. They have and still hold the cards- education, health, wealth, and ownership (I’m aware of the fact that who committed these acts and still hold a disproportionate high level of life out unfairness have and are few people and that people of colour in this position now and in past do this, also). So the idea of making the redhead (a minority, also) the target of equally disturbing hatred emphasises the silliness of the division we make among ourselves.
    Using redheads draws attention to this. Also, I don’t think depicting the violence of the problems in Sri Lanka and any other places with black/brown faces would have made an impact on our psyche. For us, who are sitting comfortably in the west (including myself who is of African-Caribbean), it would have been just another conflict in far away land and we’d forget about it as soon as the video roles on to the next to the next one. The same applies to the news. I think it is suppose to get us to think about situation like these and about hatred by putting it in the white western context.
    There is more to this, but because I have just watched it my mind is on overload and it is midnight! :)

  22. Shannon says:

    gruffnut and Kim, please educate yourselves. The best musicians in history have been the most political. Bob Dylan decried racism, the war in Vietnam, and treating people with scorn just because they were different. He inspired a generation of young Americans to create positive social change.

    Bob Marley stood up for peace against violence – he famously went on to perform a concert after being shot to make the point that violence cannot stop the power of peace and love. His “Redemption Song” gives voice to the wounds of African Americans who are descendants of slaves.

    Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” was a rallying call for young disenfranchised Americans everywhere to stand up for our constitutional right to freedom of speech, and open our eyes to abuses by the government.

    Music is an art form, and art has ALWAYS been political. Art is the expression of human experience and how we perceive the world.

    Also, MIA is not a bad parent because she doesn’t think nudity is horrifying, or because she doesn’t want to put her hands over her child’s eyes and ears to block out the suffering of the world. Children are not stupid, they can understand genocide and conflicts quite well, and in fact they seem to have a lot more empathy than many adults. The people who are suffering from genocide campaigns cannot shield their children from the atrocities being committed around them, but those children are often the most resilient individuals.

    MNG I completely agree with you. As a white westerner, it hits closer to home to see my culture being depicted on both sides – perpetrator and victim. The use of white people is intentional, to show us just how arbitrary and random our division of people based on physical appearance is.

  23. fizXgirl314 says:

    Isn’t one of the guys they show in the beginning of mixed origin? At least he appears to be somewhat non-white to me…

    The style of this reminds me of “children of men” which I really loved… The more I think about this video the more I like it… It’s very raw… and please do not compare this to the antics of lady gaga which are just self serving… this actually has some social worth to me…

  24. gg says:

    Okay this is just a ripoff of an episode of South Park.

  25. jover says:

    First, if MIA wanted to be truly courageous why not depict Saddam Hussein’s genocide against the Kurds or the current fascist Iranian regime’s assualt on gays and lesbians or Idi Amin’s slaughter of his own people in Uganda in the 1970s. It is racist, or at least morally selective, to portray oppression as only coming from whites when black African dictators have been slaughtering their black citizens for decades to the noticeable silence of ppl in MIA’s camp.
    Second, excuse me but starting with Classical greece, western civilization has made a few contributions to humanity – democracy, electricity, anesthia, antibiotics, the telephone, the internal combustion engine, the integrated circuit, etc. Non-whites selectively criticize while taking full advantage today of all the benefits of western civilization not a little bit hypocritical.
    Third, what’s the Sri Lankan view of MIA. She says little about the atrocities, including suicide bombings, the Tamil Tigers used in their 2 1/2 decade long fight against the Sri Lankan gov’t. She conveniently avoids discussing the tactics of the Tamil tigers and that’s moral evasion.
    Fourth, its false that the best art has been political. Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, the French Impressionists anyone. What of pop music in our time – I’d say MJ and Led Zep were pretting big but quite non-political. Even Hendrix was primarily about the music in a very political time. It’s as though posters are too PC to criticize this mediocre non-white female talker/rapper – she isn’t a singer folks.
    But what cinched my disdain for her was the fact that she’s married to the son of a billionare – white – whose father runs Warner Music. So MIA is on easy street giving moral lectures to whitey while leading a life of privilege for whites – or non-whites – could ever dream of. If she were truly authentic why didn’t she stay simple. Now she has the best of both worlds – economic luxury and moral posing that deflects criticism of her privileged life by posing as a defender of oppressed humanity.

  26. Shadowd says:

    @Jover, I think you are taking it to literal, she is using “white” simply as a character, the point is that they are rounding up red heads or “Gingers”, which shows the stupidity of racism.

    Basically, you as a viewer are supposed to change the “White” people and the “Gingers” to who ever you want, to satisfy your point of view, if you want to see Saddam and his genocide against the Kurds go right ahead, it will fit, as Saddam and the Kurds are as similar as “White” and “Gingers”. How about the racism regarding gays or the racism against Blacks or Indians or Muslims or Christians. The list can be as long as you want.

    By using “White” and “Gingers” (a war that never happened), she avoids putting just one group atrocities up for judgment, and gets the viewers to see the stupidly in all racist reactions.

    As for the commandos beating up the “Fat” people, as in most conflicts there are always more than one minority group being picked on, it is normal to pick on several but really brutalize one minority, sort of as a “stay in line or this is what we will do to you”.

  27. Sally says:

    The concept of this video seems simple to me – it is a metaphor for discrimination. Gingers are hated on for being ginger. But so many people who are ‘hair-colourist’ would shy at racism or other kinds of discrimination (sizeism, sexism, etc). Sure, it can be a joke.. but what about all those people on Facebook who took ‘Kick A Ginger Day’ seriously?

    Congrats to M.I.A for getting people to talk about this, though I do prefer her more electro-hiphop stuff.

  28. Adambadadam says:

    When the kids throw rocks at the military vehicles, it reminds me of Palestinian kids throwing rocks at tanks. The video reminds me more of the brutality that Israel inflicts on its neighbors than the U.S. military establishment. Why can’t the Bronfman family keep her quiet?

  29. Jagger says:

    @jover

    “First, if MIA wanted to be truly courageous why not depict Saddam Hussein’s genocide against the Kurds or the current fascist Iranian regime’s assualt on gays and lesbians or Idi Amin’s slaughter of his own people in Uganda in the 1970s. It is racist, or at least morally selective, to portray oppression as only coming from whites when black African dictators have been slaughtering their black citizens for decades to the noticeable silence of ppl in MIA’s camp.”

    What an ignorant comment. MIA has criticized the “brown” Sri Lankan government far more than she has ever criticized any of your “white” people. YOU are the one being “morally selective” here, not MIA. Besides, if the video had shown brown or black people instead (and I’m sure MIA herself would have preferred to show Sri Lankan soldiers abusing Tamils), the Western media would have completely ignored it (and had already been ignoring MIA’s political music about Sri Lanka for years). It’s only because this music video shows white people (in both victim and perpetrator roles) instead of brown people that it’s getting all this attention in the Western media.

    “Second, excuse me but starting with Classical greece, western civilization has made a few contributions to humanity – democracy, electricity, anesthia, antibiotics, the telephone, the internal combustion engine, the integrated circuit, etc. Non-whites selectively criticize while taking full advantage today of all the benefits of western civilization not a little bit hypocritical.”

    Yet another ignorant comment, this time completely ignoring non-Western contributions. Tribal democracy has existed since prehistoric times, in places such as ancient Mesopotamia and Pre-Columbian America. There is also evidence of electric batteries in ancient Mesopotamia. Herbal anaesthesia also originated from ancient Mesopotamia, while modern oral and inhalant anaesthesia originated from Arabic medicine. Herbal antibiotics were used by the ancient Egyptians and Chinese. The first internal-combustion engine was the rocket engines used by the Chinese, Arabs and Mongols in the 13th century. According to your own logic, whites “selectively criticize while taking full advantage today of all the benefits” of non-Western civilizations, which is “a little bit hypocritical.”

    “Third, what’s the Sri Lankan view of MIA. She says little about the atrocities, including suicide bombings, the Tamil Tigers used in their 2 1/2 decade long fight against the Sri Lankan gov’t. She conveniently avoids discussing the tactics of the Tamil tigers and that’s moral evasion.”

    This time your comment is very hypocritical. You claimed above that there was “noticeable silence” from MIA’s camp on non-white crimes, and yet here you are acknowledging that MIA has openly criticized the Sri Lankan government run by non-white people, therefore completely contradicting yourself.

    “Fourth, its false that the best art has been political. Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, the French Impressionists anyone. What of pop music in our time – I’d say MJ and Led Zep were pretting big but quite non-political. Even Hendrix was primarily about the music in a very political time. It’s as though posters are too PC to criticize this mediocre non-white female talker/rapper – she isn’t a singer folks.”

    In my eyes, anyone who resorts to using the “PC” card is a loser, worse than those who use the “race card”. These days, terms like “PC” or “political correctness” are nothing more than excuses used by those who belong to privileged groups (white, male, wealthy, etc.) to retain their dominance over those who belong to under-privileged groups (non-white, female, poor, etc.).

    “But what cinched my disdain for her was the fact that she’s married to the son of a billionare – white – whose father runs Warner Music. So MIA is on easy street giving moral lectures to whitey while leading a life of privilege for whites – or non-whites – could ever dream of. If she were truly authentic why didn’t she stay simple. Now she has the best of both worlds – economic luxury and moral posing that deflects criticism of her privileged life by posing as a defender of oppressed humanity.”

    MIA grew up in Sri Lanka during the civil war. She’s already experienced her fair share of hardships as a child. So what if she’s rich now? If anything, it’s a good thing that she’s using her new-found wealth to continue supporting the cause of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. If “whitey” people such as yourself living comfortably in the West want to continue ignoring non-white genocides across the world, then I think MIA and the director Romain Gavras did the right thing by making a video about white-on-white genocide instead.

  30. Whitey Fisk says:

    I am actually a relatively conservative, mini-van drivin’ white-as-all-getout wife (of a ginger!) and mom (of TWO gingers!) and I think this video is incredible. I admire MIA tremendously and love most of her music. (Youtube “Galang” or “Sunshowers”, great songs and watchable videos) If you have a minute, read a bio on Wikipedia or elsewhere; despite her youth, her life has already been filled with stuff most of us will hopefully never experience. She’s got major guts and an unlimited supply of street cred. She’s not manufactured… I always thought of her as the Spice Girls’ polar opposite. That alone makes her alright with me.

    I don’t understand the idea that artists should not comment on their environments and experience. Art IS commentary on one’s environment and experience. Yes, even Mozart, Monet, et al. Their experiences and ideas about the world were the BASIS for their art. Just because some experiences aren’t pretty or clean or agreeable doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of being art. Sorry, jover.

    I think this video’s concept is genius, although I am extremely uncomfortable with violence. I wonder if she knew people would pay a LOT more attention to a dramatic, controversial video? It certainly got her message to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t have seen it.

    By the way, a looong time ago on Oprah, there was a lady on who rounded up all the audience members with brown eyes (or blue, I can’t remember) and made them wait in long lines, sit in the back, and treated them generally like crap. The people in the mistreated group went apesh!t, but the well-treated group (even many of those who were companions of the mistreated) didn’t do much complaining. Later she explained that she was trying to demonstrate what various ethnic groups experience everyday. The entire audience was weirdly angry – I remember Oprah and the guest kept trying to explain what the point was, but all the audience cared about was having been made to stand in line, or, for the well-treated group, having been made to look bad. While it wasn’t the intended message, the show wound up demonstrating that most people are too busy looking out for #1 to consider the experiences of others.

    I think that many white westerners see redheads as “our own kind” and this video may stir up compassion and a new understanding of what is a reality for MANY ethnic groups, past and present.

  31. rob says:

    Love it! This may be a very simplistic view, but love it or hate it, that’s what good art is all about: making you feel something and causing discussion. For that reason alone i love this video.

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