M.I.A.'s "Born Free": A Controversial Talking Point
From what I've heard of the debate, M.I.A's "Born Free" has been criticized for the graphic depiction of the genocide of redhead males; the Huffington Post noted that the video could serve as an analogy:
The video shows U.S. soldiers rounding up redheaded men and boys and bussing them to the desert where they are brutally beaten and killed. Whether it's a comment on the absurdity of genocide (of which MIA saw plenty during her early childhood in Sri Lanka) or a challenge to the idea of "other" in Arizona's immigration law, it is startling even in the context of recent genre-bending music art-films.(Huffington Post.com)
While I'm reminded of the symbiotic relationship between artists and critics because of the mixed-reception the video has received, I'm of the opinion that creative endeavors are meant to inspire reactions and provoke thought. Parents might not want their young children watching this kind of video; however, adults sometimes need to be prodded out of their comfortable apathy to consider issues that they do not encounter in their daily lives.
In "Simulacra and Simulations,"(props to William Nericcio's book for turning me on to Jean Baudrillard) Baudrillard brings up the issue of simulating violence and the danger that it presents because of how simulation can be difficult to discern from reality:
"“it would be interesting to see whether the repressive apparatus would not react more violently to a simulated hold up than to a real one? For a real hold up only upsets the order of things, the right of property, whereas a simulated hold up interferes with the very principle of reality. Transgression and violence are less serious, for they only contest the distribution of the real...There is no "objective" difference: the same gestures and the same signs exist as for a real theft...you will unwittinglyfind yourself immediately in the real, one of whose functions is precisely to devour every attempt at simulation, to reduce everything to some reality”(175-176)
Baudrillard's explanation accounts for why people who do not understand the root of what M.I.A. is representing feel as disturbed by the simulation in "Born Free" as though it were real violence enacted, even if only symbolic. The messages sent in representation serve to remind how us of ideas in the public discourse because the representation wouldn't be as persuasive were it not associated, or conflated, with a shared referential meaning. Can we forget Cartman's movement against redheads?Click on picture or link to Cartman's presentation on Gingervitus: