Childish Gambino dropped a new song and that honestly after watching it more than a dozen times, is saddening (and stuck in my head). If you haven’t checked it out yet you can find a link to it on the site (here). It showcases Donald Glover’s creative style and paints a picture that is depressing, not because of the background, but rather because of its indication. As always, this are my thoughts from watching the music video. Read at your own risk!
Firstly, I watched the video on YouTube more than a dozen times and watched the live version of it on SNL. After watching the SNL version my thoughts were solidified. The video itself is a masterpiece of themes and symbols. I believe the main theme that Childish Gambino is focused on can be summed up in one question; What has the American Dream become? The American dream is defined by James Truslow Adams in his book “The Epic of America”
“that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” (p.214-215)
The American Dream as portrayed by James Truslow Adams, is entirely different from what I thought it was. I always thought the American Dream was that of success. A chance to be successful and rich. The dream described by the author doesn’t only encompass riches, it encompasses reputation. Childish Gambino is showing us America based from his POV (point of view). The question still stands in the examples defined by the song. What has the American dream become.
The first example is when, we first see Childish Gambino, he is shirtless, wearing only golden chains, suit pants, and loafers. He then dances towards the back of the man playing guitar and shoots him (55 – 1:25). After shooting him he hands the gun to a child who runs off screen with it. He then begins to dance and say, “this is America, don’t catch you slippin’ up.” The main thing I believe is being portrayed there is the numbness of America.
We watched as Childish Gambino shot a man and then danced freely with children. I think he is stating that in America there is murder, but we are more focused on becoming the next trend rather than preventing murder. I believe Childish Gambino is stating that, America is becoming numb to violence and we are teaching children to follow. The children despite the fact that two of them drag the body of the dead man away (58-1:00) and one of them was given the gun (53-56), they dance behind Childish Gambino, following him. We can see on their faces that they are not concerned with the murder or that they are following a murderer. They would rather keep with the trends. They are numb to what has happened, and the only emotion left is to dance like nothing has happened.
I believe Childish Gambino is alluding to the police brutality cases. As Americans when someone is murder, the murderer, if caught, is sent to jail, but if those whose job it is to ensure justice is upheld, murder, what can we do? Throughout the video we see no police, I believe Childish Gambino made that choice because if they (police) kill just like anyone else, then they have become just like anyone else.
When we see the cases of Rodney King or Philando Castile, get acquitted how can we as Americans, ensure that justice prevails. I believe Childish Gambino responds by dancing. His answers being; we can’t so get your money. I don’t believe that Childish Gambino intends for dancing to be the answer, but suggests that it is America’s answer, get money and party. Throughout the entire video Childish Gambino is dancing while in the background is riots, suicide, and even death (Revelations 6:8) (2:13 – 2:40). As Americans we aren’t solving the problems, instead we become numb and get our money, the new American dream.
If the American dream is for each person to have a chance to “attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position,” then why isn’t America recognizing murder. That can be seen in the video (55-1:25) that the kids and even Childish Gambino didn’t care. The following lines of the song talking about having the gun, needing the gun, and being cold (1:25 – 1:40).
The next example that we see are people singing in the video, is a church choir. The hymn however that is being sung is not focused on Christ or a hope, but rather an exhortation. The choir is urging a black man to get money (1:40 – 2:00). Childish Gambino glides in dancing for a second, taking part in the praise of money. Stops creepily, before receiving an assault rifle and shooting them.
I believe the statement is, all we care about is getting money as a black man, in America. We believe that getting money will solve all our problems. We will party for the money, kill for the money and influence the younger generation to do the same. But the American dream stated by James Truslow Adams isn’t just primarily focused on money. I believe that Childish Gambino is stating that the America dream has changed to a focus on solely “getting money” rather than have a moral stature or reputation. That is why we see a church choir singing “get your money” (1:48 – 1:57). It is the new American dream, to get money.
I believe it displays that, even though we are talented individuals, we focus more on getting rich rather than moral standards. We have a lack of concern in America due to the numbness and the focus of money, and we are influencing the younger generation. I believe it was portrayed when Childish Gambino hands the rifle to a child who takes it and runs (1:57 – 1:59). We may not see the child ever use the rifle, but we can infer that he is perfectly fine with accepting it. A child accepting a murder weapon (I say this because the rifle was used to kill the choir) should be a problem.
In the final moments of the video, Childish Gambino stops dancing, the music stops, and he stands in silence. He pulls out a blunt and takes a hit before jumping on top of a car to start dancing again (2:55 – 3:17). I believe it suggests that our numbness, as Americans, is something that one person can’t fix. We as a collective must do more.
The new American dream is to get money. At any cost. I believe that Childish Gambino’s video is trying to show us what America is becoming. From the killing of black folk to the viral trends. We as a collective must change.
That’s what I saw in the video. What do you think the solution to the pursuit of money is? What were your thoughts on the video? Do you feel numb or a disconnect from the things happening in the world? If you enjoyed the post and would like to support this platform, subscribe to keep up with the trends. If you want to support this post comment “Heard” and share it with everyone. As always fam, thanks for reading and
Grace to you,