What is this music video about?
Sia! The best thing to come out of pop since… The 80´s? She is an artist in every sense of the word. I have a great respect for her work. Both before she had a real break trough and the later hits. She has a quirky sound, exciting music videos and sings about interesting themes without falling into an -ism.
The last couple of years or so Sia has had a couple of mainstream big hits. Two songs with DJ David Guetta (Titanum and She Wolf) and the songs Chandelier from her album A 1000 forms of fear. These videos have accompanied music videos which were the style of the time.
Her last single Elastic Heart and [one of the] the music video for Chandelier used a very talented child dancer called Maddie Ziegler to do some impressionist dance to accompany the music. Some people have called pedophila on those videos as it is a child in the center of the video. Now let´s watch the lates video to see what we are talking about —>
So the question is: Is this video pedophilic in some way? Let´s answer that question by looking for the videos meaning. I will use David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson analytic tools for interpreting meaning explained in their book Film Art. I will therefor look for the referencial, explicit, implicit and symptomatic meaning of this video before coming to a conclusion on this “controversy”.
Let me start by saying one thing; A perverted person see perverted things in anything. To look for the referencial meaning is just pointing out what we see without giving to much interpretation.
This video is about a girl and an adult man dancing in a cage with dirty clothes. The girl wears a wig also used in former music videos by Sia. The dance is expressive and intense with lots of jerking movements and grimaces accompanying the song Elastic Heart song by Sia. Most of the time the dancing seems playful and comedic but at points during the video it goes slower, more intimate.
I do not know a lot about dance as an art, but I can say that it technique seems to be good and interesting to watch. The dance moves goes from averting to more aggressive. The actors goes from being distant from each other to jumping on to each other. They use the entire space of the cage to explore.
At one point the girl goes out of the cage but the man can not go trough the bars. The girl then goes inside again to continue the dance. Then at the end of the video and song the girl goes outside of the cage again, this time staying while the man reach out for her, grabbing her. First he has an intense pleading look and then goes over to a more stale and dead look. This end scene goes on for a while, long after the music has ended and the sounds are just silent ambience of the room. Then the video fades to black.
There is nothing referentially pedofilic in this video. At no point is there kissing, touching of bad parts or any other perverted imagery. Its just an adult man dancing with a girl.
Very little can be explicitly stated about this video. There is no explanation to the girl and the mans relationship (other than outside in the real world, where he is an famous actor, and she is a child dancer). There are no cue card pointing out “Father” and “Daughter”, or “Pedoman” and “Victim” or anything else. So we as an audience has to guess what this dance is about. In 2015 that is not a good idea cuz people are too emotionally stumped to use empathy to understand what is going on. It needs to be hammered in with a nail.
The only thing that is explicit is that this is a music video for the song Elastic Heart and that the dance is suppose to represent the music or the lyrics somewhat. So let´s look shortly at the lyrics song during this dance.
The song starts of with
“And another one bites the dust
Oh why can I not conquer love?
And I might have thought that we were one
Wanted to fight this war without weapons“
So it is some kind of love song. The way I interpreted that song its about a love relationship with a lot of baggage. The singer has issues that makes it hard to keep the relationship going. It seems she leaves when things get to complicated. That the song is accompanying the dance and that this is a music video is the only thing explicit in this video.
So I at least couldnt find any pedofilic references neither referencial or explicit. So I guess that the pedophilia must be interpreted and implied. So I will now analyse this video for deeper implicit meanings. I will make two interpretations of this video. One that I think is the most “normal” one and most people will see and that may have the most evidence for, and then my interpretation that may or may not be a little more far fetch.
But first… A coffee break.
Okay. So I think the most common, non perverted, interpretation of this video is that its a dance representing a coming of age between a father and a daughter. The daughter is playing with her father as a child, but also wanting to be alone and explore on her own. The father then fights with himself to accept that the daughter is growing up and soon will be moving away. I think this is a sound interpretation that fits in with what we see in the video. It´s not my interpretation, though.
I interpet the music video as having a symbiotic relationship with the song. That the video´s dance is meant to be seen as an henanchement of the songs meaning, which is a song about a woman struggling to find ease in a relationship. The cage then represent the relationships bounderies, the man represents the love interest and the girl represents a immature woman not being able to do the “adult” thing. I will add that I also think the girl is a representation of the artist Sia. I base this on the use of the wig, that looks much like the artist own hairstyle.
We, as a mature audience, could see the girl as a metaphor of an adult woman with childlike mentality. This does not make the video pedophilic as their is nothing sexual going on and if you accept a) child is an adult, you need to accept b) this does not mean the video is about an adult and a child, and c) this does not make the video pediophilic in nature since purely referentially its about a man and girl dancing which isnt strange or perverted.
Symptomatically interpretation is when we look beyond the video/movie/book we are interpreting and see how this text is seen from a societal or historical context. I would therefor ponder a bit about why this video has been accused of being pedophilic when there is nothing sexual going on in the video itself.
I stated earlier, and I´ll state it again “A perverted person see perverted things in anything“. We don´t live in innocent times anymore for better or worse. We see dangers everywhere and think badly of any seemingly good intention. Not to sound anti-american, but USA is perhaps worse in this area. They see faults and dangers in everything.
Pedophilia is a rarity, but its not unknown anymore. There are no more pedophiles now than in the 1950´s (I think) but we talk more about it now. The consequence is that this sows a seed of perversion in our minds. An example of this is the norwegian song “Blåveispiken” (eng: pennywort-girl) which is a song about a man walking on a rural road and meeting a girl with a bouquet of flowers. They talk and then she gives him the flowers and he gives her candy. The songs end with a reflection of ease from the man who felt she gave him more than he gave her.
In the “innocent” times this song was written there was nothing wrong with an adult man talking to a child and giving her candy. Now we “know” that men can be perverted and giving candy to children can be a trap for a sexual predator. This means that we as audiences are a bit… fu**ed up. We can no longer see innocence where innocence were. That is a fault we need be conscious about and work against. Yes, in this world there are people doing evil, that does not mean every person in this world is evil. Sometimes an adult talking to a child is not the start of a perverted and evil act.
You may think this seed of perversion in our minds is a small issue, but this goes beyond our understanding of text. This is also put out into actions. One warning sign was when Men Seated Next to Unaccompanied Minors is Forced to Change Seats. That is a sign of sickness that is downright madness.
If people see pedophilia in Sia´s music video its not because the video in anyway condone or romantizese this, it because they themselves have a f**ked up view on the world. It´s themselves they mirror in this. It´s themselves they see. Not as pedophiles, but as people seeing pedophilia and perversion where there is non.
I think the most profound text I have read about understanding art was the preface to A Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and I have quoted it regularly. So let me again quote it as a final thought
“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.
All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.”
-Oscar Wilde, Preface of The Picture of Dorian Grey
I will probably quote it again cuz this needs to be said time and time again.
Blog 2.0 – In Sovjet Russia art mirrors you.