Even the thumbnail didn’t sit right with me; a white woman in ripped, baggy jeans and a hoodie strutting toward the camera in an empty warehouse.
Then it played.
“We just wanna be pretty…” the lyrics ran out as “Canadian actress, choreographer, comedian, dancer, singer, and YouTube personality” (thank you Wikipedia) Nicole Arbour, swished her blonde curling iron tresses side to side.
Watch ‘This Is America: Women’s Edit’ below
Titled ‘This Is America: Women’s Edit’, Nicole Arbour’s version tries to tick all the right boxes: diversity, the portrayal of what it’s like to be a woman, the omnipresent male gaze, a push back against a world which tells women to be passive and placatory. But it entirely misses the point; a protest movement is at large and she’s walking the other way.
It wasn’t long before Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ was unpacked and understood. Its references to the Charleston church shooting, to the shooting of Stephon Clark this year, and its themes tackling police brutality, systemic white supremacy, gun violence, and media’s long-used practice of misdirection, were all covered in mainstream media.
The video and track demand attention. Donald Glover laid bare the conversations that are often being held outside of the music world, and delivered them through haunting imagery and in a form even White America couldn’t ignore.
‘This Is America’ has spoken to academics, cultural theorists, South African women and men, and even the privileged few like myself who were embarrassingly first engaged by GIFs of Glover’s dancing.
To say that Nicole Arbour’s version is an unhelpful stereotype is an understatement. Lyrics like, “Look how I’m spitting truth out / I’m so trendy / I wear Fendi / I’m so sexy / Imma get it / watch me move / these my titties / that’s my tool” do nothing to help our cause – no matter how facetious their intention.
Granted, the crux of her points are valid, and it isn’t her responsibility to censor or soften the blow of her message – but she chose the wrong message to piggyback off of and parody.
Women and those in marginalised groups are still fighting for inclusion in the system; yet here she is discounting Donald Glover’s message and using his backdrop and virility to paint her own agenda overtop – using broad strokes and white privilege on the way.