America as Dionysiac and Apolline: Part 2

In my previous part, I primarily talked about the Dionysiac quality of art and its relation to Donald Glover’s ‘This is America.’ I also proposed questions which I believe the video evoked its audience to wonder about. Henceforth, I would like to talk about how Glover thinks America has “Apollinely” provided a solution (i.e. an orderly solution) to the violence in America and how he participates in the solution that he critiques.

Juxtaposed against the Dionysiac background of the video, and interrupted by the murder scenes, Glover participates in a dancing which breathes of intentional exaggeration. It critiques the American answer aforementioned in my previous post. In other words, Glover pokes fun at what America provides as a solution to the issue of violence even before he explicates what that answer is.

As to the answer itself, we may look, in one instance, to the lyrics of the song, for they begin to reveal the Apolline answer to the chaos of the violence. In the second stanza, partying is literally a gift asserted as something anyone, who the personal pronouns ‘we’ and ‘you’ refer to, desires. The stanza as a whole hints of partying as entertaining for everyone who has the potency to be involved. The lyrics are Dionysiac insofar as they are hard to make out. Indeed, at times, the lyrics are softly sung, and our focus is directed away from them.

Where, then, is our focus? As the song unfolds, it becomes clearer that entertainment itself is juxtaposed to violence in some manner, for our focus reverts immediately back to Glover’s dancing after the murder scenes have taken place. Furthermore, several school children smoothly dance alongside Glover as erratic violence takes place behind them. The first 12 lines of the seventh stanza lend themselves to the importance of fashion, which entertainment in America often entertains. Think of the celebrity. Is his importance and fashion not popularized in America?

In this frenzied and chaotic video, there seems to be a orderly solution of sorts. What is more convenient to the American in responding to violence than entertaining himself with the pleasures of the arts? Is not pleasure a solution to the depressing news of violence and such? In other words, the dancing of Glover (and the school children) is symbolic of the pleasures of the arts as the forefront of American adventure. The pleasure in the arts insofar as it is a solution to the frenzied reality of violence in America constitutes an Apolline answer as such. Whether it is a good one or not is another topic for a different discussion.

The exaggeration exerted by Glover throughout the video, again, thus makes fun of this answer, although we do not know explicitly why he does so. We can guess that he does so because to seclude ourselves from any awareness of violence is imprudent in itself. If this guess is true, then we need only look to the murder scenes to experience their shock, for if we are shocked, then, perhaps, we are not paying attention to the reality of violence in America. Of course, part of the shock comes from the fact that we are not expecting such a video from such an artist to depict the violent scenes. But, therein lies Glover’s genius in shocking his audience either way, for the Apolline answer becomes evermore apparent.

Do you agree with my interpretation thus far? Why or why not?

The last point I wish to make is this: if Glover pokes fun at the Apolline answer here, then do you not think it ironic that Glover is a celebrity himself? For do we not also prefer his Apolline dancing over the violence due to the fact that he is a celebrity? Perhaps, in this sense, we are like the school children following his footsteps. Additionally, is it not ironic that the video is itself entertaining (at least, to some people)? What do you think of this irony? Is it to be expected, for are not entertaining means the best means to handle dark content?

I have provided a link to the video below for the reader’s interest, if indeed he is interested at all in the matter:

Glover, Donald, Hiro Murai, director, Jason Cole, producer. “This is America,” YouTube, uploaded by Donald Glover, 5 May 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY.

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