It's All Fun Until Someone Gets Totally Fucking Murdered: Kids and Violence In Music Videos
Last week, while discussing the recent uptick in apocalypse-themed videos, we spent a couple sentences discussing the angry, Mad Max-style children that stand to inherit our post-doomsday world, at least as represented in the video for Foster the People's "Helena Beat." That video was meant to exist not in an allegorical version of our world, but in a landscape grown out of the worst logical extensions of our own -- an indication similar to the opening scenes of Children of Men, littered with recognizable shops, brands and clothing styles, which made the possibilities it implied all the scarier.
Playing cowboys and jihadis in the video for Is Tropical's "The Greeks"
In May, French directing quartet Megaforce released one of the deftest artifacts that will ever be created dealing with the place where playtime, war games, and the death fetish of modern action films intersect. Everything's done right in the video for Is Tropical's single "The Greeks" -- from the pitch-perfect G.I. Joe explosions and gun shots grazing the driveway, to the paved-within-an-inch-of-its life contemporary tract home neighborhood, to the kids' studious recreations of movie-inspired gangster scenes that morph into something much more damning by video's end.
On the Kitsune records site, Is Tropical deny any meaning but fun and fantasy as the basis for their collaboration with Megaforce: "Don't get carried away by politics - this is a straight-up kid brawl the way it played out in your head when you were stealing your mum's mascara to be like Arnie in Predator. It isn't a shocking rebuke to our drama queen, populist news culture either - just naive, blissful shoot-yr-mate until he's definitely dead war-games - the way you wish it still could be." Something in this dodge and denial is reminiscent of the critical feedback surrounding Attack the Block, another kids 'n' fantasy violence spectacle directed by first-time feature helmer Joe Cornish. Except that where Is Tropical is insisting there isn't more to their video, somehow Attack is being received as a little less than the pro-kids, pro-future, pro-globalized culture manifesto that its strongest moments prove it to be.
A year ago, director Matt Wells plumbed this fault line between adult responsibility/misery and pre-pubescent fantasy/rage with a clear-eyed, strange, straight-up funny video for Rafter's "No Fucking Around." We're having trouble keeping track of whether we prefer arrested development (adults that join weekend dodgeball leagues and sign-up for city-wide scavenger hunts) because it's fun or because we feel as rattled and rough around the edges as that cool fat kid righteously spazzing in a button-down shirt and tie at the bus stop.
Andrew O'Hehir at Salon delivers the most succinct kneejerk response to this setup, saying, "They've behaved like sadistic creeps not once but twice, and now we're supposed to root for them when the aliens bring it for real? Sorry, guys." When the tried-and-true cinematic device of the violent, flippantly murderous anti-hero -- a trope that has worked as well and frequently in folk legends as on the silver screen -- is transposed onto teenagers, suddenly we have trouble letting our allegiances shift with the action, or at least are disturbed by that request. O'Hehir mumbles some objections to his own objection -- he knows not everyone else feels like this, he knows he might be mad that someone is trying to take advantage of his liberal guilt -- but his disturbance is made of the same stuff that actually makes Attack great, and "The Greeks" equally fun and troubling.
These kids are the future, in all their capacity to be just as human as the rest of us, in all the ways we've failed them, in all the bullshit we're laying down for them to fix later. One critic's review of Attack the Block hits this square on the head. Peter Bradshaw, writing for the Guardian, is steeped in the schizophrenic British culture of ASBOs (anti-social behavior orders) and high tea, the English Defense League and Skins. As Britain and the rest of Europe march towards their future, at once more intrinsically liberal than the US and increasingly imploding under the demands of multiculturalism, Bradshaw has the answer we have to face to the question that Megaforce, Wells and Cornish's work all pose: "It's easy to watch a film like this and wonder ... when are the grownup white actors going to take over? The answer is never."