M.I.A.’s New Video “Born Free” Explores Gingercide


If you’ve become numb to the triple gunshot crack that rings out from M.I.A.’s oft-played avant hip-hop track “Paper Planes,” fret not. The neon-clad native Sri Lankan has upped the violence ante … by, like, a bazillion.

M.I.A., or Maya Arulpragasam, recently released a video for the song “Born Free” from her as-yet-untitled album, which is slated to come out on June 29, 2010. Within a day, YouTube had obscured "Born Free" from the site, claiming that the nine-minute video violated rules prohibiting pornography or gratuitous violence.

Directed by Romain Gavras, the music video shows combat-clad military men violently rounding up a busload of redheads before taking them out to a field to be brutally massacred as they run for their lives. One particularly gnarly shot looks like someone threw a grenade into a butcher shop. Yikes.

Though this isn’t the first time gingers have been used as an allegory for arbitrary discrimination—(remember that South Park episode where Cartman comes down with a case of Gingervitis and provokes his fellow carrot tops to exterminate all non-gingers?)—the video is still (unnecessarily?) startling and undoubtedly political. Whether M.I.A. is making a comment on the Sri Lankan government’s treatment of Tamil Tigers, or any of the countless other cases of ethnic and class discrimination, her message rings out loud and bloody clear.

And while stirring the pot is not something this chart-topping London-living lass has never shied away from, this particular brand of grandstanding via the use of gratuitous violence comes off as an odd form of activism for someone who requests “cave-aged gruyere” on her tour rider. Just sayin.

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.