The United States just saw arguably the most political song to climb up to the top spot of the music charts with Childish Gambino’s release of the video for “This is America,” a gritty, dark production showing violence juxtaposed with catchy lyrics and tune.
It features the figure of a half-naked comedian Donald Glover, who uses the musical stage name Childish Gambino, dancing and singing through a relatively empty warehouse while entering rooms and shooting down people.
As of posting time, the video has earned more than 125 million views after debuting 12.9 million views in its first 24 hours—one of the biggest YouTube debuts of the year.
Song annotators offer their interpretations of its symbolism possibly for gun violence, pop culture’s perception of the black experience and the short attention span of the internet.
“Making a meme from ‘This Is America’ isn’t dumb just because of the violent imagery. It’s dumb because the source material literally symbolizes the short attention span of the internet,” says a commentator on Vice.
A Mashable writer, meanwhile, argued that memes are inevitable: “Memes are an inevitable product of the age that we live in. It’s not like Glover, (video producer Ibra) Ake, director Hiro Murai, and the other creative forces involved in making ‘This Is America’ weren’t aware.”
Art, no matter how sacred, has always been derived for new material and new message, whether appropriate or not.
A new context?
In the Philippines, still images from the video emerged on Twitter on May 11, the day the Supreme Court deposed its head, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, using a backdoor legal mechanism based on the government’s quo warranto petition.
This is the Philippines / Don't catch you slippin' up pic.twitter.com/ZjgVeiFgwt
— 愛情人 🏮 (@highreaching) May 11, 2018
This is the Philippines (woo)
Disasters killin’ us (ayy)
Human rights slippin’ out (woo)
Rule of law goin’ out (ayy)
Islands are stolen from us (woo)
Dead bodies everywhere (ayy)
This is the Philippines (woo) pic.twitter.com/DELiuFDmwF
— David Garcia (@mapmakerdavid) May 11, 2018
The quo warranto petition challenged the appointment of Sereno in 2012 even as the traditional one-year deadline for such petition had lapsed. The Constitution also provides the power to oust a sitting chief justice to Congress.
This is the Philippines. pic.twitter.com/8yykCZM606
— Jet Tamin (@jet_tamin) May 11, 2018
The impeachment complaint against Sereno is stalled at the House of Representatives, and its leadership has given way to the Supreme Court decision—at least for now. The Senate, however, slammed the ruling for its lack of jurisdiction.