The Strange Retrogressive Nature of Murs’ ‘Animal Style’ Video

It frustrates me that people are running around saying that Murs' new video is progressive and a "gay rights" video.

 

 

I don't think it is. I think it's about as retrogressive as a video can be. It is a video that reinscribes really awful narratives that erase complex black homosexuality from our discourse. It continues a really awful tendency in American media to only show black homosexuality in the context of interracial relationships (and the DL) as if two black men can't, or don't, or won't, love one another. And it suggests that blackness and homosexuality are mutually exclusive and incompatible.

I overheard a conversation on the metro yesterday that crystallized why I dislike this video. The sister on the train I was riding said to her friend, "Did you see that Murs' gay shit? I don't know why these white fags are spreading that gay shit to our men."

The only two people who matter in the video are Jonathan and Roderick. They are (at best) archetypes and (at worst) one-dimensional. Jonathan is happy and cool with being gay. For Roderick, its like a demon he can't exorcise. He's infected. Driven mad. 

The video could have fleshed both men out – and the world they inhabit – in a way that would give enough context so that the story makes sense and viewers would feel empathy for the two men, but it doesn't. We don't know why this is so hard for Roderick. Why is this harder for him than it is for Jonathan? Is it because homosexuality is white? Is it because its unnatural for black men to love other men? The video does not say and so the viewer is left to make assumptions. Assumptions fueled by a media environment that has so few images of complicated, human black homosexual characters and relationships. That is dangerous.

The video itself has to frustrate or upend dominant narratives so that viewers rethink their assumptions about black homosexuality in order to be truly progressive and useful, but it doesn't. This is partly why the comments on the video on World Star Hip Hop and other sites are so vitriolic. By relying on assumptions it actually reinscribes them. 

And yet, its very existence is lauded because it's a rapper talking about "gay shit." I just don't think that's enough. 

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