M.I.A.'s NSFW 'Born Free' video: What do you think of its redheaded genocide theme?

M.I.A.’s graphically violent new video for “Born Free” depicts a military roundup and violent slaughter of the redheaded citizens of a war-torn desert nation. On one hand, the clip is an interesting bit of political theater, forcing viewers to examine their own feelings about — and possible apathy toward — news of genocide and global violence that appears in our papers and on our TV sets and radios with numbing regularity. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be hard to view the jarring images in “Born Free” as a shortcut to invaluable Internet buzz and potential album sales that come with it. This is, after all, the same woman who just a few weeks back courted controversy by basically accusing Lady Gaga of copying her style.

The video has been yanked from YouTube — M.I.A. took to Twitter to rail against Universal Music execs for the move, then hastily rescinded her rant — but it’s streaming at her Web site miauk.com. (Contacted by EW, M.I.A.’s publicist said she is not commenting on the video at this time.) For me, the chilling silence that greets our central victim as he’s forced onto a bus — and the realization that he’s been targeted solely for his hair color — make a more effective statement than the grimly over-the-top landmine explosions that follow, but either way, it’s hard to get through this without feeling something. Check out the extremely NSFW clip for yourself, then vote in our poll below.

Comments (129 total) Add your comment
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  • Bob Smith

    Free Palestine!

    • lala

      …from Islam!

      • momo

        No…from the terrorist state known as Israel that commits genocide every day on innocent men, women and children so clearly demonstrated in the video above you ignorant American.

      • dgh

        No one in Palestine is innocent!!!!!!

      • thoughtsfromp

        free the world!!!!! … from oppression!

      • Muslim

        they dont need to be saved from Islaam. In fact, it is Allaah and Islaam that is protecting them. How do you supposed the people in the largest open-air prison (Gaza) are still alive and fighting even though the invaders & occupiers (the ugly zionists) are trying to torture them and kill them every single moment they can?

      • sarah

        Islam is not something bad-its ignorance and hatred that’s the thing causing problems in the world. Ignorance which this video shows: what if it was just over hair color? Is that any better then ‘just religion’? Seriously. Islam isn’t the enemy, christianity isn’t the salvation, there are billions of people who all have different beliefs. Deal with it, accept it, and stop being such an ignorant waste of space lala!

    • Chaz Winterbottom

      Free your favorite-istan!

      • melissa

        Free Lunch!

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        Free time!

      • Drunk dude at a Concert

        Freebird!

      • Suntrap

        Free Willy!

    • nathan

      Free Tamils

    • Andy

      Free Hat!

    • Eyeball

      The ‘chilling silence’ and ‘realization’ are totally cheapened by you giving them away. Great job, EW.

    • B

      Lady Gaga did copy M.I.A. on Wale’s “Chillin”. Between that and Wale actually referencing M.I.A. in the lyrics, you have to see the video to realize it’s Lady Gaga.

  • LOL

    Cartman is part Ginger and he’s steamed.

    • Dysthymia83

      They probably used the guns Blackwater got by signing his name too.

  • RyanK

    The message was made loud and clear without the need for the over-the-top gratuitous nature of the video. The naked couple was forced shock value, and the land mine sequence was just absurd. (Especially considering the fact that the last time I checked, real land mine explosions don’t look like Hollywood gasoline explosions, and they certainly don’t liquefy people a la Spielberg’s tripod death ray in The War of the Worlds.)

    Also, speaking from the viewpoint of a lifelong ginger kid, I had no reaction to the fact that they chose red heads. Clearly, in reality, everyone knows that we red heads are simply too cute to be singled out for genocide. Now those blonds…I don’t trust them.

    • jack

      Gingers have no souls. Really they dont

      • Terra

        Joking or not saying that is the darkest kind of racism and demonic monstrosity that could come out anythings mouth

        keep your vile tongue behind your teeth, Demon.

    • Dave

      Gingers suffer from gingervitis.

    • Michael Q. Schmidt

      The nudity was done to underscore how we are all vulnerable, with civil rights being fragile and subject to the caprocious nature of governmant intrusions. – Michael

  • Madox

    Great video. Too bad about the music, though.

  • MultiPass

    Not enough nudity with the redheads and soldiers. Count me disappointed. …and the song kinda sucked.

  • Creek

    This isn’t music. It’s noise.

    • Deadly Sinner

      Sorry it isn’t Ke$ha.

      • Creek

        She’s awful too. :/ I saw 2 seconds of her on SNL and thought I was watching a parody of something.

  • jack

    this is such a stupid video. first of all, the song is bad and simply original for the sake of originality. Second, for someone who was criticizing lady gaga for being cliched,i’d say this video is far far FAR more cliche. what is it trying to say? that genocide is wrong? gee thanks…as if we haven’t picked that up from the 20 000 holocaust films before this.

    • matt

      WOW your comment is f****d up. first of all, apparently it hasn’t been said enough that genocide is wrong because ITS STILL GOING ON IN DARFUR TODAY. and secondly the song is absolutely genius and the best punk song ive heard from the past 10 years, easily.

      • FB

        the song is pure Suicide tribute. Ghost Rider riff and beat perfect Alan Vega style vocal delay. Nothing exactly original. But yeah, it rocks.

  • Amy

    My fellow gingers! We must lead the revolt against this terrible music and its associated video! Or just ignore it because its stupid…

    • Winona

      Indeed! I watched it once, but had to turn down the music… Gingers Unite!

    • Dysthymia83

      The Ginger Fundamentalists will be after our Goo in no time.

  • Nitin

    She was forced to do this after the US media chose to completely ignore the genocide of Tamilians in Sri Lanka. The information blackout ensured that very little was known about how the Tamilians were and continue to be treated.
    I think this is clearly a political statement and a dumbed down one, otherwise the American audience wouldn’t understand.

    • Ryan

      Wow, thanks for talking down to an entire nation, as though none of us Americans are intelligent enough to understand subtlety and nuance in media. You almost made me forget that I completely agree with you about Sri Lanka. Also, “forced to do this”? Too strong. She chose to make this video, as a fiercely (commendably) independent artist. And yes the US media provided abominable coverage.

      • Carlos

        Rather than debate because you can, why don’t you see that you agree. In order to get any press these days you MUST be controversial. But guess what? It’s not hard. This country is full of puritans, snobs, and ignorant people, all you have to do is make a passionate statement about something and boom, you have controversy because some jackass with a slight semblance of power will be offended, or feign being offended and if you’ve got enough clout as an artist you’re message is parlayed for ratings. The difference between someone like M.I.A. vs someone like Britney or Gaga is that she does most of the work. Do a little research on where an artist is coming from– M.I.A. happens to be a true artist. Listen to what she’s talking about in her music. You don’t need to enjoy the genre, but be open minded, you might just learn something. Or not, but in the end you should think critically, and I don’t mean about whether you like slower or faster beats, or videos with more or less nudity. Try and think of what the artist is trying to say, and whether it is a genuine sentiment, and whether it made you think. Art can be fun and pointless and it can be deeply moving and spiritual and everything in between. What makes discussing art interesting is when someone brings more to the table than oh I didn’t like it because _______, and can elucidate on what the artist did say, or didn’t say. Analyzing art is an art form in itself, and diluting it to “this is art. this is not art”, while fun doesn’t add to the conversation.

      • DonGately

        Carlos…beautiful stuff. Should be required reading for everyone who wants to comment on entertainment.

    • mary

      Tamilians? hello? Tamils..if you are going to name a community, name it right…

      • sandasavi

        @Mary Really, it is Tamils, thank you.
        @Nitin If you really want to know about Sri Lanka and how people have been treated you would know that Tamils are Tamils and not Tamilians, it is not the same as Sri Lankans. Your point is mute now.

      • levelheaded

        @sandasavi it is actually “moot” not “mute”. Although it might be mute if you mean it figuratively, like we’re not listening to them anymore due to their ignorance, which has rendered their voice mute to our ears.

        I don’t mean to be petty, because you’re point is a good one, but it doesn’t have to be quite so hostile as to imply they don’t want to know or care about what is happening in Sri Lanka.

        I’m ignorant about the situation in Sri Lanka, but it’s not because I don’t care about the issue. It’s honestly because I’ve never heard about it. And I would consider myself a fairly enlightened person who looks past mainstream media for news.

        If we could be a little kinder, people would be more willing to express their own ignorance and then they would be more likely to learn.

        This would benefit us all.

      • levelheaded

        @sandasavi – never mind my rant. I see that Nitin was first in the rude comments. Your comment was tame compared to his claiming all Americans are ignorant jerks.

        I am, but that’s not because I’m American. ;-)

      • Deadly Sinner

        sandasavi, it’s moot, not mute. Your post is retarded.

  • Kevin

    Down with Gingers!!! Wait… what am I saying? I LOVE me some redheaded ladies.

  • Fatima

    Usually I’d get frustrated with people insulting MIA, but I know I can just wait a few months for the rush of rave reviews and one of the best albums of the year.

  • Michael Q. Schmidt

    I was the actor caught en-flagrante with my “wife” when the police “broke into” our room. It was delicious working on the project and the final cut simply amazes. – Michael Q. Schmidt

    • Zoey

      I respect you so much.

      • Michael Q. Schmidt

        I appreciate your comment. When the world is faced with human rights violations, we all should do what we can to spread the message. If this required me to share some skin to spotlight the inequities, then so be it. If we do not recognize that the liberties we take for granted are indeed fragile, how long before they will be breaking down our own doors… with us all finding ourselves naked and vulnerable… “stripped” of our rights?

  • Catlin

    interesting video, not what i would call good music though…born free x1000

  • KMS

    Would have been much more compelling had she not felt the need for the forced American flag badges on the uniforms. More interesting. In this case, we get it, you hate the US. Yet you are happy to use our publicity and take our money. (Geez, I am the last person to go all patriotic, but really MIA, that was lame.)

    • Chip H

      I think you got it completely wrong. What I saw was an attempt (not perfectly executed mind you) to draw western audiences into thinking about the sort of “oddball” targeting of individuals for beatings, jail, execution, etc. that take place in much of the world. The soldiers are the us, the “normal” people are us, and the target of their hatred is us. I saw it as a way of highlighting the extreme differences between the U.S., that may complacently let this crap happen, that may have its own bizarre politics of division, but, at least for now, is a long way off from actually seeing the government and populace go head to head over what particular religious sect you’re from, or which caste your grandparents belonged to.

      • Marie

        then why is she mad at the US instead of the United Nations? they are supposed to handle stuff like this. the United States is NOT the world’s police. sorry if our “media” isn’t there, but we have our own problems, it’s not like we have nothing else to do. nowerdays, it seems like people hate us Americans until they need us.
        why don’t those uniforms have British flags since MIA is NOT a US citizen? if she has a problem, she can start with her own home.

    • thoughtsfromp

      @KMS please you give Americans a bad name. you are an ignorant ass so please STFU. use some sense. it amazes me how we in this country have over 20 years of close to free education and still we has some dumb ass people and halfway across the world people have only about 4-6 years of learning and they can grasp the simplest concepts most americans are unfortunately unable to understand.

  • Denis

    The US military is such an easy, obvious, and safe target. Yes, I “get” the video, but imagine what would’ve happened if she’d shown any group other than US soldiers behaving like terrorists… I thought it was really lazy and obvious on her part. Likewise, if an episode of South Park can inspire “Kick a Ginger” day, I can only imagine what this clip will incite.

    • levelheaded

      Maybe she used US soldiers to help Americans feel less ‘invincible’ and realize that we have done such things in the past. (think Japanese Internment camps, Native Americans, etc).

      She’s not asking for help, she’s asking us to reflect on our culture.

      • Straight Up

        Not that f*cking b*tches job.

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