The world will probably best remember World Cup 2010 as the dawn of the Age of the Vuvuzela, but a few other things also happened, most of them soccer-related.
This World Cup feels more diverse than in years past, and many of the tournament’s new stars are playing under the flags of countries like Germany thanks to improved immigration laws. It’s a welcome change, to see teams of insanely talented (and good-looking) young men that don’t appear to have been grown in Rocky IV-era science labs.
The less diversity-friendly narrative and legacy of this World Cup took place in the officiating. In a tournament with 64 matches, the first World Cup held in Africa, the calls that stood out, the calls that may finally lead FIFA to change its rules and adopt new review processes, were matches that went against the giants of the first world. Continue reading →
In the nine-minute video for “Born Free,” a song on M.I.A.’s upcoming album, riot police storm an apartment building and round up all the redheaded males. During the raid, the police burst in on a middle-aged couple having sex and traumatize them. A bus full of gingers is driven into a minefield, where the prisoners are sent running to their doom, but not before the youngest is executed in graphic fashion. The body count is lower than that of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” and there is less sexualized nudity than in Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat,” yet it provoked the sort of outrage last seen directed at Marilyn Manson circa 1999. The video was quickly pulled from YouTube.
The premise (reportedly the same as a feature film by director Romain Gavras), is simple, brutal, effective, and not immediately clear. The shootings and explosions in the last two minutes of the video make it easy to forget that the first shot of the bus’ interior is genuinely surprising. The pain and terror on the faces of the couple is palpable. It’s not until after the raid that we learn the rules of this alternate universe. Gavras rests the camera on the faces of a few of prisoners while the music calms; the viewer gets a minute to imagine how this came to be, to imagine why this war is raging, and to wonder if any of the gathered youths are actually guilty of anything. The video doesn’t give any answers to these questions. The men in riot gear gun down their prisoners. Even in a fictional world, they commit war crimes, and the video ends. It’s not uplifting.