Grimes Takes You to Hell

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One recurring trope in science-fiction is the man-made apocalypse, a gloomy, deserted world that’s inhabited by those unlucky enough to witness the side effects of human error. Sometimes it’s from careless behavior like wastefulness, or the threat of a new technology that spreads fear and eliminates empathy, or even the rise of an anarchal state awash in violence. When discussing her new video for “Go,” Grimes hints at the cause for her nightmare-fuel video with: “In the inferno, people’s actions in life echo eternally,” later adding “We shot a bunch at the Salton Sea, which is basically an apocalyptic wasteland filled with dead fish because of human carelessness, a hallway of bullet holes à la Korn ‘Freak on a Leash.'”

Grimes casts herself as the beleaguered Dante, traveling through a unique layer of hell with Blood Diamonds as a particularly flossy Virgil (chain and all). Unlike the bullet in Korn’s “Freak on a Leash” that pierces through everyday objects to cause disruption and chaos, the bullet holes in Grimes’ video is a nod to violence that’s already occurred. In fact, at this point one functions more as a peep hole that peers into the blacklit, filtered dance that Grimes (Dante?), performs.

The 90s style rave-as-futurism outfits and imagery are reminiscent of Katherine Bigelow’s 1995 film Strange Days, where pre-Millenium Los Angeles is on the verge of chaos in the wake of corrupt cops and new technology that threatens to desensitize citizens to violent imagery. It’s interesting that this particular stylization continues to function as a sign of descent into hellish territory, and at this point I’m not 100% sure why, but I feel like nu-metal might be partially to blame.

Angela Bassett in Strange Days

Angela Bassett in Strange Days

It’s worth noting, especially considering Grimes’ bindi-wearing and somewhat sketchy past of cultural appropriation that “Go” also has pause-worthy racial aspects. Though the dancers in the video could be any race, seeing as how the lighting distorts and some of them are wearing masks, in shots of Grimes dancing and wearing a dress in a way that reads future-exotic by way of vague Asian influence, Grimes creates a future (albeit bleak one), inspired by people of color that doesn’t feel like it needs to specifically reference them. Writing about Grimes’ video for “Genesis” (which had similar problems), Julianne Escobedo Shepard called the practice “attaching vague ethnic allusions to coolness without context.”

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Here’s to a future with less of that.

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