Sunday, May 26, 2019

Open Space: Nicole Arbour needs to learn the difference between satire and stupidity

March 6, 2019 by Jessica Ho, contributing writer

You might recognize Nicole Arbour’s name from the viral 2015 YouTube video “Dear Fat People,” or one of her countless other filmed rants, such as “Dear Black People,” “Dear Feminists,” “Dear Sluts,” “Dear Refugees,” or myriad other distasteful videos created by the Canadian comic and YouTube star. 

Just when we thought that she couldn’t go any further, the former cheerleader and self-proclaimed “motivational creative powerhouse” has got the public fuming again with her parody of “This Is America.”

This story originally appeared in our March 6, 2016 issue.

If you’re not familiar with the original, “This Is America” was released in May 2018 by Black rapper Childish Gambino. Gambino’s lyrics are jam-packed with symbolism and, coupled with the song’s critically acclaimed music video, have earned Gambino 13 awards, including a Grammy Award for Song of the Year. 

Arbour’s classless adaptation, “This Is America: Women’s Edit,” is disjointed at best. In the opening scene of the parody, Arbour puts on lipstick in place of Gambino lighting a cigarette. Arbour replaces the scene of a man with a bag over his head being shot with a breastfeeding woman being taken out of the room. Incoherency is peppered throughout the song with muddled lyrics such as “This is America/got rape in my area,” “I wear Fendi/I’m so sexy,” and “I gotta give up my dreams/… rather be the Taliban.” 

Apparently, Arbour thought it was a great idea to translate the immensely layered song and music video to an incoherent parody that profits off of Gambino’s concept and art. Instead of a thoughtful portrait of issues such as gun violence, police brutality, mass shootings, and America’s deep-rooted discrimination toward Black people, Arbour’s video equates these pressing tragedies to the “challenges” which face white, cisgender, able-bodied, thin, and, ultimately, extremely privileged women living in America. 

Some have pointed out that while the execution of the video may be easily misconstrued, Arbour’s objective is to bring attention to the sexist issues facing American women. While this goal may seem innocent in nature, it’s clear from the moment you press play that Arbour’s version of the video and song is nothing more than an attempt to profit the hell off of Gambino’s success and appropriate the issues that the original song explores.

This video is hardly an attempt at fighting for equality: instead of dancing with children, as in Gambino’s video, Arbour dances with thin, promiscuously dressed women who also mainly just happen to be white. What kind of female empowerment is this supposed to be representing? 

Arbour’s response to the backlash from the video is unsurprisingly similar to her reaction when she was called out for claiming that “they [fat people] smell like sausages” during the “Dear Fat People” controversy four years ago. She claimed that it’s “funny” to her that some people couldn’t understand that the video was clearly satire, something that only “smart/spiritual/conscious people” will get.

It’s interesting how satire is a literary device taught to us all in grade school, yet college-graduate Arbour can’t seem to figure out the difference between being satirical and being just plain short-sighted.

Arbour has apologized for “This Is America: Women’s Edit” and claimed that she understood why some people were upset, but said that her intent was always to “honour the spirit” of Gambino’s original. 

This public apology, however, came after she posted the since-deleted responses to comments in which she complained about “[B]lack women tears everywhere” and that she is “sick of people mad at slavery.”

One thing is for certain: this is not Nicole Arbour’s first controversy, and until she can learn the difference between satire and stupidity, it will not be her last.

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