My first reaction to the video was to feel uncomfortable.
From a purely creative view point, the video is nothing more than two interpretive dancers performing a well choreographed, rather animalistic routine. Who knew Shia LeBeouf could dance? The issue comes because Maddie Ziegler, the dancer performing opposite him, is only 12 years old which has caused a lot of uneducated labelling of ‘pedophile’ towards Shia.
With a striped back style, the performers wear dirty, nude outfits and perform inside of a cage. If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can click HERE to watch it.
Shia is clearly not a pedophile, just because he has danced with a child. Performance arts like acting and dance require us to take on a character. I can’t say for certain but I’m pretty sure Shia LeBeouf doesn’t spend his time outside of work frolicking around cages with little girls. Calling him a pedophile is calling Maddie a victim, both of which are incorrect. They are professional actors and she is never in danger. The only thing really threatened is Shia’s career (or as much as it can be after Transformers 3). The interpretive choreography shows Maddie and Shia fighting for dominance (and Maddie does a pretty good job) whilst Sia sings about losing trust, not being able to sleep at night and refusing to be broken by what ‘you’ did. This is where the real issue shows itself.
The parts where Shia acts as a predator, climbing on top of Maddie and trying to drag her back into the cage, were clearly not intended to be sexual. Unfortunately, we live in a culture of victim blaming and where rape is normalised and joked about. It’s estimated one in five woman experience some form of sexual violence during their life and with so many people (women and men) having suffered, videos like the can act as an emotional trigger. I’m not saying the video incites rape or sexual violence, but is does have very strong interpretive themes and it would be easy for someone to see it that way.
So what do we do?
Personally, as a female in the culture that we live it, I can understand peoples sensitivity towards it but that doesn’t mean creativity should be censored, just that perhaps it should come with a trigger warning. I’m a huge believer in freedom of speech and expression. The video is a piece of art and it’s really well shot. But it is unavoidable. Not only have I seen tones of articles on the video and been told to watch it by numerous friends, I’ve also had little choice on the matter thanks to adverts on youtube that I did not have the option to skip. Art is not ubiquitous. We all have different opinions and feelings; it’s subjective, that’s the point. But we should have a choice whether we watch it, especially for the sake of the people that face horrendous memories and feeling triggered by this video.
Calling him a pedophile is like calling her a victim, both of which are untrue, however I don’t think that is the main concern. We should have freedom of expression but we should also have freedom of choice.
The last forty something seconds after the music stops though… that’s just creepy.
What do you guys think about it? I’ve seen lots of opinions and I’d love to know yours!
A faux-ginger, gin drinking, digital marketing gal with a thing for food styling. That was basically my old Tinder bio... Living in Leeds, I'm forever heading out for dinner, buying too many clothes, spending 50% of my money on ubers and, as of now, putting my stamp on my new apartment!