This “Feminist” Comedy Take on Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” Is Peak White Feminism

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YouTube comedienne Nicole Arbour must have missed all the attention she got the last time she created a video based on ignorance. Back in 2015, she made this fat-shaming video that demonstrated that she clearly didn’t know how things like “comedy” and “satire” work. Now, she’s released a new video demonstrating how little she understands about “feminism” and “parody.”

As reported by The Root, Arbour’s latest video, a “feminist take” on Childish Gambino’s “This is America” called “This is America (Women’s Edit),” is a hot mess. I’m not linking to it, but you can find it if you really want to. It’s pretty cringe-worthy. In it, Arbour attempts to make thoughtful points about feminism while completely ignoring the very specific context of her source material.

It’s not that her video doesn’t make valid points. Yes, women are underpaid, oppressed, and held to unrealistic beauty standards. Yes to all of that. But did this white, blonde woman need to take a video done by a black man, which was infused with references specific to the African-American community, and completely erase all meaning and context just to superimpose her myopic version of feminism on top of it?

Does she not understand that women of color see themselves and their struggles in the original Childish Gambino video? That their feminism is inclusive of the larger issues he’s dissecting?

What’s even more frustrating is that she uses women of color as props in this video, while simultaneously having no regard for how they’re used or depicted.

The first part of the video is supposed to be mirroring the beginning of “This is America,” during which Donald Glover dances right up until he shoots a guitar player in the head with a handgun, a commentary on both gun violence in this country, and how it disproportionately affects black people.

In the Arbour version, the handgun is replaced by a smartphone, which could for sure be a commentary on women’s use of social media as both a platform and as a weapon. The tone-deaf part is on the other side of the screen: the black woman breastfeeding. First of all, she’s breastfeeding what looks like a white doll.

Could it be a commentary on the fact that black women are often expected to be caretakers for white women’s children? Possibly. Or, it could just be reinforcing that expectation by having this actress hold the white baby doll that happens to be around. If this were a better-executed video, that point would be clear. It’s not.

They then have the breastfeeding woman hauled away by the police. Again, it could be a commentary on how women are punished for breastfeeding in public, but if that’s the point Arbour is trying to make, it’s muddled with the image of a black woman getting hauled off by the cops without any thought of the implications of that image. Black people have enough issues with the police without images like this, and of all the places to use a woman of color in the video, this was not really the best one. Especially with a white woman on the mic.

The video is full of things like this. Nods to women of color while the song delivers the most basic, “girl power” feminist tenets with no real attempt at intersectionality. Rather than write her own original song and direct her own original video, she’s chosen to parody a song that already meant something to women of color, treating it as though it were somehow anti-feminist. As if, because it was created by a man, that its message wasn’t relevant to women and their struggles.

“This is America” isn’t an exclusively feminist song, but it absolutely speaks to many issues of which an intersectional feminist needs to be aware.  Arbour doesn’t seem to have taken that into account at all. It would be one thing if she parodied a song that was blatantly misogynistic and did a feminist take on that. But that’s not what this is. I don’t know what this is.

Nicole Arbour's final message in 'This is America (Women's Edit)'

The above is Arbour’s closing message on the song, which I find particularly hilarious (and not in the “effective comedy” way she’s going for), considering that she didn’t write this song. Not entirely. She took an already existing tune and video concept, erased everything that was meaningful about it, and inserted herself doing really bad rapping and hip-hop dancing while serving the blandest feminism ever.

That’s the other thing, I could probably forgive this video if there were any kind of talent exhibited, but she’s not only imitating an already existing work, but she’s doing so badly. What we need are more songs like Janelle Monáe’s “Django Jane,” songs that are not only feminist and intersectional, but as angry as the Childish Gambino track from a feminine perspective.

Parodies like Arbour’s are the opposite of what we need.

Arbour would probably read this piece and chalk me up to those women who “tear down other women.” This is the “real cause” of gender inequality after all, according to her video “Why Women are REALLY oppressed,” in which she basically blames women for their own oppression. While women needing to stand up for and help each other rise is absolutely necessary, she argues that this is the reason why we’re oppressed, which is just…not true.

That kind of cattiness is a product of sexism, not a cause. Arbour doesn’t see it that way, which is probably also why she doesn’t see how her parody is basically a showcase for an outdated version of feminism she should really consider updating. She clearly wants to be a part of fight, which is great.

But if she’s going to be part of the fight, she should work on being better-informed. Otherwise, she should really just stop it.

Also, it sounds like part of her first verse says:

We just wanna be pretty

Pretty that’s the goal

We just wanna smile

Get a mammy home

For God’s sake, if your video opens with a breastfeeding black woman being pulled out of her seat by police, don’t use the word “mammy.” Don’t even say a word that sounds like it could be mammy. Jesus Harold Tapdancing Christmas.

(image: screencap)

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Author
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.