So if you haven't heard about it yet, Prince's soon to be released video for his song "Cinnamon Girl" is raising some controversy.
His new music video, "Cinnamon Girl," is a big-budget production that follows the hardships and confusions of a teenage Arab-American girl in a post 9-11 America.
It stars Keisha Castle-Hughes ("Whale Rider"), who concludes the video by imagining herself detonating a bomb in a crowded airport terminal. The video, directed by Phil Harder, visualizes the lyrics of Prince's four-minute rocker. It uses a stylized type of illustrated animation, with Castle-Hughes filmed over a background of high contrast tints of black and beige.
Following an airplane crash, presumably 9-11, Castle-Hughes is beset by racism and prejudice because of her Arab ethnicity. After being chased by her schoolmates, she watches Arabic storefront signs be replaced with English ones and is chided by her more traditionally Islamic parents.
Prince sings, "Cinnamon girl mixed heritage/ Never knew the meaning of color lines/ 9-11 turned that all around/ When she got accused of this crime." Disillusioned and angered, Castle-Hughes' character detonates a bomb in an airport terminal, exploding herself and others. However, a reverse motion immediately following the explosion reveals that she's only imagining the deed. (Continued)
The video has not been officially released yet, but if you have a decent internet connection you can watch it online at Launch. The video isn't amazing but it is quite moving. I am quite curious to know what might have prompted Prince to explore such an issue in his video and song.
One of the interesting points that this raises is that although many Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans complain that in the aftermath of 9/11 their lives have become much more difficult, I believe that it will eventually lead to those communities being genuinely accepted in American society. Prior to 9/11 most Americans didn't know anything about Arab or Muslim Americans. Whenever you had to fill out a form, the ethnic categories you could choose from were Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, or Asian. There was no box for Arab (the "Asian" box was usually reserved for East Asians). Had 9/11 not taken place I imagine that Arab and Muslim Americans would have continued on the path towards either ghettoization on the one hand, or the shedding of their cultural identities altogether on the other hand.
But today Arabs and Muslims have been thrown into the spotlight and forced to define themselves (otherwise risk their enemies do it for them). Awareness of Arabs and Muslims is growing among Americans, and although their image is considerably skewed from the strong emotions associated with 9/11, it is obvious that they are beginning to be recognized as Americans just like all other Americans. Things like this video are testament to the fact that things are changing.
(Thanks to Maya for the heads up)