The last time I saw Morrissey, it was at the currently-under-construction Congress Theatre in Chicago. It was a bad show. Moz started high and took a slow dive that turned into a cannonball right around the time that he performed the vegan anthem “Barbarism Begins at Home” to a backdrop of videos of animals being slaughtered for meat. Standing in the back of the balcony, I shuffled around and refused to look — I’d seen it all already, after seven years of vegetarianism, and I didn’t really want to be exposed to it again. Fights started breaking out in the theatre after that: The mood was suddenly tense, and Morrissey chose to spend the last half of the show doing deep tracks. I decided not to go to any more Morrissey shows.
I got the same feeling with British band Bring Me the Horizon’s video for “Follow You.” Fuse’s Zach Dionne took issue with the fact that a dog is shot in the head less than a minute into the video, which tracks through scenes of horrific violence in an idyllic cul-de-sac-type suburban community as a guy skips and dances through it, lip-syncing the song with headphones on. But that’s hardly the worst of it: The video’s other Greatest Hits include a woman in her car being terrorized by men with sledgehammers before they explode her car, and, classy move, six black men executing six kneeling white police officers.
The band’s front man, Oliver Sykes, offered this:
See what the world will be like if trump wins. https://t.co/pgJ7sG45jG
— Oliver Sykes (@olobersyko) March 16, 2016
Is that a joke? I’m not even offended by the video. I’m offended by the band’s bratty, cavalier attitude toward their audience. People getting offended by the video is exactly what Bring Me the Horizon was hoping to accomplish (rack up those views, amirite?). The only artistic argument that I could possibly make for this video is that maybe the band was attempting to throw a gun- and violence-obsessed culture back into its own face. But it’s a flimsy argument, and it’s executed with so little nuance or insight that the irony eats itself and becomes just schlocky shock-and-awe for its own sake — and really, for marketing’s sake. It’s cynical and cheap.
Bring Me the Horizon has the right to do whatever they want for their art, but their taking advantage of that right doesn’t automatically make the “Follow You” video good. My feeling is that when performers take the cheapest road to a message — violence that wanders into the realm of the gratuitous — they miss an opportunity to have an actual conversation with their audience. In both Morrissey’s case and in this video, it’s like being shouted at from the stage. The artist’s voice and vision are so loud that they drown out any response. The only real option they grant the audience, in that case, is to leave.
Watch the video if you want, to see what you think, but know that it’s NSFW, extremely graphic, and might be upsetting.
Original by Rebecca Vipond Brink