This is America

This study guide will help you analyze the music video “This is America” by Childish Gambino. You can also find a summary of the video, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Excerpt from the study guide: 

Symbolism related to the setting

The setting of the music video is also intended to be symbolic. The warehouse appears at first to be an odd location for the shooting, rioting, church choir, police cars on fire, and the galloping horse. That is because the warehouse is a microcosm that reflects issues in American society, particularly relating to gun violence. 

In the ending of the music video, Gambino can be seen desperately running through a darkened corridor of the warehouse while being chased (03:41-04:04). This can be symbolic in different ways. On the one hand, the ending could mean that Gambino is being chased because his crimes have finally caught up with him after he previously escaped unpunished after every murder. 

On the other hand, Gambino’s desperate running could symbolize a desire to escape. The music video presents a continuous cycle of violence and entertainment. It alternates between Gambino’s murders and his dancing and singing with the students, while ignoring the chaos created after the murders. In this way, the music video could suggest that entertainment is being used as a distraction from important issues such as racism and gun violence. Through this lens, we can analyze Gambino’s running at the end as symbolizing a desire to escape his terrifying reality in which important social issues are not properly addressed.

A last interpretation of the ending can be related to the theme of racism. The fact that the warehouse turns dark and there appears to be no exit could symbolize the idea that African Americans are unable to escape racism.

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This is America

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