This might have been your first time watching the video. For many of us, we’ve re-watched the This is America video numerous of times, finding new nuggets of what Gambino is trying to tell us. “Watching it the first time through is overwhelming, to say the least,” writes Bustle. “Glover pairs cheery synchronized dance moves and a generally upbeat track with a flood of chaotic imagery that, as people on Twitter have noted, essentially serves to inundate viewers with a fragment of the kinds of horrors that some people endure in this country.”
It is being hailed as an “indictment of gun violence in America, police violence, rampant consumerism, obsession with social media and the blind eyes turned to injustice as people record the chaos around them on their cell phones.”
“The video … is best watched several times so that you can see what’s happening in the background,” notes Adrienne Gibbs at Forbes. “The video became a trending topic several times over as fans unpacked its secrets.
“This is America”
Before we get started, let’s re-watch the “This is America” video:
Now, let’s get into what we might have missed:
The Red Cloth
After each time Gambino uses a gun to shoot someone, he places the weapon on a piece of red cloth. This symbolizes how Americans revere guns more than they do human lives.
Placing the guns carefully on red cloths is such a subtle but glaring criticism of the fact that even after such atrocities we still value such deadly weapons over the lives of innocents. @donaldglover #ChildishGambino #ThisIsAmerica #Dontcatchyouslippin pic.twitter.com/9IS0uF9Vly
— Mxchxxl (@xCANNIBEMEx) May 6, 2018
Why is he shirtless? “If you think Gambino isn’t wearing a shirt just because he wanted to show off his trim frame, you’re missing the point,” writes Yahoo! Entertainment. “Glover wants to remind us that violence is committed against black bodies like his with some regularity and with no heed to whether the body in question is that of a celebrity or an ordinary citizen. This is also the implication buried in the lyrics, which include the phrase, ‘Police be trippin’ now’ and which speaks of ‘guns in my area.'”
“Nothing is new or modern,” writes Gibbs. “All of the makes and models are mid-to-early-’90s, if not ’80s, cars. This speaks to the whole idea that a fair number of Americans aren’t driving new whips; many people are pushing boxy cars that still have tape decks. Luxury vehicles often seen in rap videos are noticeably absent from this one.”
The white horse
Did you catch the white horse? If you blinked, you missed it. The appearance might be taken as a reference to the Four Horsemen. In the Bible’s Book of Revelations, the horsemen stand for the evils that come at the end of the world. The white horse gallops through as Glover dances with schoolchildren. “Death riding the Pale white horse while he is followed by Hell (represented by police) going totally unnoticed because of dancing and pop culture in the foreground is the single greatest cinematic message I’ve seen in a music video to date,” wrote Twitter user Isaiah Parsons.
Death riding the Pale white horse while he is followed by Hell (represented by police) going totally unnoticed because of dancing and pop culture in the foreground is the single greatest cinematic message I’ve seen in a music video to date. #ThisIsAmerica pic.twitter.com/DYaPjbvoym
— Isaiah Persons (@PersonsIsaiah) May 6, 2018
About the church choir. Twitter user Andrew D highlights that they were singing about getting money. “Noting that religion encourages the pursuit of a materialistic lifestyles. Or it’s about America’s history of shooting up black churches.”
Notice the church choir sings about getting money. Highlighting how religion encourages the pursuit of a materialistic lifestyles.
Or it’s about America’s history of shooting up black churches. #ThisIsAmerica pic.twitter.com/gvenvED49p
— Andrew O (@bomcjo) May 7, 2018
On a lighter note, SZA makes an appearance in the “This is America” video. She’s sitting on a car on the right in one of the end scenes.
Sza has a cameo (right hand side) whilst the music sings, “get your money, black man”. pic.twitter.com/7qP1OgWZuH
— LK (@thelocalemo) May 7, 2018