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Following a wave of controversy surrounding the video for Mastodon‘s recent single The Motherload, which features a brigade of twerking dancers in an incongruous metal video setting, one of the dancers involved in the clip’s production, a dance student named Jade, has defended the band and the clip.
The bizarre video has divided the opinions of fans and cultural critics alike, with The Guardian labelling the single “brilliant” but the accompanying video “sexist”. Drummer and vocalist Brann Dailor has since responded to the controversy, telling Pitchfork that the video shouldn’t be “taken so seriously”.
“Ask us if it was racist or sexist. We were the ones right there experiencing it. I’ll tell you from my view: no,” writes Jade in a post to her personal Tumblr page. In a previous post, Jade described the making of the video as “a fantastic experience” during which the cast and crew “truly bonded”, adding, “The suggestion that some type of exploitation [or] fetishization [occurred] is totally wrong in this case.”
In her defence of the clip, Jade, a pole dance student with a background in African-American literature and cultural theory, recounts how she and the other dancers were “stoked” to be involved in the making of a metal video and the band and crew immediately helped make all of the dancers feel comfortable.
“Within minutes of the video dropping, there was a serious backlash,” Jade continues. “While most people seemed to ‘get’ the band’s shout out to their hometown, Atlanta, others called it racist and sexist. Some people even called us dirty niggers and whores. Funny, the most sexist and racist sentiments came not from filming the actual video, but from a subset of metal fans who thought we simply didn’t belong.”
Jade writes that, contrary to being sexist and misogynistic as some have claimed, one of the reasons for the backlash against the Motherload video is the empowering treatment of the dancers, who came from a range of backgrounds. “The women are not just asses… but shown as 3D people, which scares folk.”
She concludes by refuting claims that the clip is culturally appropriative, saying neither metal nor black culture was attempting to “taint” the other and that “we all belong” in both. “This video proves that metal can reach out and be reached out to without parody [or] hierarchy, and it is a good thing,” writes Jade.
Readers can read Jade’s full response below.
Watch: Mastodon – The Motherload
Jade Davis Response to The Motherload Video Controversy
This week has been an interesting one. At the end of August, I danced with some friends for Mastodon’s new video, ‘The Motherload.’ We were stoked about it. Twerking in a metal video?! Unheard of! We came from varying backgrounds, classical dancers, pole dancers, strippers all nervously waiting in the common area wondering how we’d all fit in. Well that was a piece of cake. As soon as the music played, we felt jazzed – in fact, they asked us if we’d prefer to dance to some hip-hop instead and then they’d remove the sound and add their track. We declined. We all waited patiently by our machines for weeks, waiting for the video to drop. It dropped Monday.
Within minutes of the video dropping, there was a serious backlash. While most people seemed to ‘get’ the band’s shout out to their hometown, Atlanta, others called it racist and sexist. Some people even called us dirty niggers and whores. Funny, the most sexist and racist sentiments came not from filming the actual video, but from a subset of metal fans who thought we simply didn’t belong. If anything, the video shoot was welcoming, the band clever and pleasant, and the girls bonded almost the second the music dropped. Much like the band, we weren’t concerned with thin, knee-jerk reactions to a-ses and twerking.
We came across from different walks of life. Real deal ATL strippers joked with me – I’m a pole dance student with a background in African American literature and cultural theory, while my ballet dancer friend laughed with the other ladies, doing pirouettes in between takes. If you read the interview in which the band says that we were having fun with each other and not for the male gaze, you should know he was totally right. My other friend who is the best conglomeration of every dancer there – pole dancer, stripper, PhD in women’s lit and African American lit focus, and a dance instructor – could be the poster child of what this was. Women having fun with each other. Praising each other. A glimpse into what we do and that we are bigger than what we do.
One of the reasons this video, for me, is garnering so much attention is that truly the women are not just a-ses – and there are a lot of fantastic a-ses in the building – but shown as 3D people, which scares folk. Another is the concern for cultural appropriation. From us and from them. The fear of metal being ‘tainted,’ the fear of the band using a dance form associated with black culture for their own gain. These fears boil down into my one response: we all belong. This band made it such that by the time the shoot was over, we all went home and got the track. (I’m playing it on the jukebox at my local bar as I write).
This video wasn’t a spoof or mocking or satire, in my opinion. The guys are ATL homegrown. As much as metal is in their bones, so is trap music, so is Old Fourth Ward, so is Magic City. They repped Georgia not out of exploitation, but because it resonates with them and is a part of them. This video proves that metal can reach out and can be reached out to without parody, without hierarchy, and it is a good thing.
Ask us if it was racist or sexist. We were the ones right there experiencing it. I’ll tell you from my view: no.