Wednesday, 14 January 2015

My Defense and Praise of Sia's 'Elastic Heart' Video

Sia 'Elastic Heart' Shia LaBeouf Maddie Ziegler Apology
I'm just as angry as you, buddy. 

With everything that's happening in Paris and the massive support for the Je Suis Charlie campaign, freedom of speech and creative freedom are very much up for discussion at the moment.

The topic of creative freedom was at the forefront of my mind when I read that Sia had publicly apologised for her 'Elastic Heart' music video, as it triggered outrage among many who saw the video as paedophilic.

I had watched the video just moments after it was released, and was moved to hysterical tears by the raw emotion on show and the story that the incredible choreography brought to life.

Now I've been fascinated by dance for as long as I can remember. Not the most rhythmic of people, I resort to watching programmes like So You Think You Can Dance and contemporary choreography on Youtube to get my fix. So you could say that I have a better understanding than most of the dance industry and contemporary dance so as not to get sucked in by the outrage towards this video. However if you did say that, I'd strongly disagree with you.

I really don't think it takes an inside knowledge of contemporary dance to understand it. I think it simply takes an open mind to the idea that a grown man and a young girl can exist in the same space and create art without it being sullied by society's over-sexualised minds.

Sia 'Elastic Heart' Shia LaBeouf Maddie Ziegler Apology

Anyone who is remotely involved in anything creative and artistic knows that the meaning of that creative something cannot be found by taking it at face value. You have to look underneath the surface. Ask yourself what it could mean. Analyse. That's the beauty of art. The interpretations of it's meanings are endless. But to see a grown man and a young girl performing contemporary dance together and come up with paedophilia is down right ignorant as far as I'm concerned.

All these people have done is projected their own unease and have proved how sexualised and paranoid we've become as a society if we can look at a young girl and an older man in flesh coloured clothing and before the dancing has even started assume that sex is on the cards.

The pair, through dance, portray a variety of emotions whilst playing 'two warring Sia self states'. Obviously I'm not saying everyone should have assumed that was the story behind the dance. When I first saw it I interpreted it as a father and daughter's turbulent relationship as the father battles depression, and if you look at the not so stupid Youtube comments, you'll see a variety of interpretations of the emotions they play out, but sexuality IS NOT one of them.

The word 'paedophile' has been thrown around way too loosely in this whole fiasco, and it is severely damaging, not only to the creative world, but to society's view of sex.

Sia 'Elastic Heart' Shia LaBeouf Maddie Ziegler Apology

In this scenario, we're getting up in arms about something completely harmless, whilst girls younger than Maddie Ziegler are subjected to explicit sexual content every single day, and that's just from watching MTV. I opened up a fashion catalogue the other day to find the girls in the pre-teen section smothered in make-up. THAT is more sexually suggestive than prancing around with Shia Labeouf. 

The nude clothing... it seemed to be the catalyst for all this, when in fact, for people who don't have sex on the brain, it's a very clever mechanism. It enables us to focus on the emotions in the face, not the body. OK Maddie and Shia are using their body a lot for the dance, but it's only to emphasise what their face is saying. Watch the video again, and this time, don't take your eyes off their faces. There may be a few dance moves - squats or contortion of the hips - that could be interpreted as sexual, but if you match it with the facial expressions and notice the pain, the frustration, the hurt, you'll see how the body is only assisting the face in it's emotional display.  

These flesh toned outfits don't emphasise flesh. They just show the human form at its purest. In fact all sexual elements have been stripped away. There's no emphasis on any particular part of the body. There's no shapes or colours to distract.  If you strip away the physicality of a human you are only left with emotions. 

Sia 'Elastic Heart' Shia LaBeouf Maddie Ziegler Apology

But I guess the only dance moves the majority of us can connect with nowadays is a twerk here and a grind there. Maybe sex is the only language we speak in today's society. We're exposed to the human form in a sexual context every single day, whether it's a perfume advert, a music video or a period drama, and it's tainted us, for when we see the human form performing in a way we can't quite understand, sex is the only thing that can make it make sense. 

And it's such  a shame, because we're missing out on something beautiful. 

As for Sia's apology, well, I was slightly disappointed. She said “I anticipated some ‘paedophilia!!!’ cries for this video. All I can say is Maddie and Shia are two of the only actors I felt could play these two warring ‘Sia self states’” adding that her intention was to “create some emotional content, not to upset anybody”. 

I understand her apologising for triggering any bad memories of childhood trauma among some people, and we all sympathise with them, but they were a small majority. I feel an apology only allows the misinterpretation and sexualisation of a sexless piece of art to continue, tarnishing the work as 'the paedophilic video Sia had to apologise for.' 

Oh, and just something for everyone to think about - Maddie Ziegler danced in the exact same way, wearing the same nude-coloured costume in Chandelier, and there were no cries of sexualisation then. So does that mean Shia Labeouf is the issue here? If it were an older woman dancing with her, would the video have been accepted for the beautiful piece of choreography that it is? Are we now at a place in society where an older man performing with a younger girl equals sex abuse, but an older woman performing with a younger girl equals art? 

Sia 'Elastic Heart' Shia LaBeouf Maddie Ziegler Apology


  1. great post. i absolutely loved the technique and strength in the video and it's a terrible reflection on society that people can throw negative terms around when it comes to a video about a man and a child, rather than see the art behind it! x

    // The Dress Diaries

    1. Thank you lovely. Phewww. It's nice to know I'm not the only one that feels this way. Was so infuriated by the reaction to it. So sad she had to apologise x x x