Do you need a ‘thick skin’ to tackle Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’ video?

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The internet has been awash with accusations over the context of Sia’s video – but what is actually going on?

For those of you who have not seen it, and have luckily managed to escape the flying accusations of ‘paedophilia’ directed at it, Sia’s follow up to the ‘Chandelier’ video stars Maddie Ziegler and Transformers’ Shia LaBeouf. The video depicts the two dancing and fighting within a cage dressed in flesh coloured costumes. Or, a semi-naked actor and a twelve-year-old girl cavorting, as one headline delicately put it.

The uproar against the artsy video stemmed initially from the casting of the young Maddie and Shia LaBeouf alongside each other – a pairing that could not possibly be seen without cries of paedophilia rising. More sensitively, some spoke out about the worry that the video could be triggering for those who had been victims of sexual abuse. Although these cries may seem plausible given the costuming and age of Maddie and Shia, they are the only instances that could point towards the reading that was taken as a given. Australian singer Sia took the uproar calmly, and apologised on Twitter for any triggering caused by her video.

An issue I have is that Sia should not have had to post a formal apology. It is not arguable that the video is full of charged and emotional energy, but at no point does this energy hint at a sexual relationship between Sia’s protagonists. That accusations of paedophilia are launched on the basis of seeing a man and a girl dancing, says a lot more about society’s paranoia than it does about the video.

When you look beyond the panicked cries of the internet, the personal context of Sia’s video is extremely moving. Trails on the internet have pointed viewers towards a reading of the two characters as Sia and her father, both battling with mental illnesses and Sia eventually getting free (at the end of the video we see Maddie outside of the cage whilst Shia remains closed in). The meaning Sia has put forward is that she chose Maddie and Shia to represent two ‘warring Sia states’ – the ‘inner child’ and the darker self – and those were the only two actors she thought to portray this theme as movingly as they do. In behind the scenes footage of the shot, Maddie endearingly refers to herself as a wolf because she ‘growls like twenty times’ in the video, and Shia LeBeouf projected the cathartic value of Sia’s art.

In terms of the song itself, which comes from Sia’s album 1000 Forms of Fear, it powerfully conveys the singer’s struggle against herself as she is still ‘fighting for peace.’ Given the personal context of the song and its video it saddens me that she was forced to apologise at the hands of other’s ignorance.

The video is beautifully constructed and emanates extremely raw emotion, and when the heat of panic dies down I think it is something that audiences should be appreciative of.

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Third year English student, Records Editor, list maker and lover of Kinder Buenos.

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