By Gregory AdamsMontreal psychobillies the Brains recently released a video for their new single "Take What I Want," but you may not have seen the controversial clip, partly thanks to it being banned by MuchMusic. The video was deemed unfit for airplay due to its violent content, a move the band and their record company, Union Label Group, feel is unjust.
Taken from the Brains' recent Exclaim!-approved LP Drunk Not Dead, "Take What I Want" finds an unidentified maniac stalking the streets, plucking women from the shadows, seemingly at random, and stabbing them to death. The last victim in the vid, however, appears to return from the dead, playing on the group's long-running zombie theme.
Regardless, the attack scenes, coupled with the poppy, upbeat chorus of "I'll take what I want and I will be remembered," apparently disturbed members of MuchMusic/Bell Media, prompting them to prevent the clip from running on the nation's music station. However, you can watch the clip below.
In an email obtained from the Brains, Bell Media manager of talent and artist relations Neha Sharma pointed out that the video did not meet the demands of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. She cites two regulations in particular, that "Broadcasters shall not telecast programming which sanctions, promotes or glamorizes any aspect of violence against women," and that "Broadcasters shall ensure that women are not depicted as victims of violence unless the violence is integral to the story being told. Broadcasters shall be particularly sensitive not to perpetuate the link between women in a sexual context and women as victims of violence."
According to the panel that reviewed the video, the vagueness of the brutal attacks portrayed led to the decision of a ban.
"When we screened the video, we didn't understand why the women were being attacked. The zombie narrative isn't fully explored," Sharma said of the panel's confusion with the clip. "At the end of the video, the one woman's eyes open, but what happened to the other two girls? Who is the man that is killing them? Why is he killing these women specifically? Answers to these questions would help to develop the story and give it the necessary context."
While acknowledging that the violence in the clip does exist, Union Label Group vice-president Mike Magee tells Exclaim! that he feels the clip is hardly as bad as other videos that make the air.
"I responded that they don't have the best track record when it comes to portraying women in the videos they added to high rotation... and cited a zillion examples including Eminem's vid with Rihanna ['Love the Way You Lie'] where the female lead is repeatedly beaten, struck in the face, choked, then fucked against a wall," Magee says. "There's a bunch of other videos in high rotation at Loud that feature children getting smashed in the face with baseball bats and women with their throats slit rubbing blood on their cleavage."
Brains singer/guitarist Rene De La Muerte countered the station's belief, explaining, "I'm sure I've seen a lot more controversial stuff on mainstream media. Especially when it comes to the portrayal and treatment of women. What I do know is that our corporate society is controlling our freedoms more and more. If we let a TV station tell us what to see or what to think on one hand, then turn around and completely ignore their own 'standard' when it suits their commercial needs, then we need to ask ourselves who the real 'evil' is here."
As for the song, De La Muerte says that he was influenced by the mainstream's obsession with serial killers, and in particular Jack the Ripper.
"Serial killers are still prevalent in the media and are often used as the subject of a lot of horror movies," he says.
He also explains that the horror of how undefined the crimes portrayed in the music video is exactly their point, claiming that the harsh reality is that sometime there is no specific reasoning for the violence.
"The fact that there isn't a clear motive behind his actions is what truly makes [this] scary," he says of the video's villain. "I don't see the need in art to explain or narrate exactly what the story is in a literal sense. That's for the audience to decide for themselves. Showing something ugly and condoning/glamorizing something ugly are two very different things."
Interestingly, Magee points out that the video "shot to number one" on Quebec's music network, Musique Plus, and added it's been getting a positive reception in Europe.
Whether you feel the video is exploitative or just a work of horror-themed art, you can check out the uncensored video below. While you're there, let us know what you think.