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Trans Punk Singer Continues to Criticize Arcade Fire Music Video

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday May 27, 2014

The lead singer of the punk band Against Me! is once again criticizing the music video for Arcade Fire's "We Exist," which stars actor Andrew Garfield of "The Amazing Spider-Man" in drag, after vocalizing her disapproval of the clip last week via Twitter.

Laura Jane Grace, the transgender singer who fronts the popular punk rock band, argued the Grammy Award-winning Arcade Fire and the video's director should have gotten "an actual 'Trans' actor" for Garfield's part.

"Dear @arcadefire , maybe when making a video for a song called 'We Exist' you should get an actual 'Trans' actor instead of Spider-Man?" Grace tweeted Thursday.

The video shows Garfield dressing in women's clothes, getting attacked in a bar but ends up dancing to Arcade Fire's Coachella set. The description of the music video on YouTube reads: "Our film follows the story of a young person's struggle with gender identity."

Arcade Fire's lead singer Win Butler and the "We Exist" director David Wilson responded to Grace's comments in an interview with the Advocate, saying Garfield has a mass appeal and the ability to reach a large audience, Pitchfork reports. Butler added, "for a gay kid in Jamaica to see the actor who played Spider-Man in that role is pretty damn powerful."

Butler also explained "We Exist" was written in Jamaica:

And we were in Kingston, and we went to this kind of film event and met some gay Jamaican kids and just kind of talked to them and realized that they were constantly under the threat of violence. For me, I get kind of used to being in this sort of extremely liberal bubble-where we have Whole Foods and people are tolerant. And you can kind of trick yourself into thinking that the world is that way. For me, it was really eye-opening to hang out with these kids who, if they were going to dress differently or express who they were, there was this real tension.

When asked if Grace was right, and they should have gotten a trans actor to play Garfield’s part, Butler said, "There was just so much thought and love that went into the video I don’t personally see it as negative," he said, adding, "I can totally see the sensitivity of the issue."

Wilson said he struggled with casting for the video.

"Before I got on the call, I thought, Is this the right person - should we be using a transgender person? ... But then getting on the phone with Andrew, and Andrew’s commitment and passion toward the project was just overwhelming," he told the Advocate. "For an actor of that caliber to be that emotionally invested in a music video is just a very special thing. It just completely made sense."

The full interview can be read here.

As Consequence of Sound points out, Grace responded to Butler and Wilson’s Advocate interview in a series of tweets on Sunday.

"This article is hella problematic," she wrote. "To start with there’s the fact that Win says ’he’ and Wilson says ’she’..."

"The implication that a homeless Jamaican LGBT youth living in a sewer is going to feel empowered because a cis, straight white male actor in movies they can’t afford to see stars in a music video they’ll never watch?," she continued. "My main problem with the video isn’t even casting it’s stereotyping...like why does Garfield cry about shaving their head to then put on a wig when they have gorgeous hair? Why does Garfield go to the shittiest bar ever to drink domestic beer and dance with bigot rednecks? And the idea that the band playing Coachella is their Mecca for acceptance validation. Phff. As if.

If the song was called anything else I wouldn’t have even had a problem with it," Grace added. "It’s called ’We Exist’ and there is literally no signs of existence represented. Should have been called ’They Exist.’ Lastly, I really genuinely am a fan of the band. ’The Suburbs’ is a perfect album. That’s why the ’Suburbs’ is great and the video sucks though...When you come from the perspective you’re representing, it’s truth and powerful."

Arcade Fire won a Grammy for Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards.

"We Exist" is the latest single from Arcade Fires’ 2013 album "Reflektor."

Watch the video below:


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