January 7, 2017

Masculinity & The Blaze II

Territory is The Blaze’s most viewed video, and one they won two UK Music Video Awards for last year (2017).

Following the narrative of the song’s lyrics, it follows a young Algerian man returning home to Algiers, presumably after some time away attempting to live and work in another country.

It is a ‘coming home’ film in the truest sense of the world, and we immediately feel we understand him and his life. The track is pulsing. You feel like you should be in a nightclub, but you’re out in the Algerian sunshine, watching somebody who you feel might have been restraining himself for months, years, now let loose with his friends and family.

He comes home and immediately cries. But this is a torrent, not a trickle. It’s the tears of a man who has been holding them back and didn’t expect this, and now can let them loose. His whole family crowds round him. It’s human love at it’s most primal and deepest level. It involves touching, smothering, tears of sadness that he ever left, joy that he has returned.

Now he sleeps, eats, laughs, dances, runs, and smokes with his friends. It is hedonistic enjoyment.

We also see his love for his mother, a quiet and understanding love. They don’t need to talk or catchup. There’s a bond there that both get and just need one another’s presence to fulfil.

In the final ‘scene’, the man chases some children through his house and courtyard. They run with joy as he assumes the form of a gorilla in his movements, akin to Andy Serkis playing in motion capture. He gets up on his hind legs and begins beating his chest, screaming, screaming.

I think this is partly a feeling of childlike release, but also anguish. He is no longer a child. He has come back a man, without the religion his friends still follow, bigger, more muscular, but unrestrained. Unloved, perhaps, where he now lives, and unable to truly express that frustration now he is back.

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For me this is The Blaze’s hardest video. They expose the problem felt by many immigrants. Assuming this man now works in London, Paris, Barcelona or Madrid perhaps, he is in a culture which doesn’t fit in with the one he has grown up in. Maybe he works in a tough job, he doesn’t get to spend quality time with people who value him, or he is not finding romantic fulfilment, let alone familial. He knows he must return, but he doesn’t want to. He knows this is just a vacation, but he wishes it could be forever.

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To look at masculinity in focus, it is masculinity expressed in emotional terms, in emotional vulnerability where men are allowed to be vulnerable (with family, with one’s mother), but lacking the communication tools to express frustration, and so rage and outward raw emotion are let out.

More Work
February 2, 2023
January 10, 2023
First Day Back: Opening the Veins of Bogotá

I write this perched on the fourth floor of an improbably slim restaurant in the La Candelaria area of Bogotá, Colombia’s capital and largest city. On my plate is Calentado, made up of beans, rice, onion, plenty of sausage, and a big fried egg.

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