For the past couple of years, I have gained an interest in studying Vodun and all the other religious systems that stemmed from it. So, I have become sensitive to portrayals of those religions (they are not cults), especially when they are put in binary to Christianity. I watched Florence and the Machine‘s video for “No Light, No Light,” and I need someone to explain to me this video. And do not tell me it is not at all racist because it is art; art can have racism and privilege in it (Think Birth of a Nation).
While watching the video, it seems that Florence’s character in the video is being possessed by a Vodun (voodoo) priest, who is wildly dancing and violently using a “voodoo doll” against her (stabbing the doll over and over). She is also shown running away from him in several shots. Later in the video, she is rescued by a group of calmly singing Catholic boys, landing in their arms after she falls from a skyscraper structure into a church. Even as she is held in their arms, she is still resisting the attack of the voodoo priest as if she is trying to exorcise a demon. Also, in the end of the video, there are some sexual scenes between her and a white male, and I wonder if that was suppose to be in conjunction with the voodoo priest.
Images are stronger than music itself. I learned in my music and society class that vision trumps all other senses. So, people can say what they want about the music and lyrics, the music video stands out the most. I actually do like Florence and the Machine’s music, but this video puts Vodun and Christianity in a simplistic binary– one is wild, violent, hyper-sexual and evil, and the other is soothing, calming, and innocent. For African descendants who believe in Vodun and its variations, depicting their religions in this way is not only stereotypical, lazy and ignorant, it is also racist.