Arcade Fire respond to criticism of pushing trans stereotypes
Canadian rockers Arcade Fire have come under criticism from trans activists for their most recent music video for the single 'We Exist' which features Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield as a trans woman.
Against Me lead singer Laura Jane Grace, who went through a very public transition two years ago criticised the band for perpetuating negative stereotypes of trans people in the video. Grace took to Twitter to proclaim her disapproval.
Dear @arcadefire , maybe when making a video for a song called "We Exist" you should get an actual "Trans" actor instead of Spider-Man?— Laura Jane Grace (@LauraJaneGrace) May 22, 2014
The band spoke out about the criticism from Grace and others, and defended their decision in an interview with The Advocate which was published over the weekend.
Arcade Fire frontman, Win Butler, said the song was written whilst the band was in Jamaica and was a direct response to the violence and homophobia they had seen whilst there.
"There is a very kind of homophobic undercurrent, even in a lot of popular music and dancehall music, where there is a lot of violence against gay people," says Butler. "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."
Music video director David Wilson also defended his decision to cast Andrew Garfield telling The Advocate;
“Before I got on the call I thought, ‘‘Is this the right person — should we be using a transgender person?’’ he said. “But then getting on the phone with Andrew, and Andrew's commitment and passion toward the project was just overwhelming.For an actor of that calibre to be that emotionally invested in a music video is just a very special thing. It just completely made sense.”
Butler said trans musician Our Lady J worked with Garfield on the video to assist him with his portrayal of a trans woman.
Grace has since spoken with Our Lady J regarding the clip and has changed her tune, tweeting: