This video is a lot more than giving the Devil a lap dance.
… It’s a music video. I’m not summarizing it. It’s right here:
So, if you’re like me, meaning you don’t listen to music much, you probably first heard of Lil Nas X when his song “Old Town Road” got big. I will go ahead and say that the song was a banger, which I’m told is a good thing, as it reminds people of British sausage. I don’t know if he created “country rap,” but he was at least one of the first people to use it to get mainstream success. I particularly liked the fact that he got Billy Ray Cyrus, a musician most famous for producing a much more talented daughter, to do the remix. I also admit that I loved that month on Facebook when the cowboy memes flowed like wine. Then there was the massive uproar when the song, which has apparently been fairly high on the top of the Billboard Country charts, was dropped for “not being country enough.” A song called “Old Town Road” about taking a horse and riding “‘til I can’t no more” which featured Billy Ray Cyrus somehow wasn’t COUNTRY enough. Moreover, it was pulled the week before it would have, by Billboard’s measures, been the number one song. The people making the decisions definitely emphasized that it had nothing to do with the fact that Lil Nas X is a gay black man and country is a genre that, historically, has been less than enthusiastic towards some of those adjectives. In any case, the song was great, the controversy less so.
Montero, on the other hand, has generated the best controversy since The Life of Brian, by which I mean it’s pissing off people that likely didn’t watch it and, if they did, watched it with such a prejudiced eye that they definitely didn’t try to give it any form of critical analysis. For example, condemning the Satanic imagery without recognizing that most of the video is about unfair condemnation and, moreover, that at the end of the video Lil Nas X actually kills the devil, a thing most of those groups should be in favor of. It’s almost as if the Satanic imagery is not the thing that they’re really angry about. But I’m sure nothing bad ever happened because people used Satanic imagery and the claims of its influence on children as a way to suppress things they didn’t like. Definitely not, for example, the single longest and most expensive trial in US history, the McMartin Preschool Trial, which ruined multiple lives despite resulting in no convictions and uncovering essentially no evidence.
But, I’m not really here to go over that as much as to sort through the absolutely brilliant imagery contained in the video. It starts in a valley which is dotted with architecture from a number of different societies, but mostly Greek and Roman. LNX is seen underneath a tree being approached by a snake which ends up turning into a snakeman with a third eye, who proceeds to lay on top of Nas in a sexual nature. Like all of the characters in the video aside from the Devil and one other figure, the snakeman is played by Lil Nas X. This figure, combined with a passage from Plato that’s on the tree that LNX is found under, appear to be references to two different, but intertwining mythologies. The first is the origin of man ascribed to Aristophanes by Plato, which depicts all people being born as two bodies stuck together (some man-man, some man-woman, some woman-woman) that were split, which is why people naturally seek out their “other half.” The other is that of Lilith, the first wife of Adam in Hebrew Mythology. Lilith was made at the same time as Adam and, in some versions, shared the same body as him before they were separated. Lilith was sent away from Adam for having sex on top of him, like the figure in the video. She is often depicted as half-snake and is occasionally depicted as the actual snake that tempted Eve (because Eve eating the apple put women above men, which is what Lilith wants). I believe that the dual reference is because it connects the Greek origin of humanity, which explicitly indicated homosexuality was natural, with the Christian one via Hebrew. The third eye in the snakeman’s head is either a reference to the Ajna Chakra in many Eastern religions or is because LNX likes YuYu Hakusho.
LNX is then sent to a coliseum where, like Christians supposedly were, he is stoned to death for heresy. He begins to ascend to heaven where he sees an angelic figure. I think this is another dual myth reference, as the figure is the only one that doesn’t directly appear to be played by LNX aside from Satan. In fact, you cannot see its gender definitely. I think that the figure, while evoking Angelic imagery, is also a reference to Nike, the Greek goddess who is usually depicted as winged and whose name depicts some shoes that LNX definitely knows about.
After LNX descends to hell while inverting (something that happens in Dante’s Inferno), he views a hell that is definitely inspired by the industrial hell presented by films like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. There’s even a large demon resembling Chernabog from Fantasia at the top of the central building, which was inspired by the demon furnace from Metropolis. Passing through the gates of Hell, which are made of people (a reference to both the Inferno and to Rodin’s sculpture of the Gates of Hell), LNX walks past the Latin words for “they condemn that which they don’t understand,” which is not subtle, before giving Satan a lapdance and snapping his neck. Multiple people suggested that the Devil presented here is Miltonian, but I disagree as Milton’s devil is depicted almost exclusively as winged and mostly humanoid, even beautiful. What IS Miltonian is that, after taking his horns, Lil Nas X sprouts wings and now, himself, resembles the figure from Paradise Lost. Perhaps it’s a statement that he would rather reign in Hell than serve in Heaven, which some readers and scholars have interpreted as a statement that it’s better to live one’s own true self than to bend your truth to someone else’s image of “right.”
Overall, this is an amazing video. I enjoyed watching it like ten times to write this review. I actually don’t know if the song is that distinct, but this video is a masterpiece and LNX uses controversy perfectly.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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